Republicans nominate Jonathan Lochman in Iowa Senate district 17

After fielding candidates in every Iowa Senate district in 2012, Republicans left a bunch of low-probability seats uncontested this year. One of those districts now has a GOP candidate, however: a special convention on July 24 selected Jonathan Lochman to run in Iowa Senate district 17. I don’t see a website for his campaign, but Lochman’s on Facebook here. During 13 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, he served wartime tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s now the Iowa coordinator for Team Rubicon (the Iowa chapter is on Facebook here).

Iowa Senate district 17 is open because State Senator Jack Hatch is running for governor. Tony Bisignano narrowly won a contentious three-way primary in this heavily Democratic seat covering parts of downtown Des Moines and the south side. In a press release, Lochman asserted that Bisignano would “be a rubber stamp for the radical, obstructionist agenda of Mike Gronstal,” whereas the Republican would “be an independent voice for my community.” Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix asserted, “Des Moines voters deserve a candidate​ like Jonathan Lochman, who has​ the integrity, honor and passion to effectively represent their interests at the State Capitol​.” Judging from that comment and various Republican posts on social media, the plan is for Lochman to win by playing up Bisignano’s drunk driving arrests and scandals from his previous term of service in the Iowa Senate during the 1990s.

It would be a historic upset for a Republican to win a state legislative seat here. The latest official figures show that Senate district 17 contains 16,388 active registered Democrats, 6,559 Republicans, and 9,792 no-party voters. Bisignano should have help from the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, because other Democratic candidates (notably Hatch, U.S. Senate nominee Braley, and IA-03 nominee Staci Appel) are counting on good GOTV in strongholds like the south side of Des Moines.

Also on July 24, Polk County Republicans held a special convention to nominate Army veteran Tom Hess in Iowa House district 34, covering half of Senate district 17. Hess will challenge longtime Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter and has about the same chance of winning as Lochman (slim to none). As of July 1, House district 34 contained 8,404 active registered Democrats, 3,497 Republicans, and 5,114 no-party voters.

P.S. – I would have posted the full press release on Lochman’s campaign launch, but the “latest news” on the Iowa Senate Republicans website is a press release from mid-May.

UPDATE: Cityview’s Civic Skinny published a detailed account of Tony Bisignano’s drunk driving arrest and how the case unfolded from there. Many details were new to me, and I suspect that if they had been more widely known, Nathan Blake might have won the Senate district 17 Democratic primary.

The most surprising fact recounted by Civic Skinny is that Jennifer Jacobs apparently e-mailed her draft Des Moines Register story on the OWI to Bisignano before publishing. Double-checking quoted remarks is one thing, but I am not aware of any newspaper where it is standard practice to run a full draft by the public figure who is the subject of the article.

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Bisignano wins Iowa Senate district 17 as Blake opts against recount

Tony Bisignano will be the Democratic nominee in Iowa Senate district 17, as second-place finisher Nathan Blake declined to request a recount. From a Facebook status update Blake posted yesterday:

According to the official canvass from the Polk County Auditor’s Office, I ended up 18 votes behind in the Democratic primary election for Iowa State Senate District 17. I congratulate Tony Bisignano on a hard-fought victory. Thank you to my supporters, volunteers, and all who voted. Thanks especially to my wife and partner, Andrea, and our two kids for their patience, support, and sacrifices over the last year. I am proud of the campaign we ran. We won over 60% of the Election Day vote, even if we came up a few votes short.

As for the future, I am committed to to electing Democrats up and down the ballot in Iowa this November. I will continue my work in public service, fighting for consumers as an Assistant Iowa Attorney General. I promise to stay involved in progressive politics and will seek future opportunities to serve in elective office. The issues we care about are too important to sit on the sidelines.

A recount wouldn’t have changed the result, so I think Blake did the right thing not to go through the motions. He did manage a very strong election-day turnout, which is promising for any future candidacies.

Senate district 17 was the best chance for Democrats to elect Iowa’s first Latino state legislator, but two other opportunities remain this year in House district 60 and Senate district 47.

UPDATE: In a Facebook post, Bisignano said of Blake, “I can’t say enough about his poise and character. He has a very bright future in public service and I’m looking forward to helping him. His positive and respectful campaign shows what people want and expect from their public officals.”

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Tony Bisignano's lead will hold up in Iowa Senate district 17

Tony Bisignano will be the next state senator representing Iowa Senate district 17, barring some extraordinary turn of events. The final election-night vote count showed him leading with 1,438 votes, to 1,425 for Nathan Blake and 1,001 for Ned Chiodo. Yesterday, officials counted six additional ballots, which all had been hand-delivered to the Polk County Auditor’s office on June 3, primary election day. Bisignano gained five votes and Chiodo one. So the final unofficial result shows Bisignano leading Blake by 1,443 to 1,425.

According to the Polk County Auditor’s elections office, three ballots from Senate district 17 arrived in the mail on June 4, but none will be counted, because they were postmarked June 3. In order to be counted, a late-arriving absentee ballot must be postmarked the day before the election at the latest.

On election night, Blake wrote on Facebook that his “campaign is reviewing all options to ensure that every vote is counted and accurately recorded.” I haven’t seen any statement since on whether he will request a recount. (There are no automatic recounts for Iowa primary elections.) I can’t imagine that a recount would change an eighteen-vote margin. In recent years, recounts of various Iowa House and Senate races have typically only changed the totals by a handful of votes, at most.

No Republican has filed to run in Senate district 17, an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in terms of voter registration. I was hoping for a different outcome in this primary, but I wish Bisignano well in his Iowa Senate work and offer condolences on the loss of his mother. I’ve posted below his statement on his mother’s passing and the primary election results. Bisignano won this race on early GOTV, building up a 102-vote margin on Chiodo and a 649-vote margin on Blake through absentee ballots. Blake had strong election-day turnout, especially considering that there were no competitive Democratic primaries for governor, U.S. Senate, or the third Congressional district, but it wasn’t quite enough. No doubt he’ll have other opportunities to run for office.

Final note for Iowa election trivia buffs: Patrick Rynard set a record this year that will likely never be broken. He has now managed two campaigns that spawned cases eventually reaching the Iowa Supreme Court. Rick Mullin’s Iowa Senate race in Sioux City in 2010 led to the recent court ruling about negative political advertising. Bisignano’s candidacy (or more accurately Chiodo’s determination to drive his rival off the ballot) prompted a high court ruling that may lead to thousands of Iowans getting their voting rights back.

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Labor union endorsements in contested 2014 Iowa Democratic primaries

With less than two weeks remaining before June 3, interest groups with a preference in competitive primaries have presumably made their views known by now. On the Democratic side, labor unions are most likely to get involved in primaries, so I wanted to compile in one place the full list of candidates in competitive Democratic races who have been endorsed by one or more organized labor group. None of the Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa this year has a primary opponent, and I’ve omitted county-level races. The list below includes candidates running for Congress in the first district and seeking various Iowa House and Senate seats.

I will update this post as needed if I learn of other labor union endorsements. Note that many other Democratic candidates already have or will have organized labor’s official support for the general election campaign. Blog for Iowa posted all of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO’s endorsements for 2014 here. A complete list of candidates who will appear on primary ballots is on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

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Tom Miller endorses Nathan Blake in Iowa Senate district 17 primary

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has endorsed Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa Senate district 17. State Senator Jack Hatch is running for governor rather than seeking re-election in that heavily Democratic seat. Blake, former State Senator Tony Bisignano, and former State Representative Ned Chiodo are competing in the Democratic primary. No Republican has filed to run for the seat covering much of downtown Des Moines and the south side of the capital city (this post includes a detailed map). Several organized labor groups are backing Bisignano. Chiodo’s supporters include U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.

After the jump I’ve posted Miller’s statement, which the Des Moines Register published as a letter to the editor on May 10. I’ve also enclosed Blake’s biography.

While Miller’s public support for the assistant attorney general covering consumer protection is no surprise, it will likely enrage Chiodo. In a court challenge to Bisignano’s eligibility, Chiodo argued that Miller should have recused himself from the three-member panel that originally cleared Bisignano to run for office despite an aggravated misdemeanor. Chiodo’s court filing asserted that Miller had a conflict of interest, since Blake potentially would benefit from two heavyweights of south-side politics splitting the primary vote.

A Polk County District Court judge rejected that argument, and the Iowa Supreme Court did not rule on whether Miller should have recused himself when five justices determined Bisignano was eligible to run for office.

Any comments about the Senate district 17 race are welcome in this thread. From what I’ve heard, Chiodo was the first to go negative (against Bisignano) in direct mail. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the district to save campaign flyers or mail pieces and, if possible, send me scanned copies: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com . Before the June 3 primary, I plan to post an overview of key arguments for and against each candidate. I am encouraging my friends in the district to vote for Blake. Not only is Blake capable and progressive, I think the Iowa Senate has plenty of long-serving elected Democrats and would benefit from some new blood.

Blake’s official bio also notes that if elected, he “would be the first Latino to serve in Iowa’s legislature.” Two Latina Democrats are running for the statehouse this year as well: Maria Bribriesco against Senator Roby Smith in Senate district 47, and Karyn Finn against Republican incumbent Walt Rogers in House district 60. CORRECTION: Bleeding Heartland user Mitch notes in the comments that I forgot to mention Maria Rundquist, a Latina who is one of two Democrats challenging incumbent Rick Bertrand in Iowa Senate district 7.

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