Iowans will likely elect record number of women lawmakers in 2018

A record number of women running for office in Iowa this year has translated into a record number of women who will appear on our state’s general election ballot. Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics noted that 85 women (86 percent of female candidates on Iowa’s primary ballot) won their party’s nominations yesterday.

More women than ever will likely win Iowa House seats this November (current number: 28 out of 100). Female representation will almost certainly increase in the state Senate too and could exceed the previous record (ten out of 50 senators in 2013-2014). Follow me after the jump for details.

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Rita DeJong's strong performance shows Iowa legislature in play

Josh Hughes is a Drake University undergraduate and vice president of the I-35 school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Republican Jacob Bossman bested Democrat Rita DeJong by 55.6 percent to 44.3 percent in a January 16 special election that, despite the sub-zero temperatures on election day, got very hot in the final stretch. Sensing vulnerability in this ancestrally Republican seat, the Iowa GOP spent more than $117,000 on tv advertising and paid mail to juice Republican turnout.

The GOP’s investment paid off. But even in this loss, Iowa Democrats have many reasons to feel hopeful, not only because of DeJong’s massive over performance compared to other Democrats, but also because the fundamentals of the district suggest something much larger going on.

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Good news, bad news from Iowa House district 6

Republican Jacob Bossman won today’s special election in Iowa House district 6 by 2,152 votes to 1,712 for Rita DeJong (55.6 percent to 44.3 percent), according to unofficial results. The results are disappointing, since Democratic candidate Todd Wendt carried this half of Iowa Senate district 3 just five weeks ago, and a small army of volunteers put in untold hours on GOTV for DeJong.

It’s not all bad news, though.

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Republicans running scared in Iowa House district 6 (updated)

The Republican Party of Iowa is spending heavily to defend Iowa House district 6, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16. The Iowa GOP did not intervene to support Carlin before last month’s special election for Senate district 3, considered safe Republican territory. Carlin won that race by a little less than 10 percent. Amazingly, the Democratic candidate gained more votes in the half of the district that Carlin has represented in the Iowa House.

Campaign finance reports (here and here) show the state GOP has spent more than $118,000, mostly on television and radio commercials in the Sioux City market and direct mail to residents of House district 6. I enclose below the positive television commercial about Republican candidate Jacob Bossman and several direct mail pieces attacking Democratic nominee Rita DeJong.

The tv spot relies heavily on an image of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley with his longtime staffer. Grassley headlined a rally to support Bossman on January 13, but the party didn’t have to pay his travel expenses. The senator is passing through western Iowa on the federal government’s dime as part of his annual 99-county tour. UPDATE: A reader notes the “rally” was moved from a room that would hold 250 people to the lobby, so the few dozen attendees would appear to fill up the venue.

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Iowa House district 6 special election set for January 16

Voters in Iowa House district 6 will elect a successor to Republican State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16, under a proclamation Governor Kim Reynolds issued today. Carlin resigned his House seat after winning last week’s special election to represent Iowa Senate district 3.

Iowa Code normally requires the governor to give “not less than forty days’ notice” before setting an election to fill a vacancy in the state legislature. But if the vacancy occurs within 45 days of the start of the next legislative session (in this case January 8), state law calls on the governor to “order such special election at the earliest practical time, giving at least eighteen days’ notice.”

House district 6 covers the Morningside area of Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff, and some parts of rural Woodbury County (see map above). The district leans to the GOP, with 5,004 active registered Democrats, 7,787 Republicans, and 6,587 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Voters here favored Donald Trump for president over Hillary Clinton by 62.4 percent to 32.5 percent.

Yet Democrats ready to fight for this seat packed the room for the December 20 Woodbury County party central committee meeting. Why are they so energized? As Josh Hughes explained in his precinct-level analysis of the Senate district 3 results, “Just 13 months ago, Carlin won an open seat here with 65 percent of the vote against a relatively well funded Democratic candidate. On Tuesday, Carlin received just 48 percent of the vote in his home district.”

Hughes showed in this table how every precinct in House district 6 “moved leftward by double digits” between the 2016 general election and last week’s special election:

Carlin spent less than $10,000 on his Senate district 3 bid. I expect Republicans to spend more defending House district 6, including radio and possibly television commercials. However, the truncated campaign won’t leave time for six-figure spending from both parties, as happened before last summer’s special election in House district 82.

Both parties will select nominees at special district conventions soon. I haven’t heard of any confirmed candidates. Sioux City school board member Perla Alarcon-Flory, the 2016 Democratic nominee in House district 6, may take another crack at the seat. Todd Wendt has strong Sioux City roots but is ineligible, because he lives in the other half of Senate district 3 (House district 5).

UPDATE: Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal last week that Jacob Bossman, a longtime staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley, is seeking the GOP nomination here. Bossman lost the 2016 primary to Carlin. He has a campaign website and is on Twitter and Facebook.

Via Iowa Starting Line, Rita DeJong is running for House district 6 as a Democrat. DeJong is also on Twitter and Facebook. Here’s the bio from her campaign website:

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