28 Iowa House races to watch in 2020, with ratings

It’s been too long since Bleeding Heartland took a comprehensive look at the Iowa House landcsape. Democrats need a net gain of four seats to gain control of the chamber, where Republicans have held a 53-47 majority since they stopped ballots from being counted in the closest race from the last election cycle.

Thanks to our state’s nonpartisan redistricting system, at least a quarter of the House races could become competitive, and more than a dozen will be targeted by both parties and some outside groups. This post covers 28 House districts that could fall into that category. One or both parties spent significant funds on twenty Iowa House races in 2018.

The playing field has changed somewhat since Bleeding Heartland last reviewed the House landscape in March. A few new contenders have declared; click here for the full list of general election candidates. In addition, some races look less competitive or more competitive now than they did six months ago.

Forthcoming posts will examine themes in television advertising for or against Iowa House candidates and late spending in these campaigns.

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Defeating Joni Ernst in November

David Weaver: To win statewide, candidates must demonstrate service, strong critical thinking skills, and the ability to understand rural Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

I have been an Iowan all my life, other than a two-year stint teaching English in Japan. I have lived in small towns like Grinnell, Pella, and Perry. I spent several years living in the city of Davenport, and I have lived in rural towns like Westside and Rippey (my hometown), as well as the farmhouse where my family currently resides.  I have been farming since 2006.   

I have always paid fairly close attention to politics and government, and ran for the Iowa House in 2018. 

Democrats have a (recent?) problem winning statewide elections. Zero for six in the past six races for governor or U.S. Senate. We know Democrats can win, and have won. Barack Obama did it a couple of times, and Rob Sand did it in 2018. Looking at my Iowa House district 47 results from 2018, one thing stood out to me that I believe is important and translates to winning any statewide race in Iowa.

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Reaching rural America

Bruce Lear suggests a Democratic message resting on “four pillars that sustain small towns.” -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was a kid, my mom always warned, “Keep a screen door between you and the Fuller Brush Man.” Back in the day, Fuller Brush salesmen were mobile carnival barkers. They would literally get a foot in the door and then grow roots on the couch until Mom gave up and bought something.

They were fast talkers.

They weren’t from around here.

I am afraid that too many candidates now treat rural America like the Fuller Brush man of old. They barnstorm a small community without ever stopping to hear what makes the heart of rural America beat.

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Democratic statewide candidates need sharper rhetoric

Joe Gorton: “Fred Hubbell’s campaign for governor is the most recent example of a candidacy that failed to couple a strong emotional tone to strong content.” -promoted by Laura Belin

For the third consecutive time, Iowa Democrats are licking our wounds after a gubernatorial campaign loss. Not surprisingly, there are many competing explanations for what went wrong. Within those explanations one factor is largely ignored: dull campaign rhetoric.

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