Iowa House district 95 preview: Richard Whitehead vs. Louis Zumbach

A wave of Republican retirements created more open seats in potentially competitive state House districts than in any election since Bleeding Heartland started following Iowa politics nearly ten years ago. Most of the battleground races are in the first Congressional district, including House district 95, where state Representative Quentin Stanerson announced last December that he would not seek a third term. The high school teacher was one of only two House Republicans to request a special session last summer to override Governor Terry Branstad’s education funding vetoes.

Stanerson’s seat is probably a must-win for Democrats to have any hope of gaining control of the Iowa House (currently 57 Republicans and 43 Democrats). House district 95 covers a large area in Linn County outside the Cedar Rapids metro area, along with some rural precincts in Buchanan County. I enclose a map below.

The 2012 presidential voting in this district almost perfectly matched the statewide results. President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa by 822,544 votes (51.99 percent) to 730,617 (46.18 percent). In House district 95, Obama won 52.01 percent of the vote to 46.69 percent for Romney. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the district contains 6,095 active registered Democrats, 6,224 Republicans, and 7,530 no-party voters.

Neither party had a competitive primary here. Democrat Richard Whitehead and Republican Louis Zumbach have backgrounds shared by many successful candidates for the Iowa legislature. Whitehead spent a career in education, rising from social studies teacher to principal to superintendent. Zumbach is a farmer and small business owner who operates an auctioneering company with his wife. Scroll down to read the official biographies and main talking points for each candidate.

Facebook feeds for Whitehead and Zumbach show that both contenders have shown up for lots of parades and summer festivals around the district. I don’t have access to voter contact data, but Whitehead is rumored to be one of the top Democratic House candidates in terms of number of doors knocked.

Zumbach will likely be able to outspend Whitehead during the final two months of the campaign–not by virtue of raising more money, but because House Republican leaders have accumulated a much larger war chest than their Democratic counterparts. The fundraising totals for the House district 95 candidates were remarkably similar. Whitehead reported $12,480.00 in campaign contributions by early May and another $2,895.00 during the next two months. As of mid-July, he had $14,179.60 cash on hand. Zumbach’s campaign brought in $12,950.00 by early May and another $950.00 by early July. His campaign spent more than Whitehead’s did, largely on signs, merchandise, and advertising, so as of July 14 he had just $5,290.76 cash on hand.

Any comments about this campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Branstad vetoes will stand: not enough support for Iowa legislative special session

Governor Terry Branstad’s vetoes of education and mental health funding will stand, as the two-thirds majority needed to call a special legislative session has failed to materialize in either the Iowa House or Senate.

A special session always looked like a long-shot, given that Iowa House Republican leaders didn’t want to spend extra money on education and only reluctantly agreed to extend funding for mental health institutions. In addition, 23 of the 24 Iowa Senate Republicans voted against the supplemental spending bill. They had no stake in the compromise the governor blew apart.

Still, the outcry over school funding (including dozens of normally non-political superintendents speaking out) created an opening for Republican lawmakers. Even if they didn’t believe in the substantive value of additional education or mental health funding, they could have taken a big issue off the table for next year’s statehouse elections. So far, very few Republicans seem worried about the political fallout from not overriding Branstad’s vetoes. Democrats appear ready to remind voters at every opportunity who created the holes local education leaders are scrambling to fill.  

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