# Janelle Rettig

This primary challenger's big win should put Iowa lawmakers on notice

Running against a sitting office-holder from your own party is always an uphill battle. Many Iowa House or Senate members have faced primary challengers during the past decade, but only a handful have failed to win their party’s nomination.

Christina Bohannan beat the odds on June 2, taking 66 percent of the vote against 20-year State Representative Vicki Lensing in Iowa’s most Democratic House district.

No one can write off the outcome as a fluke of a low-turnout environment. Statewide turnout set a new record for an Iowa primary, and voter participation in Johnson County was sky-high as well. Unofficial results showed 6,687 residents of House district 85 cast ballots for either Bohannan or Lensing.

Bohannan’s win and in particular the margin of victory should put every Iowa legislator on notice: you have to keep earning your constituents’ support.

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Royceann Porter overcame hidden racism in historic victory

Let’s start with the good news: Democrat Royceann Porter made history by winning the December 18 special election for Johnson County supervisor. The longtime community activist and labor organizer gained 5,444 votes (56 percent) to 4,167 votes (43 percent) for Republican Phil Hemingway, a member of the Iowa City school board. Porter is the first African American to win a county-wide office in Johnson County and will be one of four women on a five-member board that never had more than two women serving at the same time before this November’s election.

John Deeth took a granular look at the county’s urban and rural voting patterns in his preview of this election and his analysis of the unofficial results. He sees signs of a possible “watershed moment in county politics.”

While a Democrat winning in “the People’s Republic of Johnson County” might not seem newsworthy, Porter’s victory was not a foregone conclusion. A Republican won a low-turnout special election for a county supervisor seat in 2013. The compressed time frame for the special election gave Porter only four weeks to build up her name recognition. Her opponent was better-known, having already won local office. The Farm Bureau chapter drummed up support for Hemingway with a mass mailing, which was unprecedented for a county race, according to longtime area politics-watchers.

Porter also had to contend with a tremendous amount of implicit bias among voters who probably would not consider themselves racist.

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Special election results thread (updated)

The People’s Republic of Johnson County will come through for Democrat Janelle Rettig in today’s special election for county supervisor, if the early vote figures are any guide. John Deeth posted more turnout data today.

I wish I had a better feeling about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The impressive GOTV effort of the past few days probably won’t be enough to save Democrat Martha Coakley, unless almost every pollster was working from a very flawed turnout model. Coakley apparently only held 19 campaign events in the 40 days since the primary. You can’t take anything for granted in politics, especially when unemployment is above 10 percent.

Some “senior Democrats” didn’t have the decency to wait until polls closed before giving journalists blind quotes on who’s to blame for the debacle.

On the optimistic side, former aide to Senator Ted Kennedy thinks Coakley will pull through and explains why using numbers from past Massachusetts elections.

At Swing State Project, Crisitunity posted a very helpful map with “town benchmarks,” indicating how many votes Coakley needs in various towns to win a plurality statewide.

At the Blue Mass Group blog, Hoyapaul posted “town by town bellwethers and what to watch for on Tuesday.”

I’ll update this post later as results come in.

UPDATE: Things are looking grim for Coakley with about half the votes counted. She is underperforming in most towns that have reported and not winning the Boston precincts by large enough margins.

Turnout was higher than expected, which in some ways is even more depressing. When Scott Brown got close in the polls, I assumed Coakley would win easily once Democrats became aware that this was a real race. Instead, Brown surged into the lead despite an onslaught of ads and direct mail from Democrats. There is plenty of blame to go around. Coakley ran a horrendous campaign, but the Obama administration hasn’t handled economic and health care policy well these past several months. The DSCC ads don’t seem to have helped either–stale negative attacks.

SECOND UPDATE: Coakley has conceded. Many post-mortems to come, and Peter Daou’s is worth a read.

FINAL UPDATE: Rettig won big in Johnson County; read Deeth for details. Republican Lori Cardella won’t have a supervisor’s seat to distract her from helping Chris Reed’s campaign in Iowa’s second Congressional district.