Final look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape, with ratings

Politics watchers from around the country are watching Iowa’s U.S. Senate race today, but arguably the battle for the Iowa House is more important for our state’s future. Democrats need a net gain of four seats for a majority or three seats for a 50-50 chamber that would block the worst excesses of the Republican trifecta.

The 2020 playing field is even larger than usual, in part because Democrats finally have the resources to compete with Republicans in the battleground House districts.

I enclose below a brief final look at each House district, with the latest voter registration figures (as of November 2), absentee ballot totals (as of November 3), campaign spending by both parties, and recent voting history. This post from early October has more background on each campaign, which influenced my ratings.

Democrats have good prospects to win control of the chamber, with many potential targets. If Republicans cling to a majority, it will probably be with only 51 seats.

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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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Iowa House district 39 preview: Karin Derry vs. Eddie Andrews

Of the five Democrats who flipped Iowa House seats in the Des Moines suburbs in 2018, Karin Derry had the steepest uphill climb. Jennifer Konfrst and Kenan Judge were campaigning in open seats (House districts 43 and 44). Kristin Sunde was running against a GOP incumbent, but Hillary Clinton had carried House district 42, and registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans there. Heather Matson faced an incumbent in a district that had voted for Donald Trump, but the GOP had only a slight registration advantage in House district 38.

Derry challenged State Representative Jake Highfill in House district 39, where Trump outpolled Clinton and registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 2,300 going into election day.

It’s long been obvious that Derry’s seat will be among the GOP’s top targets for 2020 state House races. But until last week, Republicans didn’t have a declared candidate. Eddie Andrews made his campaign official on January 20. If elected, he would be only the second African-American Republican to serve in the Iowa legislature and the first in more than five decades.

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Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa legislative races in 2019

I’ve always enjoyed writing about legislative happenings and campaigns, since my first year on the job as an analyst covering Russian domestic politics during a parliamentary election year.

While most political reporters were understandably assigned to follow the many presidential candidates visiting Iowa in 2019, I made it a priority to keep an eye on down-ballot races. The 2020 Iowa House and Senate elections may affect our daily lives more than whether Donald Trump or the Democratic nominee wins our state’s electoral votes. For one thing, breaking the GOP trifecta is the only way to guarantee that Iowa preserves nonpartisan redistricting for the coming decade.

I’m proud that Bleeding Heartland provided more in-depth coverage of potentially competitive state legislative races than any other Iowa news source this year. All of those stories are linked below.

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