Chad Behn, Todd Rasmussen running in Iowa Senate district 24

The longest-serving Iowa Senate Republican will not seek re-election, he announced on January 24.

State Senator Jerry Behn has represented districts including Boone County in the Iowa Senate for 24 years. Behn briefly ran for governor in 2009 and served as Senate minority leader from late 2011 until shortly after the 2012 election. He currently holds the positions of Senate president pro-tem and vice chair of the chamber’s Ethics Committee.

The senator’s son Chad Behn, a farmer and Boone County supervisor, launched his campaign on January 27 (news release enclosed below). Plenty of family legacy candidates have successfully run for the Iowa legislature, including House Speaker Pat Grassley (grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley), former House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (daughter of onetime House Speaker Del Stromer), and State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who represents the district that previously elected his father, current Iowa GOP state chair Jeff Kaufmann.

However, Behn will have serious competition for the GOP nomination. Boone County Republicans co-chair Todd Rasmussen created a Facebook page to promote his state Senate campaign only hours after Jerry Behn made his plans clear.

Rasmussen already has support from State Representative Phil Thompson, who was elected in House district 47 in 2018, and his brother John Thompson, a former member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. In this photo posted on the Todd Rasmussen for Iowa Facebook page, Phil Thompson is on the far right, Rasmussen is second from right, U.S. Representative Steve King is in the center, and John Thompson is standing behind him. CORRECTION: John Thompson is not pictured here, but he has endorsed Rasmussen for Senate district 24.

No Democrats have declared in Senate district 24. Greg Piklapp told Bleeding Heartland on January 27 that he has ruled out this race to focus on his Boone City Council work and the boards and committees on which he already serves. David Weaver, the 2018 Democratic nominee in House district 47, also told me he’s not running for the Senate this year.

Tim Winter, who ran for House district 48 last cycle, said he is focused on chairing the Boone County Democrats and organizing the February 3 caucuses.

Other Democrats are said to be considering this race. It would be a long shot, given recent political trends.

Senate district 24 covers Boone, Greene, and Hamilton counties, plus some rural areas and small towns in Webster and Story counties.

Although Barack Obama narrowly outpolled Mitt Romney in this district by 50.0 percent to 48.4 percent in 2012, Behn defeated his Democratic challenger Shelly Stotts by nearly 3,000 votes (54.7 percent to 45.2 percent) the same year.

Like many other Iowa Senate districts, this area swung heavily to Donald Trump in 2016, giving him 56.0 percent of the vote to 37.4 percent for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Behn won his sixth term against Democratic challenger Keith Puntenney by more than 8,000 votes, taking 63.8 percent of ballots cast. Neither party spent significant money on this race. (Puntenney is better known for being one of the Iowa landowners who sued unsuccessfully to block the use of eminent domain to seize farmland for the Bakken pipeline.)

Even in 2018, a better year for Democrats in much of Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds gained 53.8 percent of the vote in Senate district 24, while Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell won 44.0 percent.

Republicans have represented both state House seats that are part of this Senate district for the past decade. Chip Baltimore defeated Democratic State Representative Donovan Olson by a hair in 2010, then held House district 47 until his retirement in 2018. Rob Bacon has held House district 48 since 2012; he moved down from the Iowa Senate that year after redistricting paired him up with a more senior Republican.

I will update this post as needed when other candidates emerge.

UPDATE: Kim Weaver told me on January 28 that she is considering running for this Senate seat. Weaver recently moved to Boone and is familiar with all the counties in the area, having been the 2016 Democratic nominee in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

January 27 news release:

Chad Behn Announces Candidacy for Iowa Senate District 24

BOONE – Today, Chad Behn is announcing his run Iowa Senate District 24.

“Living and farming in this area for many years, I know what rural communities have to offer and know what they need to grow,” said Behn. “My goal in the Iowa Senate will be to fight for smaller government, job growth, and ensuring our communities have what they need to prosper and succeed.”

Chad is son of Senator Jerry Behn, who announced his retirement last week.

Chad grew up in the Boone and attended Boone High School, graduating in 1996. From there went on to DMACC and graduated. Then he went to Presentation College in South Dakota, graduating in 2000 and receiving a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Chad has served as a county supervisor since 2016. Chad has been farming row crops full time for over 18 years. He is a member of the Central Iowa Community Services Mental Health Board, the Emergency Management Association Board, 911 board, and a member of the Farm Bureau. He currently lives in Boone and has two sons.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2019 guest authors

More than 125 authors contributed to the 290 guest posts Bleeding Heartland published this calendar year–way up from the 202 pieces by about 100 writers in 2018 and the 164 posts by 83 writers the year before that. I’m immensely grateful for all the hard work that went into these articles and commentaries and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, such as John Morrissey’s exclusive reporting on Sedgwick landing a lucrative contract to administer Iowa’s worker’s compensation program for state employee, despite not submitting the high bid.

The most-viewed Bleeding Heartland post this year was Gwen Hope’s exclusive about the the Hy-Vee PAC donating $25,000 to the Iowa GOP, shortly before President Donald Trump headlined a Republican fundraiser at Hy-Vee’s event center in West Des Moines.

Several commentaries about major news events or political trends were also among the most widely read Bleeding Heartland posts of 2019. I’ve noted below pieces by Ed Fallon, Tim Nelson, Bruce Lear, Randy Richardson, J.D. Scholten, Dan Guild, State Senator Claire Celsi, and others that were especially popular. (This site has run more than 630 pieces since January 1.)

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Democrats will get outspent in Iowa House races again. Here's why

Democrats have opportunities to make big gains in the Iowa House this year. Thirteen of the 59 Republican-held seats in the lower chamber are open. A number of Democratic challengers have done well on fundraising, in some cases even out-raising the GOP incumbents in their districts. The past year’s special elections for Iowa House seats suggest that Democratic turnout may be much higher than the level seen in Iowa’s last two midterms, thanks to extreme laws enacted by statehouse Republicans and an unpopular president in Washington.

But winning a state legislative race often requires more than a favorable political environment. Bleeding Heartland observed in February that “the latest set of campaign financial disclosures reveal little sense of urgency among Democratic incumbents who could do much more to help others win competitive districts this November.”

Unfortunately, the latest fundraising numbers tell the same old story.

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Race ratings: Battle for the Iowa House

Josh Hughes analyzes sixteen Iowa House races likely to be competitive and points to other districts that could also be in play. Hughes is a Drake University undergraduate and vice president of the I-35 school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Iowa Democrats have had a pretty good summer. In recent weeks, election forecasters have moved the races for governor and third Congressional district to “toss-up” status, Fred Hubbell and other Iowa Democrats have blown past Republicans in fundraising, and Iowa Republicans have begun to hit the panic button on an election many believed would not be competitive just one year ago. Democrats appear to have the wind at their back for the first time in several election cycles here, after blowout losses in 2016 and 2014.

Winning back Terrace Hill and Congressional seats is at the forefront of many activists’ minds. Doing so would be hugely impressive and important to stopping reactionary right-wing legislation at the state and federal levels. However, in order to not just stop the bad stuff but also advance good legislation, Democrats will need to do more than just defeat Governor Kim Reynolds. The race for the Iowa legislature, where 25 of 50 Senate seats and all 100 Iowa House seats are up for election this year, will determine what kind of policy will be possible over the next two years in our state.

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Get ready for a wave of Iowa House Republican retirements (updated)

State legislator retirements are typically a problem for the party out of power. Members of the majority can chair committees, drive the agenda, and get plenty of attention from lobbyists. Life in the minority caucus is much less satisfying.

Although Iowa House Republicans enjoy a 59-41 majority, four GOP representatives have already confirmed plans to step down this year, with more retirements likely before the March 16 filing deadline. When incumbents don’t seek re-election, party leaders sometimes must spend more resources defending open seats, leaving less money available for top and especially second-tier targets.

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