Four ways to resolve Iowa Senate district 16 incumbent pairing

Iowa’s new legislative maps create many more match-ups between Republican incumbents than Democrats. But two first-term Democratic senators, Claire Celsi and Sarah Trone Garriott, live in the new Iowa Senate district 16. Celsi announced in early November she’ll seek re-election in the district, which covers a blue-trending portion of Des Moines’ western suburbs.

Trone Garriott hasn’t decided how to proceed and told Bleeding Heartland in a recent telephone interview that she hasn’t ruled anything out. She has “lots of options,” she said, but “none of them are easy.”

Trone Garriott’s choice may depend in part on how Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman responds to being placed in a competitive district for the first time. Will the chamber’s second-ranking Republican stay in a district Joe Biden carried, or flee to safer nearby territory?

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First look at Iowa's new House, Senate maps in cities, suburbs

Now that Iowa’s political maps for the next decade have been finalized, it’s time to look more closely at the district lines in and near larger metro areas. Although most districts anchored in cities are safe for Democrats, these metros will include quite a few battleground Iowa House and Senate races over the next two election cycles. Several “micropolitan” districts containing mid-sized cities remain competitive as well, and a forthcoming post will cover those maps.

I’ll write more about the political landscape of individual House or Senate districts once lawmakers and other contenders have confirmed their plans for next year. Several incumbent match-ups have already been worked out, and I’m continuing to update this post. (Please send tips on candidate announcements.)

I’ve grouped each Iowa Senate district with the two state House districts it wholly contains.

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Special election coming in Iowa Senate district 1

UPDATE: Governor Kim Reynolds set the special election for Tuesday, December 14. Original post follows.

Republican State Senator Zach Whiting has resigned from the Iowa Senate to take a job in Texas, nwestiowa.com reported on October 29. In a statement, Whiting said he was proud of his service in the legislature and grateful to constituents, but could not pass up the opportunity to work for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.

Whiting was a staffer for U.S. Representative Steve King before winning a three-way GOP primary and the 2018 general election in Iowa Senate district 1. The previous incumbent, David Johnson, did not seek re-election that year. He had left the Republican Party to become an independent in the summer of 2016, in protest of the GOP nominating Donald Trump for president.

Governor Kim Reynolds will soon schedule a special election in November or December to fill the remainder of Whiting’s term, which runs through 2022. Senate district 1 includes all of Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay, and Palo Alto counties. Whoever wins the GOP nominating convention will almost certainly become the next senator. The district is among the reddest in Iowa, with nearly three times as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

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First look at finalized Iowa maps, with incumbent match-ups

Iowa lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Legislative Services Agency’s second redistricting plan on October 28, by 48 votes to 1 in the Iowa Senate and 93 votes to 2 in the House. Democrats had already committed to approving any nonpartisan maps. Republicans liked that this plan (unlike the first LSA proposal) creates four U.S. House districts that Donald Trump carried. It also gives the party an excellent chance to maintain their Iowa House and Senate majorities.

Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom cast the only vote against the maps in the upper chamber. The plan puts him in the same district as his GOP colleague Adrian Dickey.

In the lower chamber, only GOP State Representatives Tom Jeneary and Jon Jacobsen voted against the redistricting plan. Both are placed in House districts with other Republican incumbents, but Jacobsen told Bleeding Heartland in a telephone interview that’s not why he opposed the plan. Rather, he said the legislative maps carve up Pottawattamie County outside Council Bluffs into several districts represented by incumbents who live elsewhere.

I’ll have more to say about some legislative districts in forthcoming posts. For now, here are the basics about the plan Governor Kim Reynolds will soon sign into law. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on November 4.

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The Iowa court ruling that could stop a Republican gerrymander

Terror gripped many Iowa Democratic hearts when the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) announced it would release a second redistricting plan on October 21. Governor Kim Reynolds soon scheduled a legislative session to consider the plan for October 28, the earliest date state law allows.

Democrats had hoped the LSA would spend more time working on its next plan. Iowa Code gives the agency up to 35 days to present a second set of maps. If lawmakers received that proposal in mid-November, Republicans would not be able to consider a third set of maps before the Iowa Supreme Court’s December 1 deadline for finishing redistricting work.

By submitting Plan 2 only sixteen days after Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first redistricting plan, the LSA ensured that GOP lawmakers could vote down the second proposal and receive a third plan well before December 1. So the third map gerrymander—a scenario Bleeding Heartland has warned about for years—is a live wire.

Nevertheless, I expect Republicans to approve the redistricting plan released last week. The maps give the GOP a shot at winning all four U.S. House districts and an excellent chance to maintain their legislative majorities.

Equally important, state law and a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court precedent constrain how aggressive Republicans could be in any partisan amendment to a third LSA proposal.

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Plan 2 shows Iowa Democrats need more than cities, suburbs

Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency released the second redistricting plan on October 21.

Although Republican leaders have not signaled their intentions publicly, I anticipate they will accept this package. Not only does it give the GOP a shot at sweeping all four U.S. House districts, it appears to solidify the party’s majorities in the state House and Senate for some time. Former lawmakers and longtime Iowa politics watchers have uniformly told me that lawmakers are more concerned with the legislative maps than the Congressional plan.

Bleeding Heartland will cover the new maps in more detail if the legislature approves them during the October 28 special session.

For now, a quick review of the big picture: as expected, the House and Senate maps create some opportunities for Democrats in growing urban and suburban areas. But as Evan Burger predicted early this year, that’s not enough to get the party to legislative majorities without winning back some ground in smaller counties or mid-sized cities where Democrats used to perform well.

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