IA-01: Mathis set to clear Democratic field

Less than a week after launching her Congressional campaign, State Senator Liz Mathis has eliminated any chance of serious competition for the Democratic nomination in the first district.

Mathis announced support last week from more than 100 well-known Iowa Democrats, including all recent U.S. House representatives, every current statewide official, and 48 current state legislators. It’s not just the number of endorsements that will discourage others who may have considered running for Congress in northeast Iowa. Prominent voices representing all wings of the Democratic Party are behind Mathis.

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Liz Bennett, Breanna Oxley face off in open Iowa Senate primary (updated)

Catching up on some news from before the holiday weekend: a competitive Democratic primary is shaping up for an open Iowa Senate seat covering part of Cedar Rapids. Four-term State Representative Liz Bennett confirmed on June 30 that she will run for the district that State Senator Rob Hogg has represented since 2007. Hogg won’t seek re-election in 2022, he announced last month. Iowa has yet to adopt a new political map, but this district will cover some part of the city of Cedar Rapids.

Bennett is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Economic Growth Committee and a member of the Human Resources, Natural Resources, and Information Technology committees, as well as the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee. Having won four previous state legislative races, she will be the early favorite in the Iowa Senate primary.

Bennett is also the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Iowa legislature and the only out LGBTQ person now serving at the statehouse. Only one out LGBTQ person has ever served in the Iowa Senate: Matt McCoy, who did not seek re-election in 2018.

Breanna Oxley, a public school teacher and education activist, was first to declare her candidacy for the Cedar Rapids Senate district on June 15. She told Bleeding Heartland last week she is staying in that race. Her endorsers include former U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, former State Senator Swati Dandekar, and former Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston.

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Liz Bennett running for Iowa Senate seat in Cedar Rapids (updated)

UPDATE: Bennett announced at a Linn County Democrats’ meeting on June 30 that she will run for this seat. I’ve added her news release below. Original post follows.

State Representative Liz Bennett may join the Democratic field in an Iowa Senate district covering part of the Cedar Rapids area, she announced on June 28.

Bennett said in a news release that after State Senator Rob Hogg confirmed he would not seek re-election in 2022, “numerous community leaders and grassroots activists” encouraged her to run. “Iowa’s political situation is dire and we need an experienced progressive leader in the Senate,” she added.

First elected in 2014, Bennett is the only out LGBTQ person now serving in the Iowa House as well as the first out LGBTQ woman ever elected to the Iowa legislature. She’s the ranking Democrat on the Economic Growth Committee and a member of the Human Resources, Natural Resources, and Information Technology committees, as well as the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee. She represents half of Hogg’s current Senate district.

Iowa’s next political map won’t be finalized until sometime this fall, so it’s not clear whether the vacant Senate district will be as Democratic-leaning as Senate district 33 is now. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin, and Hogg received about 65 percent of the vote in his last re-election bid.

Two other candidates are already seeking the Democratic nomination in the district Hogg will vacate: Breanna Oxley and Sami Scheetz. UPDATE: Scheetz announced on July 1 that he will run for Bennett’s open Iowa House seat in 2022, instead of for the state Senate.

Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse in this primary but welcomes commentaries by any Democrat running, or by their supporters. Guidelines for guest authors endorsing candidates in Iowa Democratic primaries can be found here.

To follow Bennett’s campaign: website, Facebook, Twitter

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

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