Dirty trick almost worked in Iowa House district 56

A state election panel unanimously knocked the only GOP candidate in Iowa House district 56 off the primary ballot on March 27. Dale Bolsinger was a registered Democrat when he collected signatures and submitted nominating papers as a Republican on the last day of the filing period.

Bolsinger’s effort to prevent the GOP from nominating a credible contender in this swing district would have succeeded if he had understood Iowa law. Both parties should be aware of this risk and in future election cycles not put off recruiting candidates for any winnable seat.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa primary filing deadline edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The filing period for Democratic and Republican candidates for Iowa offices ended on Friday, March 18. The last-minute retirements by three Iowa House incumbents grabbed my immediate attention, but I have many other posts in progress related to statehouse and Congressional races. Meanwhile, John Deeth already finished his overview of all 125 state legislative contests, and Pat Rynard highlighted ten districts where Iowa Democrats need to field candidates, in case Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket produces a “massive wave that sweeps Republicans out of office at all levels.”

I couldn’t agree more. Remember, the 2010 landslide allowed Republicans to pick up three Iowa House seats where the party hadn’t even fielded challengers in 2008. They also defeated Democratic State Representative John Beard, who was unopposed at this point in the 2010 campaign, by nominating a GOP candidate in his House district at a special convention in June. The six Republicans who picked up Democratic-held Iowa Senate seats in 2010 included Mark Chelgren. No one took “Chickenman” seriously until he beat a Democratic incumbent by ten votes in an Ottumwa-based district neither party believed to be in play.

Almost anything can happen in a wave election, so finding Democratic candidates for the more promising uncontested Iowa House and Senate seats is imperative. Trump could “cause a massive electoral wipe-out,” but you can’t beat something with nothing.

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IA-01: Pat Murphy rolls out long endorsement list

State Representative Pat Murphy’s Congressional campaign released a list today of more than 150 Democrats who support the former Iowa House speaker’s bid to replace Bruce Braley in the U.S. House. The full list is after the jump, along with a statement from the campaign. Murphy has public support from one current Iowa Senate Democrat (Brian Schoenjahn), three current Iowa House Democrats (Roger Thomas, Mark Smith, and Bruce Bearinger), six former state representatives (Gene Ficken, John Beard, Tom Schueller, Dick Taylor, Kay Halloran, and Deo Koenigs) and two former state senators (Bob Carr and Mike Connolly). Other prominent endorsers include former U.S. Representative Dave Nagle, several union leaders, and eleven county supervisors.

Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate in Iowa’s first district so far. His campaign raised about $68,000 between mid-February and the end of March, including more than $60,000 in contributions from individuals other than the candidate. A forthcoming Bleeding Heartland post will cover Iowa Congressional fundraising during the first quarter in more detail.

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Recounts finished in Iowa House and Senate races

Democratic candidate Susan Judkins halted the recount and conceded defeat in Iowa House district 43 today: “Questions about whether all absentee ballots were counted have been satisfactorily answered and I believe my narrow loss would likely stand even if all ballots were considered.” After the official canvass, Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow led by 22 votes out of nearly 17,500 cast.

A recount of the open-seat race in Iowa House district 63 concluded yesterday. Republican Sandy Salmon defeated Democrat Bill Heckroth by a little more than 100 votes out of nearly 16,500 cast.

And in a final disappointment for Iowa Democrats, Republican Mike Breitbach held onto a narrow lead over John Beard after a recount in the open Senate district 28. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the final margin, which is probably either 17 or 22 votes out of nearly 30,000 cast.

Both parties have won some close statehouse races in Iowa over the years, but this year Democrats lost most of the heartbreakers.

Republicans have a 53 to 46 Iowa House majority, with a special election in House district 52 coming up soon. Democrats have a 26 to 23 Iowa Senate majority, with a special election in Senate district 22 set for December 11.

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Huge experience gap between Iowa Senate Democrats and Republicans

Democrats will hold a slim majority in the next Iowa Senate: most likely 26-24 or 27-23, depending on the outcome of one recount and one special election in December. But the experience gap between the two parties’ caucuses is wider than I’ve ever seen, and perhaps unprecedented.

Only five Republicans who will serve in the next Iowa Senate have more than four years experience in the legislature’s upper chamber. Most of the old hands aren’t on the GOP leadership team. By comparison, eighteen Senate Democrats have held that office for more than four years. Thirteen of those have served in the upper chamber for at least a decade.

Many newcomers to the Iowa Senate have helped oversee public-sector budgets and programs as county supervisors, mayors, or members of city councils and school boards. Nevertheless, new legislators have a steep learning curve because state government is more complex than local government, and Iowa House and Senate members consider a wider range of issues during a typical legislative session. Whereas eleven Senate Democrats previously served in the Iowa House, only three sitting Republicans came to the Senate with that background. If the GOP had gained control of the upper chamber in this year’s elections, they would have been forced to put quite a few rookies in charge of standing committees.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the tenure of all incoming Iowa Senate members, indicating members of each party’s leadership team and past service in the Iowa House.

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