Six things Iowa candidates need to know for the 2019 local elections

With umpteen presidential campaigns to follow and competitive races shaping up in all four Iowa Congressional districts, as well as for many state House and Senate seats, I haven’t published anything this year about the 2019 local elections.

Campaigns for school board and city offices will never be the most glamorous topics for political reporters, but the outcomes can greatly affect the quality of life in communities. Iowans thinking about running for office should read the action plan Lauren Whitehead wrote after her successful bid for Solon City Council in 2017. They should also be aware of the following dates and legal requirements:

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Republicans are worried about Iowa Senate district 30, with good reason

Voters in Cedar Falls, Hudson, and part of Waterloo will elect a new state senator on March 19. Three candidates are on the ballot for Iowa Senate district 30: Republican Walt Rogers, Democrat Eric Giddens, and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

Republicans took some advantages into this campaign, which is on a shortened timetable because Senator Jeff Danielson resigned during the legislative session. Rogers was better-known than Giddens, and Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the vote during spring break for the University of Northern Iowa and Cedar Falls public schools, when many people in Democratic-leaning constituencies would likely be out of town.

But since Bleeding Heartland previewed this race in late February, Giddens has emerged as the favorite. Republicans tacitly acknowledged their weaknesses by launching a second over-the-top negative television commercial on March 15, rather than closing on what was supposed to be Rogers’ selling point: giving Black Hawk County and UNI a voice in the Iowa Senate majority caucus.

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Pie in the sky or possible? Flipping a tough district

N. Kelly managed Karin Derry’s 2018 campaign in Iowa House district 39. Derry was one of five Democratic candidates to win Republican-held seats in the suburbs of Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Very difficult but not impossible. That was what we knew about getting Karin Derry elected.

In 2016, the Republican incumbent Jake Highfill won with 57 percent of the vote. Going into 2018, 36 percent of voters in our district were registered as Republicans, compared to 25 percent registered as Democrats.

Bleak numbers, but when you believe that what you want is what most people want – a strong public education system, accessible and affordable healthcare, reasonable environmental protections, sensible policies to make taxation fair and the economy grow – then it simply becomes a matter of getting the word out. Talking to voters. Being real. Karin would speak of how her wonderful father had been a Reagan Republican, but that party is not today’s party. I think that fact resonated with many people across the political spectrum.

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Lawmakers should act on absentee ballots, mail barcodes

Bev Clark calls for action to prevent a 2020 repeat of the scenario that played out in Iowa House district 55. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa legislature must clarify the law that determines the timeliness of absentee ballots. Some 41 percent of Iowans who participated in the 2018 election voted early, according to the Secretary of State’s certified results. That’s 547,205 ballots!

Those are the known, counted absentee ballots. Some of them may not have complied with the postmark requirement, but were counted anyway. In the very tight election for Iowa House district 55, where only nine votes separated the candidates, Winneshiek County rejected 29 late-arriving absentee ballots without a postmark. But those ballots did have an intelligent mail barcode, proving they entered the postal service before election day. The dispute centered on what kind of mail barcode.

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Four takeaways from Iowa's 2018 early voting numbers

Fourteenth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

The November election was the first since Republicans shortened our state’s early voting window. Proponents of the 2017 law, best known for requiring voter ID, never made a case for limiting early voting. Nor did they produce evidence of any problems caused by allowing Iowans to cast ballots 40 days before elections. (County auditors needed to have ballots ready anyway, since federal law requires them to send overseas military ballots 45 days in advance.)

The power play was inspired by a simple fact: Iowa Democrats rely more on early voting than do Republicans. Switching from 40 days to 29 gave Democratic volunteers two fewer weekends to “chase” absentee ballots.

Now that the statewide statistical report on the 2018 general election is available, we can see how early voting played out in a compressed time frame. Bleeding Heartland previously discussed notable findings on turnout rates for Iowans of different political affiliations, age groups, and gender.

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A house divided

Anyone who has knocked doors in Iowa has probably experienced the depressing phenomenon Allison Engel describes. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On Saturday, October 27, as I was door-knocking in Johnston for Democratic candidates, I had a depressingly familiar experience. A middle-aged man answered the door, and I asked to speak to his wife, a registered Democrat, by name. He saw the campaign flyers on my clipboard and without a word, slammed the door in my face.

All volunteer canvassers get doors slammed in our faces occasionally, but in this election cycle, there is a noticeable and alarming trend for men not to allow their wives or adult daughters to come to the door to listen to us or receive our literature. It has happened to me every time I’ve door knocked over the past four months. A few weeks ago, I had a father brusquely tell me that his daughter wasn’t home when I could see her standing right behind him. To her credit, she said, “Yes, I am,” and proceeded to fill out an absentee ballot request as he seethed.

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