# Molly Donahue



Fourteen Iowa Senate races to watch on election night 2022

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated with unofficial results from all the races. Original post follows.

The major parties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most competitive 2022 Iowa House and Senate races.

This post highlights seven state Senate districts where one or both parties have spent large sums, and another seven where even without a big investment by Democrats or Republicans, the results could shed light on political trends.

All voter registration totals listed below come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 1. All absentee ballot figures come from the Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 7. All past election results come from the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App.

All figures for in-kind spending by the Iowa Democratic Party or Republican Party of Iowa come from filings with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. I focus on in-kind spending, because candidates in battleground Iowa legislative races typically give most of their funds to the state party. The party then covers the bulk of the large expenditures for direct mail and/or television, radio, and digital advertising.

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Ten Iowa Democratic legislative primaries to watch in 2022

UPDATE: I’ve added unofficial results for each race.

Iowa Democrats have more competitive state legislative primaries in 2022 than in a typical election cycle. That’s partly because quite a few House and Senate members are retiring, and partly because the redistricting plan adopted in 2021 created some legislative districts with no incumbents.

In most of the races discussed below, the winner of the primary is very likely to prevail in November. However, a few of the districts could be targeted by one or both parties in the general election.

All data on past election performance in these districts comes from the Iowa House and Senate maps Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App. Fundraising numbers are taken from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s database.

This post is not an exhaustive account of all contested Democratic primaries for state legislative offices. You can find the full primary candidate list here.

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Iowa House Democrats head for the exits

UPDATE: Charlie McConkey became the sixteenth House Democrat to confirm he won’t seek another term. Original post follows.

Nearly 40 percent of the Democrats who now serve in the Iowa House have confirmed they won’t seek re-election this year, and several long-serving incumbents have yet to clarify their plans.

The exodus involves not only lawmakers of retirement age, like State Representatives Marti Anderson and Bruce Hunter, but also some who have decades left in their working lives, like State Representatives Ras Smith, Chris Hall, and Kirsten Running-Marquardt, the latest to announce she won’t continue serving in the legislature.

The unusually high turnover may reflect some pent-up demand; older lawmakers who might have retired a few years ago hung on in light of realistic hope that their party could regain control of the chamber in the 2018 or 2020 elections. That prospect seems remote now, with Republicans enjoying a 60-40 majority and the new political map creating fewer than ten strong pickup opportunities for House Democrats.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

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 in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) 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’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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Where things stand in the Iowa Democratic race for governor

Since State Auditor Rob Sand ruled out running for governor earlier this month, I’ve been meaning to catch up on the Democratic candidates who have been actively campaigning against Kim Reynolds: State Representative Ras Smith and Deidre DeJear, the 2018 nominee for secretary of state.

The field may not be set; many Democrats believe at least one other candidate will join the governor’s race early next year. Recent speculation has centered around State Representative Chris Hall. The six-term Iowa House Democrat from Sioux City, who is ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, has not announced whether he will seek re-election or run for higher office in 2022. Hall declined to comment for the record when I reached out to him shortly after Sand confirmed he’ll run for state auditor again.

This post will focus on bases of support for Smith and DeJear. We’ll know more about their capacity to run a strong statewide campaign after candidates disclose how much they’ve raised and spent this year. Those reports must be filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board by January 19.

Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse any candidate before the primary, but I welcome guest commentaries advocating for any Democratic contenders. Those wanting to learn more about the options should tune in to the Iowa Unity Coalition’s gubernatorial candidate forum on January 22 in Des Moines; both Smith and DeJear have agreed to participate.

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