Plan 2 shows Iowa Democrats need more than cities, suburbs

Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency released the second redistricting plan on October 21.

Although Republican leaders have not signaled their intentions publicly, I anticipate they will accept this package. Not only does it give the GOP a shot at sweeping all four U.S. House districts, it appears to solidify the party’s majorities in the state House and Senate for some time. Former lawmakers and longtime Iowa politics watchers have uniformly told me that lawmakers are more concerned with the legislative maps than the Congressional plan.

Bleeding Heartland will cover the new maps in more detail if the legislature approves them during the October 28 special session.

For now, a quick review of the big picture: as expected, the House and Senate maps create some opportunities for Democrats in growing urban and suburban areas. But as Evan Burger predicted early this year, that’s not enough to get the party to legislative majorities without winning back some ground in smaller counties or mid-sized cities where Democrats used to perform well.

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Iowa House district 29 preview: Jon Dunwell vs. Steve Mullan

Voters in Jasper County will elect a new state representative on October 12 to replace Democrat Wes Breckenridge, who stepped down last month to become assistant director for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Although this district looks relatively balanced on paper, Republicans go into Tuesday’s election favored to pick up the seat, which would give the party a 60-40 majority in the state House. A Democratic win would keep the balance of power at 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. That may not sound significant, but GOP leaders were unable to get several controversial bills through the chamber this year, so every additional vote in their caucus could be important during the 2022 session.

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Republican pretexts for rejecting Iowa maps don't hold up

As expected, Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first nonpartisan redistricting plan on a party-line 32 to 18 vote on October 5. Everyone knows why the maps went down: national Republicans were upset the plan would have created a Democratic-leaning Congressional district in eastern Iowa, and Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because many of their incumbents would have been placed in districts with one another.

Republicans couldn’t say that out loud, though, because Iowa’s redistricting law states, “No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group […].”

So in Senate floor speeches and a resolution approved along party lines, Republicans asserted that the Legislative Services Agency could better balance compactness and population equality standards. They provided little evidence in support of those vague complaints.

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Iowa House district 37: Mike Bousselot banks on false ads

The short special election campaign in Iowa House district 37 has been a costly affair, as expected. Disclosures filed last week show the Iowa Democratic Party has spent $306,470.21 on behalf of Andrea Phillips, while the Republican Party of Iowa has spent $234,327.12 supporting Mike Bousselot.

As is typical for targeted Iowa legislative races, the bulk of the spending has gone toward television and digital advertising: roughly $285,000 on the Democratic side and just under $230,000 from Republicans.

Bleeding Heartland analyzed the introductory ads for Phillips and Bousselot here. During the last two weeks of the campaign, I’ve seen more negative advertising about both candidates on Des Moines-based broadcast and cable television. The difference is that the Democratic ads highlight truthful claims about Bousselot’s past work, whereas the Republican ads are wholly false–much like the spots they ran against Phillips in 2020.

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Four thoughts about Iowa House district 37 early vote totals

Two weeks before voters will elect a new state legislator to represent parts of Ankeny and northern Polk County, Democrats living in Iowa House district 37 had requested more than five times as many absentee ballots as Republicans.

Polk County Elections Office staff told Bleeding Heartland that 2,818 residents of House district 37 had requested an early ballot by 4:00 pm on August 31. Of those, 2,261 were Democrats, 398 were Republicans, and 159 were affiliated with neither party.

The vast majority of absentee ballots sent to voters have not yet been returned. As of August 31, the Polk County auditor’s office had received 375 completed ballots from registered Democrats and 36 from Republicans.

Four caveats:

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First thoughts on the Iowa House district 37 special election

Voters in Ankeny will soon choose a successor to State Representative John Landon, who passed away last month. Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the Iowa House district 37 special election for Tuesday, September 14.

I’ll have more to say about this race once the field is set. Democrats nominated Andrea Phillips at a special district convention on August 7; Republicans have not yet selected a candidate.

For now, I want to touch on the opportunities and challenges this short campaign presents.

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