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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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Walt Rogers exits IA-01 race, will seek third term in Iowa House district 60

I didn’t see this coming, but perhaps I should have, given his less than stellar fourth quarter fundraising report: State Representative Walt Rogers is ending his Congressional campaign in Iowa’s first district. Instead, he will seek re-election to Iowa House district 60. His official statement is after the jump.

Rogers has long been considered a rising star in the Iowa House Republican caucus. He won re-election in 2012 despite President Barack Obama carrying his district by a narrow margin. He hired campaign staffers while his Congressional bid was still in the exploratory phase and quickly gained support from former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and several state lawmakers. But he faced a tough race against Rod Blum in the GOP primary. In addition to almost winning the Republican nomination in IA-01 in 2012, Blum had support from activists on the party’s “Liberty” wing and a financial advantage over Rogers at the end of 2013.

Even if Rogers won the IA-01 primary, he would face an uphill battle in a Congressional district with 158,970 active registered Democrats, 133,746 Republicans, and 192,496 no-party voters as of February 2014.

Returning to the Iowa legislature looks like a safer bet for Rogers. I have not yet heard of a Democratic candidate in House district 60. I posted a district map below, along with the latest voter registration numbers.

I consider Blum overwhelmingly favored to beat Steve Rathje in the IA-01 primary now. Although I don’t agree with Blum about many things, I admire his campaign work ethic and discipline. he has now scared off two Republicans with much stronger establishment connections. I believe Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen chickened out of this race because he was afraid he would lose the primary. Blum had already started making a case against Paulsen.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that just last month, former U.S. Representative and gubernatorial nominee Jim Nussle had endorsed Rogers in the GOP primary. He really did look like the preferred establishment candidate. I also forgot to mention that Marshalltown-based attorney Gail Boliver joined the Republican field in December. It’s hard for me to see a social moderate and fiscal conservative winning a GOP primary, especially since Blum has been campaigning across the district for more than a year now.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa House districts

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district, state by state. Last week the Iowa numbers were added to the database. I took a first stab at previewing the battle for control of the Iowa Senate next year, using data including the raw vote totals and percentages for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in each district.

The Daily Kos database includes Obama and Romney vote totals and percentages for each Iowa House district here. After the jump I’ve incorporated that information and other factors to predict which Iowa House districts will be competitive in 2014. Writing this post has been challenging, because every election cycle brings surprises, and many more seats in the lower chamber will be in play. Unlike the Iowa Senate, where only half of the 50 members are on the ballot in each general election, all 100 Iowa House members are on ballot in every even-numbered year. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber.

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