IA-01: Will Republicans give up on Rod Blum? Should they?

Yet another special election for a U.S. House seat suggests a wave may be building. Although the Democratic candidate appears to have fallen short in Ohio’s twelfth district, the close result in what has long been a safe Republican seat should worry GOP leaders. Dan Guild noted that there are 68 Republican-held House districts where Hillary Clinton did better in November 2016 than she did in OH-12.

“[S]enior party strategists have concluded that over a dozen districts held by Republicans may already be unwinnable,” Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin reported for the New York Times on August 8.

Iowa’s first Congressional district may be one of the places where House leaders decide to cut their losses. But no one should write two-term Representative Rod Blum’s political obituary yet.

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DCCC backing Abby Finkenauer in IA-01

The main political arm of U.S. House Democrats is officially promoting Abby Finkenauer as its preferred candidate to take on Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first district.

Finkenauer was among the initial group named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program for this election cycle, as first reported by Roll Call’s Simone Pathe on November 15. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Representative Jimmy Panetta were featured guests at a Cedar Rapids fundraiser for Finkenauer’s campaign on November 19.

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IA-03: Democrat Anna Ryon is thinking about it

Anna Ryon, an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate, may run for Congress in Iowa’s third district next year, she announced on Facebook today. She has launched a possible campaign website and is recruiting volunteers to join her e-mail list for updates and “action alerts” on when to call members of Congress. She is not raising money “until I make a final decision” on a Congressional campaign.

Yesterday Ryon uploaded to YouTube a video of her remarks in May 2015 before the Bishop and Cabinet of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. Ryon “was invited to be part of that meeting to share my story of being a queer woman in the UMC, and in particular the hurtful response from the church when my ex-wife and I got married.” Instead, she shared the story of her father, a United Methodist minister who was gay and took his own life in 1999.

I enclose below Ryon’s bio from her new website. She is on Twitter @annakryon and on Facebook. Her “deep dive” about Adams County became one of the most popular Bleeding Heartland posts of 2016.

Current U.S. Representative David Young defeated Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer by 53.4 percent to 39.7 percent in 2016. Young performed substantially better than Donald Trump, who carried the third district by 48.5 percent to 45.0 percent over Hillary Clinton. Outside groups spent more than $7.4 million on the Young-Mowrer race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee confirmed this week that IA-03 will be on its target list again in 2018.

One of Mowrer’s 2016 primary opponents, Mike Sherzan, has turned up at a number of local Democratic events lately, including the January 21 State Central Committee meeting of the Iowa Democratic Party, which attracted a large crowd because of the state chair election.

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 167,453 active registered Democrats, 177,457 Republicans, and 166,620 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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IA-01: Democrat Courtney Rowe may challenge Rod Blum

Cedar Rapids-based engineer Courtney Rowe may run for Congress against Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first district, she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland today. Rowe has been an active Democrat locally and was a Bernie Sanders delegate to last year’s Linn County, first district, and state conventions, as well as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention. She has volunteered her time on church missions, as a mentor for middle-school students, and as an officer for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Rowe described her background and motivation for considering a Congressional bid in a document I enclose below. She has not yet created an exploratory committee but plans to launch a campaign website sometime next month, both to present some of her policy ideas and to create an interactive format for voters to weigh in on the issues.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 166,338 active registered Democrats, 146,164 Republicans, and 191,340 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base, where Democrats underperformed badly in 2016.

Blum was considered one of the most vulnerable U.S. House members in the country going into the 2016 election cycle, and many Iowa Democrats believed his narrow victory over Pat Murphy in 2014 had been a fluke. However, the Freedom Caucus member defeated Monica Vernon by a larger margin of 53.7 percent to 46.1 percent. Blum ran about five points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried the IA-01 counties by 48.7 percent to 45.2 percent. That was a massive swing from Barack Obama’s double-digit advantage in this part of Iowa in 2012.

Although I haven’t yet heard of any other Democrats thinking seriously about challenging Blum, I expect a competitive 2018 primary. Any comments about the race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its first target list on January 30. IA-01 and IA-03 are among those 33 Republican-held House seats.

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IA-03: Someone is testing negative messages about Jim Mowrer

A poll in the field is testing some negative messages about Jim Mowrer, the Democratic challenger to Representative David Young in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Details are after the jump, based on a report from a Bleeding Heartland reader who received the call on Friday. I will update this post as needed if I get the call myself or other respondents share further details.

IA-03 is among the most competitive U.S. House races, with an even partisan voter index and an incumbent serving his first term in a district President Barack Obama carried in 2012. Early last year, the National Republican Congressional Committee put Young in its “Patriot Program” for vulnerable House members. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Mowrer to its “Red to Blue” program shortly after the June primary election. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 161,156 active registered Democrats, 172,272 Republicans, and 153,533 no-party voters.

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