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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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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Emily Lofgren announces in Iowa House district 91; competitive GOP primary coming

State Representative Mark Lofgren’s daughter Emily Lofgren announced on twitter this morning that she will seek to replace her father in Iowa House district 91 next year. Mark Lofgren is running for Congress against four-term incumbent Dave Loebsack.

A Muscatine native and 2012 graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Emily Lofgren has been active in Republican politics for years. She managed her father’s successful campaign against Democratic State Representative Nathan Reichert in 2010. She has spent the last academic year teaching English in China and and had planned to spend another year there after coming home for the summer. I assume that she won’t return to China now that she has decided to run for the state legislature.

Unlike State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who faced no GOP rivals to represent House district 73 after his father Jeff Kaufmann left the legislature, Lofgren will have competition in next year’s primary. Last week, Muscatine City Council member Mark LeRette announced his plans to run in House district 91. LeRette is a past chair of the Muscatine County Republican Party.

Click here to view a district map and the latest voter registration numbers in House district 91, a swing seat. I’ve posted more background on Emily Lofgren below. To my knowledge, she hasn’t launched a campaign website yet. She blogs about “simple, happy living” here and about her experiences in China here.

I’m not personally acquainted with any Muscatine County Republicans, but I would guess that a city council member with experience on various local boards has a better chance in the GOP primary than a recent college graduate/internet life coach.

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Republican Mark LeRette, Democrat John Dabeet running in Iowa House district 91

Each party has at least one candidate ready to run in Iowa House district 91 next year. Republican Mark Lofgren is leaving the seat open in order to run for Congress against Representative Dave Loebsack. As of July 2013, House district 91 contained 6,298 registered Democrats, 6,287 Republicans, and 8,425 no-party voters.

Earlier this week, Muscatine City Council member Mark LeRette told the Muscatine Journal and The Iowa Republican blog that he plans to run for House district 91. LeRette is a past chair of the Muscatine County Republican Party.

Last year’s Democratic candidate John Dabeet confirmed to me yesterday that he will seek the office again in 2014. Dabeet plans to formally launch his campaign at the Muscatine County Democratic Party’s August central committee meeting. UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in November 2012, Lofgren defeated Dabeet by 7,426 votes to 6,511 (53.3 percent to 46.7 percent). Turnout is sure to be lower in a midterm election.

After the jump I’ve posted a district map and background on LeRette and Dabeet. Some have speculated that Lofgren’s daughter Emily Lofgren might become a candidate in House district 91. Emily Lofgren ran her father’s first Iowa House campaign in 2010, when he defeated three-term incumbent Democrat Nathan Reichert.

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