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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Labor union endorsements in contested 2014 Iowa Democratic primaries

With less than two weeks remaining before June 3, interest groups with a preference in competitive primaries have presumably made their views known by now. On the Democratic side, labor unions are most likely to get involved in primaries, so I wanted to compile in one place the full list of candidates in competitive Democratic races who have been endorsed by one or more organized labor group. None of the Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa this year has a primary opponent, and I’ve omitted county-level races. The list below includes candidates running for Congress in the first district and seeking various Iowa House and Senate seats.

I will update this post as needed if I learn of other labor union endorsements. Note that many other Democratic candidates already have or will have organized labor’s official support for the general election campaign. Blog for Iowa posted all of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO’s endorsements for 2014 here. A complete list of candidates who will appear on primary ballots is on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

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AFSCME backing Abby Finkenauer in Iowa House district 99

Abby Finkenauer announced on Facebook Monday that she was “thrilled” to be endorsed by the political arm of Iowa’s largest labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Finkenauer is one of three Democrats running in Dubuque-based Iowa House district 99, which Pat Murphy is vacating to run for Congress. She is a former page to Murphy when he was Iowa House speaker and has most recently clerked for State Representative Todd Taylor. Former State Representative Tom Jochum is backing Finkenauer’s candidacy too.

The AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee endorsed Murphy and several other Congressional candidates Monday, but I couldn’t find anything on their website about Finkenauer’s race. AFSCME staff confirmed by telephone this morning that the PEOPLE committee is backing Finkenauer but would not provide any statement on the endorsement or any comment on whether the state’s largest labor union plans to get involved in any other Democratic primaries in legislative districts. Finkenauer commented in her Facebook post, “I know that they do not normally endorse in State House primaries, so I am beyond honored to have their support and encouragement as I continue to work to be the best Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 99 […].”

I understand taking sides in a primary when one candidate is clearly best poised to win the general election or advocate for a group’s issues. But House district 99 is a safe seat for any Democrat, and rival candidates Steve Drahozal and Greg Simpson sound equally committed to progressive values. If AFSCME isn’t even willing to issue a statement explaining its preference for Finkenauer, maybe the union would do better to stay out of primaries.

UPDATE: AFSCME provided a statement via e-mail, which I have added after the jump.

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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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UPDATED: Three Democrats planning to run in Iowa House district 99

Several Democrats have already announced plans to run for Iowa House district 99 in Dubuque next year. State Representative Pat Murphy has represented part of that city for more than 20 years. He is leaving the state legislature to run for Congress in Iowa’s first district.

After the jump I’ve posted background on Kevin Lynch, Steve Drahozal, Abby Finkenauer and Greg Simpson, along with a map of House district 99 and the latest voter registration totals. More candidates may emerge in this strongly Democratic House seat before the filing deadline in March 2014. One or more of the current candidates may opt out of the race before the filing deadline.

APRIL 5 UPDATE: Erin Murphy of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reports that Lynch has decided not to pursue this campaign. According to a Bleeding Heartland reader in Dubuque, both Drahozal and Finkenauer (but not Lynch) addressed county Democrats at the off-year caucus in March.

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