# Local Elections

A misguided effort to make Iowa's local elections partisan

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

If Senate File 23 were to become law in Iowa, all city and school elections would be partisan, and only partisan. Candidates in those elections would have their names placed on the ballot only by their political party; no independent candidates could run.

Republican State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale filed the bill on January 9, and it was quickly assigned to a State Government subcommittee, which has not yet considered the bill. Zaun filed a similar bill last year. It went nowhere.

Almost all Iowa city and school elections have been nonpartisan for many decades. For all I know it’s been that way since the creation of the state more than 150 years ago. I didn’t try to research that history, and it doesn’t really matter. The important fact is that at present, anyone of legal age in Iowa, whether affiliated with a political party or not, can take out nomination papers, get the required number of signatures on them by the filing deadline, and thereby become a candidate to help govern his or her city or school district.

It’s a system that’s worked just fine forever. Why change it?

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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.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Runoff local election results thread

Many Iowa communities held runoff local elections today. The highest-profile races are for two Des Moines City Council seats. Skip Moore and Leisha Barcus face off for the at-large seat vacated earlier this year by Michael Kiernan. On November 3 Barcus edged Moore by 32 percent to 30 percent, but this is anybody’s race. In recent days Mayor Frank Cownie endorsed Moore, who was already backed by many area labor unions. That should help him in a low-turnout environment. On the other hand, Barcus had the Des Moines Register’s endorsement and may have an advantage with west-side residents who voted for David Adelman on November 3.

Neither Barcus nor Moore lives in Des Moines’ first ward, where turnout is likely to be higher than in the city as a whole. In Ward 1, 20-year incumbent Tom Vlassis faces Drake University Law School student Halley Griess. I don’t envy the voters who faced this choice. Vlassis was knee-deep in the CIETC scandal and should have stepped down rather than run for a fifth term. Technically, city council elections are non-partisan, but it would have been nice to have a different Democrat on the ballot against Griess. I voted for two Republicans in Windsor Heights this year, but Griess seems like a real right-winger.

Turnout was relatively high (over 20 percent) for the Windsor Heights runoff, where four candidates compete for two at-large City Council seats. Only about 30 votes separated Betty Glover, Flo Hunter, Carole Tillotson and David Jenison on November 3. When Mr. desmoinesdem voted a little after 5 pm, he cast ballot number 271 in our precinct, which has about 1,200 registered voters. I expect this race to be decided by a handful of votes, so I’ve been making reminder calls the last few days to people who might not know about the candidates or remember the runoff date.

I’ll update this post later as results come in from the Des Moines area. Please post a comment about local election results in your corner of the state.

UPDATE: Preliminary results from the Polk County Auditor’s office: Moore defeated Barcus, 52 percent to 47 percent. Griess defeated Vlassis, 51 percent to 48.5 percent. If Griess becomes a rising Republican star, just remember that it could have been avoided if some people had talked Vlassis into retiring.

In West Des Moines Ward 1, Kevin Trevillyan defeated incumbent Robert Parks, 53 percent to 47 percent.

In Windsor Heights, incumbents Hunter and Tillotson were narrowly reelected. CORRECTION: Challengers Glover and Jenison won this election. I did not realize there was a precinct still to be counted in Windsor Heights when I wrote this last night. Glover and Jenison slightly increased their raw vote totals from November 3 to yesterday, which is remarkable. Typically turnout is significantly lower for a runoff.

SECOND UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Gazette has results from two runoffs for City Council. Don Karr defeated Aaron Saylor, and Pat Shey defeated Jerry McGrane.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Des Moines Register explains how Moore won:

Moore won every precinct in northeast side Ward 2, where he lives, and handily won Ward 4 on the southeast side. Barcus ran strongest in southwest Des Moines’ Ward 3, and she held off Moore in Ward 1, where she captured roughly 57.5 percent of the vote.

However, there was a significant drop-off in voters in Ward 3, which hurt Barcus.

In a low-turnout election, it’s critical to turn out your base supporters.

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Election results discussion thread

I’ll update this thread periodically tonight, but please post comments about any local election results in your corner of Iowa.

I have a feeling the incumbents will lose in Windsor Heights; Mr. desmoinesdem says unusually high turnout is often a sign of anti-incumbent sentiment.

The Virginia governor’s race has already been called for Republican Bob McDonnell.

Adam Bink is liveblogging the results from Maine on Proposition 1 and is very optimistic.

New Jersey is too close to call. Swing State Project posted 2008 NJ results by county and projected how well Governor Jon Corzine has to do in each county in order to pull through tonight. Exit polls suggest Republican Chris Christie won independents, but more women than men voted overall, which would be good for Corzine. Turnout in Democratic stronghold Hudson County (Newark) is quite a bit down from last year. Still not clear what percentage of voters cast early ballots. The New Jersey Democratic Party did a big absentee ballot push, but Republicans did not. That strategy has paid off for Iowa Democrats, but will it be enough for Corzine?

(updates moved after the jump)

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