# Elinor Levin



Ten Iowa Democratic legislative primaries to watch in 2022

UPDATE: I’ve added unofficial results for each race.

Iowa Democrats have more competitive state legislative primaries in 2022 than in a typical election cycle. That’s partly because quite a few House and Senate members are retiring, and partly because the redistricting plan adopted in 2021 created some legislative districts with no incumbents.

In most of the races discussed below, the winner of the primary is very likely to prevail in November. However, a few of the districts could be targeted by one or both parties in the general election.

All data on past election performance in these districts comes from the Iowa House and Senate maps Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App. Fundraising numbers are taken from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s database.

This post is not an exhaustive account of all contested Democratic primaries for state legislative offices. You can find the full primary candidate list here.

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Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa’s first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

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Iowa House Democrats head for the exits

UPDATE: Charlie McConkey became the sixteenth House Democrat to confirm he won’t seek another term. Original post follows.

Nearly 40 percent of the Democrats who now serve in the Iowa House have confirmed they won’t seek re-election this year, and several long-serving incumbents have yet to clarify their plans.

The exodus involves not only lawmakers of retirement age, like State Representatives Marti Anderson and Bruce Hunter, but also some who have decades left in their working lives, like State Representatives Ras Smith, Chris Hall, and Kirsten Running-Marquardt, the latest to announce she won’t continue serving in the legislature.

The unusually high turnover may reflect some pent-up demand; older lawmakers who might have retired a few years ago hung on in light of realistic hope that their party could regain control of the chamber in the 2018 or 2020 elections. That prospect seems remote now, with Republicans enjoying a 60-40 majority and the new political map creating fewer than ten strong pickup opportunities for House Democrats.

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Where things stand in Iowa House district 89

Bleeding Heartland’s legislative campaign coverage has tended to focus on battleground districts. But next year, Democrats will have more open seats than usual in solid blue Iowa House or Senate districts.

Although those races won’t affect control of either legislative chamber, they could be important for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Lawmakers from safe seats may rise to leadership positions at the statehouse or run for higher office someday. So I intend to keep a close eye on contested primaries in some districts that won’t be competitive in November.

One such race is shaping up in Iowa House district 89, where long-serving State Representative Mary Mascher announced last month that she will not seek re-election. Three Democrats are actively campaigning here. The newest contender, Tony Currin, will take several advantages into the primary.

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New blood from Iowa City coming soon to legislature

Voters in Iowa’s bluest city will elect at least two new state lawmakers next year. State Senator Joe Bolkcom announced on November 4 that he will not seek another term in 2022. First elected in 1998, Bolkcom said in a message to constituents and supporters that it’s “time to rotate the crops” and “bring new ideas and new energy to solving problems facing working people and our communities.”

His decision creates an open seat in Iowa Senate district 45, covering Iowa City and University Heights. One of the House districts contained in Bolkcom’s district will also be open, since State Representative Christina Bohannan is running for Congress rather than for re-election.

The other half of Bolkcom’s district is represented by Mary Mascher, a Democrat first elected to the Iowa House in 1994. Asked whether she plans to run for the Senate, seek re-election, or retire in 2022, Mascher told Bleeding Heartland on November 4, “I am still weighing my options.” UPDATE: Mascher announced on November 8 that she won’t run for the House again.

I expect crowded Democratic primaries next June for every open legislative district in the Iowa City area. The primary is the deciding election here, as Republicans have no chance and rarely even field candidates in this part of Johnson County. If Mascher runs for Senate, she would be the front-runner in a primary but probably would not clear the field. Bohannan’s victory over long-serving State Representative Vicki Lensing in the 2020 primary showed that many Democrats in the area are willing to support new legislators.

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