Democrat Charlie Hodges ends Iowa Senate district 20 campaign

One of two Democrats who had been campaigning in a top-targeted Iowa Senate district has left the race.

Charlie Hodges posted on Facebook on January 23 that he was ending his campaign in Senate district 20 because “the pathway to victory is too narrow at this point to justify continuing.” He said he is “fully supporting Rhonda Martin’s campaign to unseat Senator Brad Zaun” and encouraged those who backed him to do the same.

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Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa legislative races in 2019

I’ve always enjoyed writing about legislative happenings and campaigns, since my first year on the job as an analyst covering Russian domestic politics during a parliamentary election year.

While most political reporters were understandably assigned to follow the many presidential candidates visiting Iowa in 2019, I made it a priority to keep an eye on down-ballot races. The 2020 Iowa House and Senate elections may affect our daily lives more than whether Donald Trump or the Democratic nominee wins our state’s electoral votes. For one thing, breaking the GOP trifecta is the only way to guarantee that Iowa preserves nonpartisan redistricting for the coming decade.

I’m proud that Bleeding Heartland provided more in-depth coverage of potentially competitive state legislative races than any other Iowa news source this year. All of those stories are linked below.

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Charlie Hodges is second Democrat running for Iowa Senate district 20

Two Democrats are now running in Iowa Senate district 20, likely to be one of next year’s most competitive state Senate races.

Information technology professional Charlie Hodges of Urbandale will seek the Democratic nomination in a district covering the northwest suburbs of Des Moines (see map below). Johnston City Council member Rhonda Martin has been campaigning here since May. The winner of the June 2020 primary will face four-term Republican State Senator Brad Zaun.

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Democrats have candidates in all top Iowa Senate targets

Fifteen months before the 2020 election, Democrats have at least one declared candidate in each of the four most vulnerable Republican-held Iowa Senate districts. That’s good news for a party that needs to start making up ground in the upper chamber, where Republicans hold 32 of the 50 seats.

Bleeding Heartland will publish a fuller review of the Iowa Senate landscape (comparable to this first look at 2020 state House races) when the field is set in more competitive districts. For now, here’s where things stand in the top Democratic targets:

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Iowa Senate district 20 preview: Brad Zaun vs. Rhonda Martin

What a difference a few years makes.

Democrats did not field a candidate against State Senator Brad Zaun in 2008 or 2012. The party provided no financial assistance to Senate district 20 nominee Miyoko Hikiji in 2016. That year, the Senate Majority Fund spent almost nothing on offense, as six-figure sums went toward trying to save Democratic-held seats around the state. Zaun won a fourth term by more than a 7,000 vote margin.

With central Iowa’s suburban voters trending toward Democrats, Zaun has emerged as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans for the 2020 cycle. As of May 15, he has a top-tier challenger: Johnston City Council member Rhonda Martin.

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Pie in the sky or possible? Flipping a tough district

N. Kelly managed Karin Derry’s 2018 campaign in Iowa House district 39. Derry was one of five Democratic candidates to win Republican-held seats in the suburbs of Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Very difficult but not impossible. That was what we knew about getting Karin Derry elected.

In 2016, the Republican incumbent Jake Highfill won with 57 percent of the vote. Going into 2018, 36 percent of voters in our district were registered as Republicans, compared to 25 percent registered as Democrats.

Bleak numbers, but when you believe that what you want is what most people want – a strong public education system, accessible and affordable healthcare, reasonable environmental protections, sensible policies to make taxation fair and the economy grow – then it simply becomes a matter of getting the word out. Talking to voters. Being real. Karin would speak of how her wonderful father had been a Reagan Republican, but that party is not today’s party. I think that fact resonated with many people across the political spectrum.

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