Bleeding Heartland's coverage of U.S. Senate, House races in 2019

After the wipeout of 2016, I questioned whether Iowa’s top races of 2018 and 2020 would be foregone conclusions for the Republican incumbents. But amid unusually high turnout for a midterm election, Democratic challengers flipped two U.S. House seats and fell only a few points short against Governor Kim Reynolds and Representative Steve King.

One of my goals for 2019 was to provide in-depth reporting on Iowa’s federal and state legislative races. Thanks to our nonpartisan redistricting system, none of our four Congressional districts are considered safe for either party in 2020. While U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is still favored to win a second term, she is increasingly seen as a vulnerable GOP incumbent.

Follow me after the jump for a review of Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the campaigns for U.S. Senate and House, with links to all relevant posts. A separate post will cover the year’s stories about battleground legislative districts.

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IA-Sen: Where things stand in the Democratic primary

Five Democrats are now competing for the chance to take on U.S. Senator Joni Ernst next November. After making low-key appearances at Democratic events around Iowa for about six months, Cal Woods made his candidacy official on December 17.

Assuming all five candidates file nominating petitions in March, the crowded field increases the chance that no one will win the nomination outright in the June 3 primary.

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IA-Sen: Warning signs for Joni Ernst

Iowans haven’t voted out a sitting U.S. senator since 1984, but several recent events have caused political observers to question Senator Joni Ernst’s strengths going into her first re-election bid.

Inside Elections changed its rating on Iowa’s 2020 U.S. Senate race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” this month. (Sabato’s Crystal Ball already rated the IA-Sen race “lean R,” while the Cook Political Report still sees a GOP hold likely.) Writing at the National Journal on October 20, Josh Kraushaar cited several “major red flags suggesting Iowa is a much bigger battleground than Republicans anticipated at the beginning of the year.”

Ernst told supporters at a closed-door fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence this month that she is the fifth most-vulnerable senator, according to Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News.

What’s going on?

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A candidate for the people

Stacey Walker is a Linn County supervisor who considered seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. -promoted by Laura Belin

I’ve always said that I never wanted to be one of those politicians who sat on the sidelines, not making my support known until it was absolutely clear who the winner would be. I’ve also never been comfortable offering my endorsement of a candidate out of sheer political expediency. It’s just not me.

Instead, I’ve chosen to be an elected official who weighs in and helps bring attention to bold, progressive candidates, because that is exactly what our party and our country needs. Luckily, we have a candidate with those qualities and then some. Her name is Kimberly Graham and she is running to be the next U.S. senator from the great state of Iowa.

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Where things stand in Iowa's Senate, Congressional races

Labor Day traditionally marks the beginning of the most intense phase of campaigning in election years. This holiday is also a good time to review the state of play in races for federal offices in odd-numbered years. Though new candidates could emerge at any time before Iowa’s March 2020 filing deadline–Patty Judge was a late arrival to the Democratic U.S. Senate field in 2016–it’s more typical for federal candidates here to kick off their campaigns by the end of summer the year before the election.

Thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting system, all four U.S. House races here could be competitive in 2020, and our Senate race is on the map–in contrast to 2016, when Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election was almost a foregone conclusion.

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