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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Tom Shaw retiring from Iowa House, rules out running in Senate district 5

Republican State Representative Tom Shaw announced on Facebook last night that he will not seek re-election in Iowa House district 10. Defending his “no compromise” approach to serving in the legislature since his first election in 2010, Shaw quoted a retired California legislator as saying, “When we give in to liberals, even an inch, we’re not compromising; we’re abdicating our rights and our honor.” Shaw and his close allies, State Representatives Kim Pearson and Glen Massie, were perhaps best known for helping to block in committee and later voting against a 20-week abortion ban bill, on the grounds that it did not go far enough to end abortions. Pearson and Massie both retired from the Iowa House rather than seek re-election in 2012. Last year, Shaw could persuade only ten of his Republican colleagues to co-sponsor his more extreme version of a “personhood” bill declaring life to start at conception.

Iowa House district 10 covers Humboldt, Pocahontas, and Calhoun counties, plus portions of Webster County (but not Fort Dodge). I’ve posted a map after the jump. It leans strongly Republican, with nearly 3,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats as of January 2014.  

Shaw confirmed by telephone this morning that he is retiring from the state legislature and will not consider running against Democratic State Senator Daryl Beall in Iowa Senate district 5. Shaw’s retirement may be good news for Beall, as the open Iowa House seat comprising half the district should draw more Republican interest than taking on a three-term incumbent in a much more competitive Senate district. Beall currently has one declared challenger, Fort Dodge-based financial adviser Tim Kraayenbrink.

UPDATE: The first candidate to declare for Shaw’s seat was Mike Sexton, who was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1998 but retired after one term. I’ve posted background after the jump. I would guess that an experienced candidate and former legislator would have been a tougher challenger to Beall than Kraayenbrink. But not surprisingly, Sexton sees the open House seat as an easier path back to the statehouse. I would guess that at least one tea party oriented candidate will compete against Sexton in the House district 10 primary.

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Mike Gronstal sees eight competitive Iowa Senate races

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is “fairly confident” going into this year’s state legislative elections, he told Mike Glover in a recent interview. He cited a “pretty good message” to take to voters as well as a “a slight advantage on the map” that will allow Democrats to play “a little less defense and a little more offense,” compared to 2012.

I agree with Gronstal that Democrats are better positioned now to hold their 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber than they were at the same point two years ago. Follow me after the jump for a quick look at the eight districts the Senate majority leader expects to be targeted this fall.

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Five Iowa Senate races to watch in 2014

It’s the time of year for blog posts about notable candidates and upcoming elections. Every politically engaged Iowan knows already that 2014 will be an unusually exciting year. We haven’t seen an open U.S. Senate race since 1974. The last time Iowa’s first Congressional district was open was in 2006. The last time Iowa’s third Congressional district was open was in 2002, but it wasn’t a wide open seat, since incumbent Representative Leonard Boswell moved into Polk County to run. Amazingly, 1940 was the “last time there was a Congressional race in Polk County without an incumbent seeking re-election.” All of Iowa’s statewide elected officials are up for re-election as well this year, and the secretary of state’s position may become open if Matt Schultz decides to go for the Republican nomination in IA-03.

Since Bleeding Heartland readers already know about the big Iowa races to watch, I want to focus today and tomorrow on the elections that are likely to determine control of the Iowa House and Senate in 2015 and 2016.  

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