Democrats keep majority on Johnston city council

Bryan Burkhardt won the June 22 special election for a Johnston City Council seat despite a strong write-in campaign by local Republicans on behalf of Jim Gorsche. Unofficial results posted by the Polk County auditor’s office showed 1,032 votes for Burkhardt (51.1 percent), 783 write-in votes (38.8 percent), all but six of which were for Gorsche, and 203 votes for Adam Haar (10.1 percent).

Turnout was just under 14 percent, not bad for a summer local election, which received little media coverage.

Burkhardt, a Des Moines Area Community College professor and small business owner, will serve the remainder of Scott Syroka’s term, which runs through 2023. Elected to the council in 2019, Syroka resigned early this year to serve as deputy director of communications in the Biden-Harris administration’s Office of Personnel Management. John Temple has been filling the vacancy on the council since February; he didn’t compete in the special election.

Local elections are nonpartisan in Iowa, but Burkhardt and Haar, the top two vote-getters in the city’s May 25 primary, both had support from area Democrats. Gorsche finished third in the four-way primary.

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Sixteen Iowa Senate races to watch, with ratings

Iowans will elect 25 state senators today. Those races have attracted far less attention than this year’s Iowa House races, because Republicans have a lopsided 32-18 majority in the upper chamber and only a 53-47 advantage in the House.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep an eye on the Senate races, because this year’s outcome will influence Democratic prospects under the new map coming in 2021.

This overview covers five districts where both parties are spending six-figure amounts, seven districts where Republicans spent a significant amount, and four more districts where the results could shed light on political trends in various parts of the state, even though neither Democrats nor Republicans targeted the race.

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Iowa Senate district 20: Brad Zaun knows he's in trouble

Brad Zaun’s fifth campaign for the state legislature will be his toughest yet.

Like affluent suburban areas around the country, Iowa Senate district 20 has been trending away from Republicans. Democrats in the northwest suburbs of Des Moines did well in the 2019 local elections and more recently surpassed the GOP in voter registrations.

Zaun has adapted to the new environment with messaging that doesn’t mention his party affiliation, his votes for many controversial laws, his numerous attempts to ban abortion, or his early support for Donald Trump’s candidacy.

On the contrary, he is campaigning as an “independent voice” and leader on improving education and mental health services.

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Educating Rhonda: Law enforcement challenges

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for Democratic candidates for Iowa offices. -promoted by Laura Belin

My name is Jeffrey Cárdenas. I’ve been volunteering to elect Rhonda Martin to Iowa Senate district 20 and to defeat Brad Zaun.

On Friday I attended a protest against anti-Black violence in Des Moines. There a young African American male speaker asked, “…my grandparents turned the other cheek and walked away. N*ggah, I won’t. And if you think that’s wrong, what am I supposed to do? Please tell me, what am I supposed to do?!”

His question immediately reminded me of President Barack Obama’s eternal call to action: “I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of scripture, that ours is a future filled with hope. And if you share that faith with me, if you share that hope with me, I ask you [to vote].”

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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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