Seven Iowa lawmakers who had crossover appeal in 2020

The Daily Kos Elections team performs an incredible public service every two years, calculating top-ticket results for every state legislative district in the country. Last week the staff published raw vote totals and vote shares for Joe Biden and Donald Trump in all 100 Iowa House districts and 50 Iowa Senate districts.

Take my advice and bookmark that spreadsheet, as well as an updated Daily Kos Elections spreadsheet showing how residents of each Iowa legislative district voted for president in 2012 and 2016, for governor in 2014 and 2018, and for U.S. Senate in 2014. Even though Iowa’s state legislative boundaries will soon change, the data will remain useful as evidence of changing voting patterns.

For today I want to dive into crossover voting in Iowa, which was the focus of a Daily Kos Elections post on July 26. Ticket-splitting is rarer now than it used to be, but six current House members won last November, even though their constituents preferred the other party’s presidential candidate. Four sitting state senators represent districts that voted for the other party’s presidential candidate in 2020. However, only one of them was up for re-election last year. We can’t know how the other three would have performed compared to Trump or Biden.

This post covers the legislators whose districts went the other way for president, with thoughts about how each House or Senate district might change on Iowa’s next political map.

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Dems contesting far more Iowa House, Senate seats than in 2010 or 2014

Democrats are fielding a nearly full slate of Iowa House and Senate candidates this year, leaving far fewer GOP-held seats unchallenged than in the last two midterm elections.

The improvement is particularly noticeable in the Iowa House, where Republicans have an unusually large number of open seats to defend. Twelve of the 59 GOP state representatives are retiring, and a thirteenth seat (House district 43) is open due to Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s move to safer Republican territory in Dallas County.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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Republicans left Iowa House seats uncontested in nearly every battleground Iowa Senate district

The filing period for general-election candidates closed on August 15. You can view the full candidate list for federal and state offices on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. John Deeth briefly reviews all 100 House races here. Next month, I’ll be posting on the most competitive Iowa House races.

For today, I’m interested in what appears to be a pattern of Republicans letting Iowa House seats go in battleground Iowa Senate districts. I suspect a strategy is in play to depress GOTV in the more Democratic halves of these districts.  

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58 Iowa House seats uncontested, including a dozen in competitive Senate districts

In any given general election, roughly a dozen or two of the 100 Iowa House districts are in play. A first look through the list of candidates who qualified for the primary ballot suggests that this year, fewer Iowa House districts will be competitive than in 2010 or 2012. Republicans have failed to field a candidate in 32 of the 47 Democratic-held House districts. Democrats have failed to field a candidate in 26 of the 53 Republican-held House districts.

Although a few of these districts may see major-party candidates nominated through special conventions after the primary, it’s rare for late-starting candidates to have a realistic chance to beat an incumbent. (That said, two Iowa House Democrats lost in 2010 to candidates who joined the race over the summer rather than during the primary campaign.)

After the jump I’ve enclosed a full list of the Iowa House districts left unchallenged by one of the major parties. I highlighted the most surprising recruitment failures and what looks like a pattern of uncontested House seats in Senate districts that will be targeted by both parties, which may reflect a deliberate strategy. House incumbents with no fear of losing may slack off on GOTV in one half of a Senate district where every vote may count.

A future post will focus on the ten or fifteen Iowa House races likely to be most competitive this fall.

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