First take on the Iowa House and Senate results (updated)

Democrats suffered big losses in the Iowa House and Senate last night. Assuming no results change through recounts, the House is likely to switch from 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans to 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. I’ve seen some online references to a 58-42 split, but that’s not how the count looks based on unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Democrats maintain control of the Iowa Senate, but their majority shrank from 32-18 to 27-23. Governor-elect Terry Branstad should easily be able to get his agenda through the Iowa House, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal may have trouble keeping his caucus united.

UPDATE: Late returns could change the outcome in two Senate seats; it’s possible the chamber could have a 25-25 split, or a 26-24 Democratic majority.

SECOND UPDATE: A few more races could switch as more absentee ballots come in. As of Wednesday evening, Democrat Tom Schueller is now trailing in House district 25 by about 150 votes.

Here’s my take on the seats that changed hands and the near-misses.

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The case of the missing Republican fundraising

Last week Democratic and Republican candidates for the Iowa legislature filed disclosure reports on their campaign contributions and expenditures. For most candidates, those reports covered the period from June 2 through July 14. For the few candidates who didn’t file reports on the Friday preceding the June primary, the July 19 reports covered campaign fundraising and expenses between May 15 and July 14.

John Deeth posted cash-on-hand totals for candidates in most of the Iowa House and Senate battleground districts. The numbers are encouraging for Democrats, because our candidates lead their opponents in cash on hand in most of the targeted districts.

As I read through the July 19 contribution reports, I noticed something strange. Republican candidates in various targeted Iowa House and Senate districts reported improbably low fundraising numbers. As a general rule, candidates strive for impressive fundraising to demonstrate their viability, and cash on hand in July indicates which candidate will have more resources during crunch time. However, I got the impression that several of the Republican Iowa House and Senate candidates made little effort to obtain campaign contributions during the latest reporting period. Follow me after the jump for some examples and possible explanations.  

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Iowa candidate filings deadline thread

The filing deadline for statewide and state legislative offices closed at the end of business today. John Deeth has been covering the highlights at his blog. Click here to download a pdf file from the Secretary of State’s office for the full candidate list.

As I mentioned earlier, Governor Chet Culver has no primary challenger. All three remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates qualified for the ballot (Terry Branstad, Rod Roberts, Bob Vander Plaats).

There will be a three-way Democratic primary for U.S. Senate between Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.

Republicans have a full slate of candidates for statewide offices. Sadly, Democrats failed to find anyone to take on Auditor David Vaudt.

Four Republicans filed against Bruce Braley in Iowa’s first Congressional district, and four Republicans filed against Dave Loebsack in the second district. All seven declared GOP candidates qualified for the ballot in Iowa’s third district. I would not be surprised if a district convention ends up selecting Leonard Boswell’s opponent.

Bill Maske is the only Democrat running against Tom Latham in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. As expected, we will have a competitive primary in the fifth between Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell.

Most surprising statehouse district left uncontested: House district 16 in northeast Iowa. I had heard rumors that Republicans had no candidate against freshman State Representative John Beard, but I’m still shocked they left him unchallenged. That was a battleground race in 2008. Does anyone know whether a GOP district convention will be able to name a candidate for this race later?

Democrats didn’t leave any obviously competitive statehouse districts open. I’m a little disappointed we don’t have a candidate in House district 73, from which Republican Jodi Tymeson is retiring. It is a fairly strong GOP district, but I thought a candidate pounding the pavement there might help State Senator Staci Appel in her re-election campaign against Kent Sorenson (Senate district 37).

We found a candidate in House district 51 (Carroll County), which Rod Roberts is vacating to run for governor. Democrat Larry Lesle of Manning will face the winner of a three-way GOP primary.

Yesterday two-term incumbent Elesha Gayman surprised many people by announcing her retirement from House district 84 in Davenport. Gayman indicated that no one had been lined up to replace her, but today Shari Carnahan filed for that seat as a Democrat. She will face Gayman’s 2008 opponent, Ross Paustian.

Ruth Ann Gaines ended up being the only Democrat to file in Wayne Ford’s district 65 (Des Moines).

Six Democratic Iowa House incumbents have primary challengers. The people running against Dave Jacoby (district 30, Iowa City/Coralville) and Geri Huser (district 42, east side of Des Moines) appear to be backed by organized labor. A socially conservative pastor, Clair Rudison, is running against Ako Abdul-Samad in district 66 (Des Moines). Anesa Kajtazovic stepped up to the plate in House district 21 (Waterloo). Freshman Kerry Burt really should have retired from that seat. I don’t know what the deal is with Kenneth Oglesby, who is challenging Chuck Isenhart in district 27 (Dubuque). Likewise, I have no idea why Mike Petersen is running against Mary Gaskill in district 93 (Ottumwa). Please post a comment or e-mail me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know the backstory.

Most surprising retirement: Republican Doug Struyk in district 99. The GOP candidate for secretary of state in 2006, Mary Ann Hanusa, is running for the Council Bluffs-based seat instead. She will face Democrat Kurt Hubler, who nearly defeated Struyk in 2008. Struyk was first elected as a Democrat but switched parties several years ago. His departure will leave only one turncoat in the Iowa House. We failed to field a candidate against Dawn Pettengill (district 39), who switched to the GOP in 2007.

More posts are coming soon on some of the battleground statehouse races. Meanwhile, post any relevant comments in this thread.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that we will see seven or eight rematches in Iowa House races. Republicans are running Josh Thurston and Stephen Burgmeier and 2009 special election winners Kirsten Running-Marquardt (district 33) and Curt Hanson (district 90). Also, in district 23 first-term Democrat Gene Ficken will face the Republican he beat in 2008, Dan Rasmussen. Republican Jane Jech is taking another shot at incumbent Mark Smith in district 43. The district 89 race may be a rematch as well if Jarad Klein wins the GOP primary to face first-term Democrat Larry Marek. In House district 60, first-term Republican Peter Cownie faces 2008 Democratic candidate Alan Koslow. Not only will Koslow be at a severe financial disadvantage, his endorsement of Jonathan Narcisse for governor won’t win him friends among the Democratic base. Democrat Pat VanZante is taking another shot at Jim Van Engelenhoven in district 71 (assuming Van Engelenhoven doesn’ lose to his GOP primary challenger). Republican Dave Heaton will face his 2008 opponent, Ron Fedler, in district 91.

SECOND UPDATE: Republicans are crowing that they are fielding candidates in 88 of the 100 Iowa House districts, while Democrats are fielding candidates in only 75 districts. I would like to challenge Republicans everywhere, but it’s only natural that Iowa Democrats are going to focus more on defense this year. We already have the majority, and it could be a tough cycle for incumbents at all levels.

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The price of a flawed coordinated campaign

The “prevailing wage” bill, one of organized labor’s top legislative priorities, stalled in the Iowa House on Friday as Democrats were unable to find a 51st vote. Apparently the plan is to try to twist someone’s arm over the weekend:

House Speaker Pat Murphy will keep the voting machine open the entire weekend until Democrats can convince one of their dissenting members to change their vote. The move will mean Murphy will have to sleep in the chamber over the weekend.

“I want to be sure that taxpayer money is going to responsible Iowa employers who pay a decent wage, not employers who take advantage of people like we’ve seen in Postville and Atalissa,” Murphy said. “As the presiding officer of the House, I will stay in the Speaker’s chair and the voting machine will remain open until Monday. My goal is to get 51 votes and make sure we have good-paying jobs for middle class families.”

This post is not about the merits of the bill, which I support. (Click here for background on House file 333, which “would require that companies that contract for public projects pay workers wages and benefits comparable to private projects in the area.”)

This post is about why Democratic House leaders now face two unappealing outcomes: either they fail to pass a good bill supported by a key Democratic constituency, or they force one of their members into an embarrassing about-face that could affect the next election campaign.

Further thoughts on this mess are after the jump.

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Hubler criticizes GOTV effort

Rob Hubler sent this e-mail to his supporters today:

Dear [desmoinesdem],

The highest appreciation that can be given a person in the Navy is “Well done!” To all of you I give my sincerest “WELL DONE!”  I cannot be prouder of all your efforts and your response to this campaign. Everyone went above and beyond their capabilities.

I want to share my thoughts about what went right, and what went wrong, so we can learn from events and continue to build a progressive force in the Fifth District, and I need to ask you for a little extra help to close out this chapter.  But first I offer some words from an essay by Tim Wise, that describe the work that has just begun with the election: http://www.redroom.com/blog/ti…

   “…And so it is back to work. Oh yes, we can savor the moment for a while, for a few days, perhaps a week. But well before inauguration day we will need to be back on the job, in the community, in the streets, where democracy is made, demanding equity and justice in places where it hasn’t been seen in decades, if ever. Because for all the talk of hope and change, there is nothing–absolutely, positively nothing–about real change that is inevitable. And hope, absent real pressure and forward motion to actualize one’s dreams, is sterile and even dangerous. Hope, absent commitment is the enemy of change, capable of translating to a giving away of one’s agency, to a relinquishing of the need to do more than just show up every few years and push a button or pull a lever.

   This means hooking up now with the grass roots organizations in the communities where we live, prioritizing their struggles, joining and serving with their constituents, following leaders grounded in the community who are accountable not to Barack Obama, but the people who helped elect him. Let Obama follow, while the people lead, in other words…”

We all know things did not go as we had all wanted and anticipated. It is far too early to get a complete handle on what happened. With the effort you put into our campaign the results should have been better.  We did receive more votes then any 5th district candidate has in the past, but the percentage was about the same as in previous races. We had considerable impact with Republican and independent voters–a tribute to your efforts. This was always a major effort of our campaign and we succeeded.

The early indication is that we did not do as well as we should have with Democrats.   Anecdotal evidence suggests that the GOTV effort we all worked so hard on was not directed to the folks that would have boosted our Democratic total and helped the down ticket.  Democrats across the district and the state did not win where we should have.  Kurt is one example of a Democrat who should have won, given the demographics of his district, but lost by fewer than 400 votes.  A better GOTV effort would have helped him.

The good news is that our campaign leaves a greatly improved Democratic organization in the 5th. There is a new sense of identity and a new willingness to improve on the infrastructure you all built. We have the foundation of a viable two-party system in our district. We can build and be competitive at the local and state level. Clearly we will throw away an opportunity if we do not unite behind our newly-energized party, and position ourselves to do even better than we did this year. These gains can be expanded and I will be working toward making this happen.

The bad news is that we must pay off a remaining debt of $10,000. You were one of those who were so generous and helped our campaign. I am asking you to contribute once again to eliminate the debt I have incurred, which is mostly owed to the staff. You all saw a staff that was totally dedicated to the campaign, and devoted great energy and sleep time to our effort.  As a past campaign staffer, I know how many times campaigns close without paying what is owed to staff members. I know it is my personal responsibility to fulfill my agreements with them, but I have expended all of my personal resources already and must depend upon you to help. A $25 or more contribution by you would be very much appreciated.

I look forward to the next two years of helping President Obama to answer the challenges we have been talking about in this campaign, and continuing our vigilant watch on Steve King. He is the only elected official who celebrated the election by being combative and disgraceful.  He is in stark contrast to John McCain’s gracious call for bipartisanship, and the need for cooperation in these trying times for our nation.  Whether King runs for reelection in 2010 or runs for Governor, we in the Fifth must continue to dog him and hold him accountable.  I know you will join me in this effort.

This is not an announcement of a campaign for 2010.  I am not going to even think about running again for a long time, if ever.  I am making this commitment to stay in the fight, however, no matter who is running for Congress in the election years to come.  This race was never about me, it was about real representation for the Fifth District, and it was about you.  My commitment to you will not waver.

We have a daunting task before us as a district, a state, and a nation. Barack Obama is a visionary who is up to the task. Senator Tom Harkin, Gov. Culver, Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell, our Democratic State House and Senate will all join with our new President to tackle the tasks at hand. We will bring real rural development to Iowa. We will stand with working families, family farmers and ranchers, the middle class and those who have no voice. And as we continue to do our part, collectively, we will bring back the respect the people of the 5th want and deserve.  It will not be easy but we have a good start. Let us continue what we have begun and work together to make our district a place of justice and not a national laughing stock.

I hope you will continue with me in our fight. The new page is turning even here. We have taken many steps and we must continue our journey until our job is complete.  We were not defeated. We have only been further challenged. We are up to the task. Let’s continue till we arrive at victory.

Thanks again for joining this campaign for Justice and peace. Step by step we will get there.

Peace and Justice,

Rob Hubler

(712) 352-2077

P.S. Your contribution of any amount helps us finish this campaign with the integrity from which we started it. I sincerely appreciate your assistance from the beginning to the end.

What Hubler says here about the GOTV effort is similar to what I am hearing from people all over this state. We lost statehouse races we should not have lost, races the House Democrats felt confident about going into the election. I have not crunched the numbers myself to confirm, but some are saying that the “drop-off” (that is, the number of people who cast a vote for president but not for state House or Senate candidates) was much greater this year than in 2004.

If anyone out there who worked in an Obama field office would like to give me your side of the story regarding the turnout effort or help provided to down-ticket Democrats, please contact me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

The “Kurt” referred to in this message is Rob Hubler’s son Kurt Hubler, Democratic candidate in House district 99 (Pottawattamie County). He lost narrowly to Doug Struyk, a former Democrat who switched parties and was one of the candidates supported by the American Future Fund during the final days of the campaign.

Looking at the election results, I noticed that only about 11,000 votes were cast in Kurt Hubler’s race, which is a lot less than the more than 16,000 votes cast in my own district 59. That’s one side effect of the generally lower turnout in Pottawattamie County, compared to 2004. Polk County, where district 59 is located, had higher turnout this year than in 2004.

I encourage you to help Hubler retire his campaign debt by donating one last time. He put tremendous effort into running a real campaign in a very tough district for Democrats.

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