EMILY's List more engaged in Iowa primaries than ever (updated)

In this record-setting year for Iowa women candidates, the country’s leading political action committee seeking to elect pro-choice, Democratic women has been more involved in Iowa primaries than ever before.

EMILY’s List has long backed female Democratic candidates for state and federal offices in Iowa. But for the first time this year, the group’s political arm has been the biggest outside spender in Iowa Congressional primaries.

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Dems contesting far more Iowa House, Senate seats than in 2010 or 2014

Democrats are fielding a nearly full slate of Iowa House and Senate candidates this year, leaving far fewer GOP-held seats unchallenged than in the last two midterm elections.

The improvement is particularly noticeable in the Iowa House, where Republicans have an unusually large number of open seats to defend. Twelve of the 59 GOP state representatives are retiring, and a thirteenth seat (House district 43) is open due to Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s move to safer Republican territory in Dallas County.

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Fourteen Iowa House Democrats who seem content to stay in minority forever

Iowa Democrats are in a deep hole, controlling only 20 of the 50 seats in the state Senate and 41 of 100 in the House. On the plus side, strong candidate recruitment and a wave of Republican retirements are giving Democrats plenty of opportunities to pick up House seats. (The 2018 Iowa Senate map is less promising.)

Raising money can be challenging for leaders of a minority party, who don’t call the shots on legislation. Furthermore, Iowa Republicans have a natural advantage, since the policies they promote are often tailored to suit wealthy individuals or corporate interest groups. While money doesn’t always determine campaign outcomes, quite a few Democratic lawmakers and challengers lost in 2016 after being massively outspent on television commercials and direct mail (see here, here, and here for examples).

Yet the latest set of campaign financial disclosures reveal little sense of urgency among Democratic incumbents who could do much more to help others win competitive districts this November.

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Zach Wahls, Janice Weiner running in Iowa Senate district 37

Zach Wahls announced his candidacy today in Iowa Senate district 37, where Democratic State Senator Bob Dvorsky plans to retire at the end of 2018. Janice Weiner launched her campaign for the same seat earlier this week, but Wahls will be heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination.

Follow me after the jump for background on both candidates and the political landscape in this must-hold district for Democrats.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa Senate districts

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district. Yesterday the Iowa numbers were added to the database. You can view Google documents with raw vote totals and percentages for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Iowa Congressional district here, by Iowa Senate district here, and by Iowa House district here.

Looking closely at the presidential vote in the legislative districts provides some insight about where the competitive Iowa statehouse races might be next year. After the jump I’ve highlighted some key data points related to the Iowa Senate races. Later I will post a separate diary with first thoughts about the Iowa House districts.

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Weekend open thread: No excuse for sloppiness edition

Exactly one month remains before the November election. Many Iowans have already received phone calls or direct mail promoting or attacking candidates for the state legislature, and those voter contacts will accelerate in the final weeks. Based on what I’ve heard about Republican message-testing phone calls in various Iowa House and Senate districts, Democratic candidates can expect lots of lies or distortions: the so-called “budget deficit” that doesn’t exist, alleged attempts to force workers to join unions, the claim that I-JOBS hasn’t created any jobs, and alleged government spending on “heated sidewalks” that never happened.

I’ll have more on Iowa Republicans’ lies and exaggerations in the coming weeks. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to help get the word out by posting diaries here or e-mailing me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) about any deceptive mailings and robocalls you receive.

Meanwhile, it’s imperative that Democratic candidates and allied groups stick to the facts when criticizing Republican opponents. This week Iowa conservative bloggers were enraged over mailers attacking Kent Sorenson, GOP challenger against State Senator Staci Appel in Senate district 37. The seat is one of Republicans’ top targets, and activists in both parties expect a close election. Shane Vander Hart posted two of the mail pieces on the Des Moines Register website. At least one was paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party; I can’t tell from Vander Hart’s photo who paid for the other piece.

The mailers highlight Sorenson’s vote against Senate File 2357, which Governor Chet Culver signed into law this year after it passed with bipartisan support. The bill prohibits “a person who is the subject of a no-contact order or a protective order or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing, transferring, or selling firearms and ammunition or offensive weapons.” Sorenson and most other Republicans felt making someone give up their guns because of a no-contact order was taking away a constitutional right “without due process.” It disgusts me when self-styled law and order Republicans care more about domestic abusers’ gun rights than about preventing violent crimes. A large percentage of women who are murdered are killed by male partners or ex-partners who have previously abused or threatened them. Women have to demonstrate a pattern of abuse or harassment in order to get a no-contact order. Criticizing Sorenson for that vote is fair game.

The mailers also mention House File 596, which Sorenson co-sponsored in 2009. This bill would have relaxed concealed weapons permit requirements. Thankfully, it never made it out of subcommittee. The anti-Sorenson mailers claim HF 596 “would allow concealed weapons in bars.” That’s partly true; from my reading of the bill, it looks like only people in certain occupations would be able to carry concealed weapons in bars (a bad idea). The mailers also claim HF 596 “would allow kindergarten teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms.” I can’t find anything in the text of the bill to support that claim. Sorenson may be crazy, but even he isn’t that crazy.

Stretching the truth to score political points is not only wrong, but also likely to backfire. Sorenson does hold extreme views on guns. His own supporters cheer his efforts to repeal all handgun permit requirements and eviscerate Iowa’s permitting system in other ways. Unfortunately, sloppy work by whoever produced those direct-mail pieces will allow Sorenson to portray himself as the victim of a smear campaign.

Democrats shouldn’t let Republican attacks go unanswered, but they need to stick to the reality of Republicans’ voting records, public statements and the wacky ideas in the Iowa GOP platform.

Speaking of sloppiness, why does anyone listen to Krusty Konservative? This week he stated definitively that the National Rifle Association had endorsed Appel over Sorenson. The NRA announced a few days later that it was backing Sorenson. Click here to view the rest of the NRA’s Iowa endorsements.

This is an open thread, so feel free to share anything that’s on your mind this weekend.

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