# HD 25

Another look at the uncontested Iowa House districts

Over at the Smart Politics blog based at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Eric Ostermeier takes a look at the uncontested Iowa House districts today. He leads with this surprising fact: “Iowa Republicans failed to field candidates in a party record 32 State House districts this cycle.” I recommend clicking through to read his whole post, which explores historical trends in Iowa House candidate recruitment for both parties.

Bleeding Heartland previously commented on the uncontested Iowa House races here. After the jump I’ve posted my thoughts on Ostermeier’s analysis.

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Stan Gustafson will represent Iowa House district 25

Republican Stan Gustafson easily won yesterday’s special election in Iowa House district 25, defeating Democrat Pam Deichmann by 1,619 votes to 694. The outcome is no surprise, as the district covering Madison County and parts of Warren County leans heavily Republican. I am curious to see whether Gustafson faces competition in the GOP primary this June. The official bio he released after being nominated for the special election did not mention that he held elected office before and was recalled by voters.

According to a report by the Associated Press in 2005, Gustafson helped pass a plan to build a new sewer plant in Los Osos, Calif. While the plant was reportedly needed, the project would have cost homeowners between $1,000 and $4,000 each, plus a $200 monthly sewage charge.

The plan for the new sewer system was scrapped after the recall election, according to the same report. […]

Gustafson said in a telephone interview this week that he served two terms on the [Los Osos Community Service District] board before he was recalled. He said that was the only public office he has held.

Gustafson was asked about his electoral history in a questionnaire from the Record Herald and Indianola Tribune, but did not answer the question.

I don’t know whether Gustafson was right or wrong about the sewer system, but he should not have erased his prior public service from his resume when he became a candidate in House district 25. By the time the Des Moines Register’s story appeared on January 4, many residents had already voted in this special election. I could see this further background on Gustafson inspiring some tea party Republican to challenge him in the primary this spring.

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Republicans nominate Stan Gustafson in Iowa House district 25

A special district convention chose Stan Gustafson as the Republican candidate for the January 7 special election in Iowa House district 25. Speaking by telephone today, Gustafson said he was nominated on the first round of balloting after three candidates addressed the delegates: himself, Joan Acela (a three-time Iowa House hopeful), and Kyle McCullough. According to McCullough’s LinkedIn profile, he is president and CEO of the web hosting and consulting company HostIowa.net. He worked as a legislative aide in the Iowa House from 2002 to 2004 and was the Republican Party of Iowa’s director of information technology from 2004 to 2007.

A press release containing background on Gustafson is after the jump. Democrats will choose a nominee in House district 25 next week.  

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Iowa House district 25 special election set for January 7

This morning Governor Terry Branstad set the special election in Iowa House district 25 for Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Republican Julian Garrett resigned as state representative after winning last week’s special election to represent Iowa Senate district 13. Two Republicans, Stan Gustafson and Joan Acela, have announced plans to compete for the GOP nomination in House district 25, which will be decided at a special district convention. I am not aware of any Democratic candidate in the race yet.

The January 7 election date means that the results can be certified and the winner sworn in soon after the Iowa legislature reconvenes for its 2014 session on January 13.

House district 25 covers Madison County and parts of Warren County. A map is after the jump. As of November 2013, the district contained 6,252 registered Democrats, 7,977 Republicans, and 8,271 no-party voters. The presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Mitt Romney, 44.3 percent for Barack Obama last year.  

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Stan Gustafson, Joan Acela to seek GOP nomination in Iowa House district 25

At least two Republicans will seek to represent Iowa House district 25, now open because of Julian Garrett’s special election victory in Iowa Senate district 13. Retired attorney Stan Gustafson announced his campaign yesterday. He “moved to rural Cumming in Madison County after retiring as an attorney practicing international law in California.” His press release indicates that he will focus on Iowa’s business climate, keeping taxes low, and protecting veterans.

Former Madison County Supervisor Joan Acela, a retired teacher in Winterset schools, confirmed by telephone this morning that she will also seek the Republican nomination in House district 25. When the House seat covering Madison County was open in 2010, Acela finished third in the GOP primary. In 2012, she fell short in her primary challenge to then-incumbent Garrett despite having support from The FAMiLY Leader organization run by Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley. Here’s a link to her questionnaire for that group, which shows her views on many issues important to social conservatives.

After Governor Terry Branstad sets a date for the special election in House district 25, both parties will hold nominating conventions to choose a candidate. The Republican selected will be heavily favored to hold this seat. As of November 2013, House district 25 contained 6,252 registered Democrats, 7,977 Republicans, and 8,271 no-party voters. The presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Mitt Romney, 44.3 percent for Barack Obama last year. I’ve posted a district map after the jump.

While House district 25 is vacant, Republicans hold 52 seats and Democrats 47 seats in the Iowa House.

UPDATE: Added a short bio provided by Joan Acela. SECOND UPDATE: Added more background on Stan Gustafson.

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Julian Garrett will represent Iowa Senate district 13 next year

State Representative Julian Garrett won yesterday’s special election in Iowa Senate district 13 by 3,908 votes to 2,627 for Democrat Mark Davitt, according to unofficial results (59.8 percent to 40.2 percent). He carried both the election-day vote and and the early vote.

During the 2014 legislative session, Democrats will retain a 26 to 24 Iowa Senate majority. Garrett will face re-election next year but will be heavily favored unless one of the far-right Republicans who sought the nomination for the special manages to defeat him in the primary. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 51.4 percent of the vote to 47.2 percent in Senate district 13.

Iowa will be better off without Kent Sorenson’s toxic presence in the state Senate, even though Garrett’s victory makes this Senate district a safer Republican hold next November.

Garrett will soon resign as state representative, forcing a special election in Iowa House district 25 in early January. After the jump I’ve posted a map of that district, covering Madison County and parts of Warren County. In 2012, Garrett defeated Democratic challenger Katie Routh by 9,082 votes to 7,487 (54.8 percent to 45.1 percent), while the presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Romney, 44.3 percent for Obama.

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Julian Garrett will seek GOP nomination in Iowa Senate district 13

Two-term Iowa House Republican Julian Garrett told WHO-TV’s Dave Price yesterday that he plans to seek the GOP nomination for the special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The seat is vacant because of Kent Sorenson’s resignation. A date for the nominating convention will be set sometime after Governor Terry Branstad announces the special election date.

I’ve posted Garrett’s official bio after the jump. I knew he was a retired attorney but didn’t realize that he is a former assistant Iowa attorney general for consumer protection. The current holder of that position, Nathan Blake, is seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa Senate district 17.

I expect at least one other candidate to seek the Republican nomination in Senate district 13, where the GOP has a voter registration advantage. Garrett represents Madison County and parts of Warren County in the Iowa House already, but unlike Kent Sorenson, he’s never been wildly popular among the GOP’s tea party or “liberty” factions. Party central committee delegates from the precincts in the district will choose a nominee, and the Warren County Republican activists have not favored mainstream candidates lately. Warren County was one of the strongest performers for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, and way out there Steve McCoy easily defeated Carlisle Mayor Ruth Randleman in the 2012 primary to represent House district 26. McCoy later lost the general election to Democrat Scott Ourth.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCoy take a shot at Senate district 13. Another possible candidate is Warren County GOP Chair Ricky Halvorson. He was active in Sorenson’s previous successful campaigns and made the Des Moines Register’s “50 Most Wanted” list of Republican activists in 2011.

UPDATE: Added more comments from Garrett below. I agree with him that this seat is a must-hold for Republicans if they want to win a Senate majority in 2014.

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Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth rules out bid in Senate district 13

State Senator Kent Sorenson’s resignation will force a special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The two sides of this Senate seat are House district 25, represented by two-term Republican Julian Garrett, and House district 26, represented by first-term Democrat Scott Ourth. I asked Ourth whether he would consider running in the special election. He responded,

“I am flattered and honored that so many of my neighbors and friends have asked me to consider a bid for the Iowa Senate seat vacated today by Senator Kent Sorenson.  I did not run for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives to use it as a launch pad for higher office.  The people of House District 26 placed their trust in me in the 2012 election, and I intend to represent them to the best of my ability. The voters of this district elected me to be their voice, and to advocate for them in the Iowa House.  Hence, I will continue my work as an Iowa State Representative, working to create jobs, improve education, support agriculture, and give voice to our seniors, veterans, and children.”

John Deeth speculated about some possible candidates from both parties yesterday. Perhaps Mark Davitt, who lost his Iowa House seat to Sorenson in 2008, will take a shot at the special election. As for the Republicans, the Warren County GOP has plenty of ambitious tea party types, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garrett stay in his Madison County-based House district. I doubt Jodi Tymeson would leave her new position as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in the hope of joining the minority caucus in the Iowa Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I’ve posted a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Speaking by telephone on October 3, Garrett told me he is thinking about running in the special election but hasn’t made a decision yet.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed across Iowa at 9 pm, and I will update this post periodically as results come in from around the states. Any comments related to today’s elections are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- As expected, Wisconsin Democrats fell short in their effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

UPDATE: Results are after the jump.  

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Unopposed in 2008, defeated in 2010

Reading up on the carnage that was last week’s Congressional elections, I noticed that two House Democrats lost their seats despite having run unopposed in 2008. The unlikely losers were Rick Boucher in Virginia’s ninth district and Phil Hare in Illinois’ seventeenth district, including the Quad Cities area (though polls had shown Hare in trouble this fall).

I wondered whether any Iowa Democrats suffered the same fate. It turns out that three of the 13 Iowa House incumbents defeated last week did not have a Republican opponent in 2008. In each case, special circumstances may have exacerbated the generally bad environment for Democratic candidates this year.

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