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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Chip Baltimore charged with OWI, weapon possession

State Representative Chip Baltimore was jailed this morning and charged with drunk driving and possession of a weapon, the Ames Tribune reported. Ames police pulled the Republican lawmaker over while responding to a report about a reckless driver.

Ames police Sgt. Mike Arkovich said a Smith & Wesson pistol was found in Baltimore’s vehicle as it was being impounded. While Baltimore had a permit to carry, the permit becomes void once a person’s blood alcohol exceeds 0.08 percent, Arkovich said. He said Baltimore’s blood alcohol level was 0.147 percent.

After appearing in court, Baltimore told KCCI-TV’s Tommie Clark, “Obviously, it’s not my proudest moment.” He declined to say whether he thinks he should remain chair of the House Judiciary Committee, saying, “That’s not my determination to make.”

In a written statement, Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said, ““Drunk driving is unacceptable behavior for anyone, let alone a state legislator. We will work through this issue and deal with it quickly. We will also work with Representative Baltimore to get him the help and support that he needs at this time.”

GOP Representative Erik Helland faced few political consequences after his OWI arrest in June 2010. His colleagues elected him House majority whip later the same year.

A shocking winner in the 2010 Republican wave by just 23 votes, Baltimore was re-elected by comfortable margins to his second, third, and fourth terms. The map drawn after the 2010 census added Greene County to House district 47 and took out the corner of Dallas County including Democratic-leaning Perry (see map below). Donald Trump carried House district 47 by about 2,600 votes in 2016, 55 percent to 38 percent for Hillary Clinton. Baltimore won his race with more than 60 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: I had forgotten that Baltimore supported legislation in recent years to combat drunk driving. Added more details on that below.

Attorney Thomas Frerichs asked why Baltimore isn’t facing a Carrying Weapons charge “based upon the invalidation of his carry permit.” Section 8 of last year’s omnibus gun law changed Iowa Code language on possession of firearms while under the influence. Whereas the old language said a gun permit was “invalid” if the person was intoxicated, the new language says an intoxicated person with a gun permit commits a serious misdemeanor if he or she carries the dangerous weapon “on or about the person” or “within the person’s immediate access or reach while in a vehicle.”

LATER UPDATE: Added below background on David Weaver, a farmer who announced on January 18 that he will run in House district 47 as a Democrat.

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