# HD-81



Democrats prevail in three Iowa House races after recounts

Democrats have officially won three close Iowa House races following recounts completed this week, confirming that the party will hold at least 36 of the 100 seats in the chamber next year.

In House district 20, covering part of Council Bluffs and Carter Lake in Pottawattamie County, the final vote tally narrowed Josh Turek’s lead over Republican Sarah Abdouch by one vote. He ended up winning by six: 3,403 votes to 3,397 (50.0 percent to 49.9 percent). Turek, who uses a wheelchair, will be the first disability rights advocate elected to the legislature.

In House district 42, covering part of Ankeny, Heather Matson remained 23 votes ahead of GOP State Representative Garrett Gobble: 6,991 votes to 6,968 (50.0 percent to 49.8 percent).

This area is by far the “swingiest” current Iowa House terrain. In a district covering much of the same territory, Republican State Representative Kevin Koester held off a challenge from Matson in 2016, then lost to the Democrat two years later. Republican Garrett Gobble narrowly defeated Matson in 2020, only to lose an even closer race this year.

In House district 72, covering part of the city of Dubuque and some areas of Dubuque County outside the city, State Representative Chuck Isenhart’s lead over Jennifer Smith shrank from 95 votes to 94. Final tally: 6,164 to 6,070 (50.3 percent to 49.6 percent).

Click here for maps, voter registration totals, and recent voting history for all of the districts where Republicans requested recounts.

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Republicans seeking recounts in six Iowa House races

All 99 Iowa counties have finished counting their votes, clearing the way for recounts to begin. None of the 34 state Senate races were decided by a razor-thin margin this year, but Republican candidates have requested or will ask for recounts in six of the 100 state House races.

Two of those elections are very close, two others were decided by margins under 100 votes, and the last two are not remotely within striking distance for the losing candidate.

If every candidate now leading remains ahead after the recount, the GOP would have a 63-37 majority next year, up from 60-40 currently. In the fourteen years I’ve closely followed Iowa legislative races, I’ve never seen a recount change the winner.

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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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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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First look at the Iowa House landscape for 2020

Republicans used their control over state government to inflict tremendous damage on Iowa during the 2019 legislative session: underfunding education, blocking steps that would improve Medicaid services, dismantling effective sex education programs, further undermining workers’ rights, targeting health care for transgender Iowans, and giving Governor Kim Reynolds the ability to pack our highest courts with conservative ideologues.

The disastrous outcomes underscored the urgent need for Democrats to break the Republican trifecta in 2020. The Iowa House is the only realistic path for doing so, since Reynolds won’t be up for re-election next year, and the 32-18 GOP majority in the Iowa Senate will take several cycles to undo. State Representative Andy McKean’s recent party switch improved Democratic prospects, shrinking the Republican majority in the chamber from 54-46 to 53-47. Nevertheless, a net gain of four House seats will be no easy task for Democrats.

The Daily Kos Elections team calculated the 2018 election results for governor and state auditor in every Iowa House district. Jeff Singer discussed their key findings in a May 2 post: Reynolds carried 60 state House districts, Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell just 39. The “median seat backed Reynolds 51.0-46.3, a margin of 4.7 points. That’s about 2 points to the right of her statewide margin of 2.8 points.” Eight Democrats represent districts Reynolds carried, and one (Dave Williams) represents a district where Reynolds and Hubbell tied, while “only one Republican is in a Hubbell district.”

I’d encourage all Iowa politics watchers to bookmark the DK Elections number-crunching, as well as the team’s spreadsheet on 2016 presidential results by House district.

The Daily Kos team also looked at the 2018 voting for state auditor, seeking clues on which House seats might be within reach for Democrats. I don’t find that angle as useful. Previous State Auditor Mary Mosiman ran a terrible campaign. Not only did Rob Sand outwork Mosiman on the trail, he ran unanswered television commercials for six weeks, allowing him to go into election day with higher name ID than the incumbent, which is almost unheard of. Sad to say, Democrats won’t be outspending incompetent, little-known GOP candidates in the 2020 state legislative races.

Here’s my first take on both parties’ best pickup opportunities. What appear to be competitive state House seats may shift over the coming year, depending on candidate recruitment and incumbent retirements, so Bleeding Heartland will periodically return to this topic.

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