GOP outspending Democrats in almost every competitive Iowa Senate race

As was the case two years ago, Democratic candidates are at a financial disadvantage in almost all of the Iowa Senate districts both parties are targeting.

The disparity adds another challenge to a party already facing a difficult path to gaining ground in the upper chamber. Republicans currently hold 29 of the 50 Senate seats and are guaranteed to pick up the district independent Senator David Johnson is vacating.

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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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Incumbents retiring in two battleground GOP-held Iowa Senate districts

During the last week before the filing deadline, Republican State Senators Mark Chelgren and Rick Bertrand announced that they will not seek re-election in 2018. Iowa Senate districts 41 and 7 were already the best Democratic pickup opportunities on a difficult midterm election map. Of the 29 Republicans now serving in the upper chamber, only four–Chelgren, Bertrand, Dan Dawson, and Tom Greene–hold seats where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans (barely in Dawson’s district). Dawson and Greene won’t be up for re-election until 2020.

Winning an open seat is usually easier than defeating a legislative incumbent, and Bertrand’s retirement clearly improves Democratic chances in Senate district 7.

But Republicans have likely increased their odds of holding Senate district 41 by swapping out Chelgren for Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

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Iowa Senate leader stripped two Republicans of committee chairmanships

In an unusual move between the first and second years of a legislative assembly, Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix took committee chairmanships away from two members of his caucus this week. Senator Jake Chapman is the new leader of the Commerce Committee, replacing Bill Anderson. Senator Craig Johnson, who was just elected for the first time last November, now chairs the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee, replacing Rick Bertrand.

Dix handed the more significant demotion to Bertrand, who no longer serves on any appropriations subcommittee. Anderson’s remaining committee assignments still include a spot on one appropriations subcommittee as well as a position on the powerful Ways and Means panel.

Senate Republicans didn’t publicize the changes, which took effect on May 24, on their website or social media feeds. The snubs to Bertrand and Anderson attracted little notice amid the transfer of power from Governor Terry Branstad to Kim Reynolds. Senate GOP communications staff, Johnson, Bertrand, and Anderson did not respond to my requests for comment. When I reached Chapman by phone on May 24, he confirmed his new committee chairmanship but declined to speculate about the reasons, saying, “I don’t make those decisions.”

My first thought was that Dix punished Bertrand for throwing a bit of a tantrum (starting at the 6:12:20 mark of this video) during the final debate on Senate File 471, the bill banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks. But when senators first considered the same bill in March, Chapman had tried to suspend the rules to force a floor vote on “personhood” language. Johnson was among sixteen Republicans to support that breach of Senate protocol. Anyway, my initial hunch wouldn’t explain what Dix did to Anderson, who has never called out his GOP colleagues during a Senate floor speech, to my knowledge.

My best guess is that Bertrand and Anderson paid a price for missing too many votes this year. Follow me after the jump for details.

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Iowa Democrats face incredibly difficult path back to legislative majorities (part 1)

Many Iowa Democrats expect to have the wind at their backs for the 2018 elections, due to surging progressive activism, an unpopular Republican president, and backlash against GOP lawmakers who used their power this year to take rights away from hundreds of thousands of workers, lower wages for tens of thousands more, and undermine protections for those who suffer workplace injuries.

It’s too early to predict the political climate next fall, but Democrats need to hope for favorable external conditions as well as strong recruits and well-run campaigns. New calculations of last year’s presidential election results by state legislative district point to a very steep climb back to 51 seats in the Iowa House and 26 seats in the Senate. This post will survey the terrain in the upper chamber.

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Rick Bertrand "unlikely" to seek third term in Iowa Senate, may run again in IA-04

If the Iowa politics rumor mill can be believed, State Senator Rick Bertrand has been telling constituents for some time that he will not seek a third term in the legislature. Less than two weeks after losing the fourth Congressional district primary to Representative Steve King by a two to one margin, Bertrand told the Sioux City Journal’s Bret Hayworth that he is more likely to run for Congress or some other office in 2018 than for re-election.

I am skeptical.

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