First look at the Iowa Senate district 41 special election

UPDATE: Republicans selected Adrian Dickey and Democrats selected Mary Stewart at special nominating conventions on January 7. Original post follows.

Voters in a battleground southeast Iowa Senate district will soon choose a successor to Republican State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed on December 30 that the House will seat Miller-Meeks, who was certified the winner by six votes in Iowa’s second Congressional district. The same day, Miller-Meeks confirmed that she is resigning from the Iowa legislature, effective January 2.

To my knowledge, no candidate has announced plans to run in Senate district 41 early next year. During a December 30 telephone interview, Democrat Mary Stewart said she was considering the race but had no timetable for deciding. Miller-Meeks defeated Stewart in 2018 by 11,460 votes to 10,652 (51.7 percent to 48.1 percent).

Former Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren represented the district for eight years, retiring in 2018. He hadn’t heard about Miller-Meeks’ resignation before speaking to Bleeding Heartland by phone on December 30. Chelgren said he would consider running for the Senate again but wasn’t ready to give a formal statement, since he hadn’t discussed the matter with his family or Republican colleagues.

Though recent voting patterns in the area favor Republicans, turnout for a mid-winter special election is a question mark.

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Lessons of 2018: Ending straight-ticket voting didn't change much

Fifth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

Republicans ended straight-ticket voting in Iowa last year as part of a law imposing several new barriers for voters. For months, I’ve been trying to work out how eliminating that option would affect this year’s outcome.

More than 400,000 Iowans filled in the Democratic or Republican oval on their 2014 general election ballot, which worked out to roughly 37 percent of those who participated. I expected a much larger “undervote” for lower-profile statewide offices or legislative races this year, as many who would have voted straight ticket marked their ballots for governor and Congress alone.

That didn’t happen.

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Lessons of 2018: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again

Third in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

At least three and possibly four newly-elected members of the Iowa House had campaigned unsuccessfully for the same seats in past election cycles. Three newly-elected members of the Iowa Senate lost elections for other offices in recent years.

They join a long list of Iowa politicians–including Tom Harkin and Kim Reynolds–who did not win the first time they sought a legislative office.

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Final look at nine Iowa Senate races to watch, with ratings

Few Iowa politics watchers doubt that Democrats will gain ground in the state House today–the only question is how much will the Republican majority shrink.

In contrast, the Iowa Senate landscape could shift in either direction. Republicans now hold 29 seats and are unopposed in Senate district 1, where independent Senator David Johnson is retiring. They are also outspending several Democratic incumbents in districts Donald Trump carried in the last presidential election. Democrats currently hold 20 Senate seats, but they could add to their ranks today, despite a difficult map and a couple of bad breaks over the summer.

Here’s how the key races look going into election day, based on voter registration totals, recent voting history, absentee ballot numbers, and where Democratic or Republican leaders have made large expenditures.

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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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