20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

Thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven “districts to watch” at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as “key to Iowa House chamber control.” I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there’s at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I’m thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don’t expect any of the “favored” seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger’s party.

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Jason Schultz ready to move up to Iowa Senate district 9

The path appears clear for passionately conservative State Representative Jason Schultz to move up to Iowa Senate district 9 in next year’s election. Longtime State Senator Nancy Boettger announced Friday that she will retire. Although she’s one of the longest-serving Iowa Senate Republicans, she’s never played a particularly important role. The last three Senate minority leaders haven’t tapped Boettger for their leadership teams.

Boettger’s retirement creates a career advancement opportunity in the strongly Republican Senate district 9. The two obvious potential candidates are State Representatives Matt Windschitl and Jason Schultz, who represent both halves of the district in the Iowa House. Within hours, Schultz announced his Senate candidacy. Windschitl told The Iowa Republican blog over the weekend that he will stay in the Iowa House. Windschitl is one of the GOP’s rising stars and serves as an assistant House majority leader, but he’s drawn criticism from some “pro-life” activists as not strong enough on their issue. In contrast, Schultz co-sponsored the most extreme version of “personhood” legislation and has fought to get a personhood vote on the Iowa House floor when Windschitl and others blocked a vote on that legislation. (Windschitl introduced a different “personhood” bill this year.)

After the jump I’ve posted a map of Senate district 9 and the latest voter registration numbers for the district, along with Schultz’s official bio. It’s also worth noting that Schultz chairs the Iowa House Local Government Committee and previously chaired the Appropriations subcommittee on economic development. He endorsed Ron Paul for president in 2012. In my opinion, he’s a contender for most clueless Iowa legislator. His passionate opposition to marriage equality prompted him to introduce one of the dumbest bills I’ve heard of, which would have banned Iowa judges from citing case law or precedent in their rulings. Schultz also joined a small group of legislators who threatened to yank state funding for the Des Moines Area Community College over the Governors LGBTQ Youth Conference.

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