# House District 1

We have a new candidate in Iowa House district 1

Bret Hayworth has the story at his Politically Speaking blog: David Dawson, a former prosecutor in the Woodbury County Attorney Office, will be the Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 1. He sounds like a great candidate for that Sioux City district. He will face Republican high school teacher Jeremy Taylor, who almost beat retiring State Representative Wes Whitead in 2008.

Our previously declared candidate in House district 1, local business owner Rick Mullin, switched to the Iowa Senate district 1 race after Steve Warnstadt announced his retirement. Mullin’s campaign website is here.

With the filing deadline only a week away, Democrats still lack an announced candidate in House district 2, which contains most of the east side of Sioux City. Recruiting a good candidate for that race should be a higher priority than finding someone to run in Iowa Senate district 27, which is also open and contains southern parts of Sioux City. Not only are Democrats more likely to hold House district 2 than pick up Senate district 27, we are at greater risk of losing the Iowa House than the Iowa Senate.

Once we have a candidate in House district 2, it shouldn’t take long to collect the 50 signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

In related news, there may be a brutal Republican primary in Senate district 27.

State Representative Wendt (D) stepping down for health reasons

Charlotte Eby reports that Democratic State Representative Roger Wendt won’t return for the rest of the current legislative session or seek re-election this year because of a “serious unnamed medical condition.” I will update this post as more is known about Wendt’s condition. I’m sure the Bleeding Heartland community joins me in hoping that Wendt will receive the medical care he needs now.

UPDATE: Bret Hayworth reports that Wendt has lung cancer. He had apparently been cancer-free since beating the disease in his other lung 17 years ago. Best wishes for another full recovery.

Wendt was first elected to House district 2 in 2002. The district includes part of Sioux City (here is a map (pdf file). In 2008, Wendt defeated Republican Rick Bertrand with about 51.5 percent of the vote. Bertrand is running again this year.

Democrats hold a 56-44 majority in the Iowa House, but leaders haven’t always been able to find 51 votes to pass bills on their agenda, particularly relating to labor and taxation. Wendt’s departure will complicate efforts to pass House File 2420, the “fair share” bill that would require non-union public employees to compensate the union for bargaining services done on their behalf.

Woodbury County Democrats will have to work harder than ever on getting the vote out this year. In November, State Representative Wes Whitead announced plans to retire from House district 1, which is also in the Sioux City area. Rick Mullin, a past chair of the Woodbury County Democrats, will face Republican Jeremy Taylor in the first district. Taylor nearly defeated Whitead in 2008.

Republican State Representative Chris Rants is retiring from House district 54 this year, leaving a third open seat in Woodbury County. That district, which stretches from southeastern Sioux City to the Sergeant Bluff area, is less friendly territory for Democrats. I believe we have better pickup opportunities in House district 74 in Warren County and in House district 51 in Carroll County, which Republican Rod Roberts is vacating in order to run for governor this year.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register’s blog recounts some highlights from Wendt’s career. He left a mark on this state’s education policy while chairing the House Education Committee:

* Wendt fought for a model core curriculum, intended to give all students the same strong education foundation, in 2008.

* He supported an anti-bullying law. The legislation in 2007 forced public and private schools to have policies that prevent and punish bullying or harassment of any student, including based on sexual orientation.

* Wendt was one of the lawmakers who led the charge three years ago on a statewide sales tax to raise money for school building projects. The old method was more piecemeal – counties voted periodically on a tax for their area. Urban schools, where most shopping and sales taxes happen, raked in more money, while rural districts felt funding inequity. Money is distributed equally per pupil across the state now.

* He began speaking out about a “dramatic need” for preschool programs in 2005.   Two years later, a law passed so that nearly all of Iowa’s 4-year-olds could attend preschool on a voluntary basis, paid for by the state and taught by licensed teachers.

* He helped make high school more rigorous. He believed that students – and their parents – need to take high school more seriously. Too many students coast in their junior and senior years, he said.

LATE UDPATE: Dave Price notes that three other Iowa legislators are currently battling cancer: Republican State Senators David Johnson and Pat Ward and Democratic State Representative Paul Bell. Wishing them all a full recovery.  

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We have a new candidate in House district 1

Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal reports today that State Representative Wes Whitead of Sioux City will not run for re-election next year.

Whitead said six terms is enough – he’ll be 77 when this term ends and wants to do more with his grandchildren before they grow up. Whitead said he’d considered retiring from politics, discussed it with House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque, and decided to step aside when learning Rick Mullin of Sioux City would fill the bill from the Democratic Party side.

Hayworth adds that Mullin is president of an awning and siding business, serves on the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, and is a past chairman of the Woodbury County Democrats.

Mullin announced on Twitter today, “Last Friday I filed papers to run for Iowa State Representative from House District 1.” His campaign website is here.

Demographics favor Democrats in Sioux City, but Republicans will probably invest in this district now that it’s an open seat. As a rule, it’s easier to hold a legislative district with an incumbent on the ballot, but in this case, we may be better off with a new candidate. Whitead nearly lost House district 1 last year, despite the fact that Republicans weren’t targeting his seat. (CORRECTION: I am told that Republicans did fund radio and television ads in this district shortly before the November election, and that the right-wing 501(c)4 group Iowa Progress Project also spent money against Whitead.)

That election went to a recount, and Whitead won by just 55 votes. Generally poor Democratic turnout in western Iowa was probably a factor in that race.

Anyone who’s familiar with Woodbury County politics is particularly encouraged to weigh in on this thread. How competitive will House district 1 be next year? Who are the potential candidates on the Republican side?

LATE UPDATE: Hayworth reported that Republican Jeremy Taylor, who almost defeated Whitead, plans to run for this seat again in 2010.

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