Jennifer Konfrst running against Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

Jennifer Konfrst announced this morning that she will challenge four-term GOP incumbent Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43. The swing district covers Windsor Heights, Clive, and part of West Des Moines. A detailed map is after the jump, along with Konfrst’s press release and official bio. Her campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

As the newly-elected House majority leader, Hagenow will have virtually unlimited financial resources backing his re-election bid. On the other hand, this part of the Des Moines suburbs, solidly Republican for decades, has been trending toward Democrats for some time. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Although Joni Ernst carried the district in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, she beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43–a lot less than her winning margin statewide. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that 6,682 active registered Democrats, 7,493 Republicans, and 5,897 no-party voters live in the district.

Hagenow won his first election to the House in 2008 by 93 votes against then Windsor Heights Mayor Jerry Sullivan. After being re-elected comfortably in the 2010 midterm, Hagenow got a scare in the last presidential year. Despite paying for push-polls and negative tv ads against a challenger who was massively outspent, the incumbent defeated Susan Judkins by only 23 votes in 2012.

Judkins now serves on the Clive City Council. Last week she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that she will not run for the Iowa House in 2016.

Konfrst may face a competitive primary anyway, because Jon Neiderbach is seriously considering a campaign against Hagenow. He was the Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014. I think highly of both Konfrst and Neiderbach. The Iowa Democratic establishment sometimes hyperventilates about contested primaries, but assuming the candidates fight fair, I see little downside to two people pounding the pavement to get out the vote in my home district before next June’s primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Bonus political trivia: To my knowledge, HD-43 is one of just two Iowa House seats where voters registered with each major party currently outnumber independents. The other is Democratic State Representative John Forbes’ territory in House district 40 (part of Urbandale).

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20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

Thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven “districts to watch” at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as “key to Iowa House chamber control.” I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there’s at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I’m thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don’t expect any of the “favored” seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger’s party.

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Weekend open thread: Where are they now?

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. I’ve been catching up on some former state lawmakers, legislative candidates, and government officials.

As you may recall, Jeff Boeyink resigned this fall as Governor Terry Branstad’s Chief of Staff for a position with a lobbying firm. About ten days ago, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board released an opinion at Boeyink’s request on how he can be involved in “government affairs” while Iowa’s two-year ban on former officials’ lobbying is in effect. More details on that opinion are after the jump.

After interviewing six candidates for a vacant seat on the Clive City Council, the remaining council members voted 4-0 to appoint Susan Judkins to the position. Judkins has lived in Clive since 2006. She was the Democratic nominee in Iowa House district 43 in 2012, losing to State Representative Chris Hagenow by just 23 votes. To my knowledge, no Democrat has announced plans yet to run against Hagenow in 2014.

Former Republican State Representative Renee Schulte lost her seat in 2012 to Art Staed, the Democrat she had defeated in 2008. Schulte is now consulting with the Iowa Department of Human Services on mental health reform. What was originally a six-month contract has been extended until the end of this year. Schulte recently ruled out running for Congress in the open first district.

Former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, unofficially known as “Half-Term” or “The Quitter,” was just in Des Moines for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s fall fundraiser in Des Moines. Another Tea Party favorite, U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, was a featured speaker. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio and highlights from Palin’s and Lee’s speeches at Radio Iowa. Throwback Phyllis Schlafly was honored at the Faith and Freedom Coalition event. How many Bleeding Heartland readers are old enough to remember Schlafly in her heyday, railing against the Equal Rights Amendment?

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Recounts finished in Iowa House and Senate races

Democratic candidate Susan Judkins halted the recount and conceded defeat in Iowa House district 43 today: “Questions about whether all absentee ballots were counted have been satisfactorily answered and I believe my narrow loss would likely stand even if all ballots were considered.” After the official canvass, Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow led by 22 votes out of nearly 17,500 cast.

A recount of the open-seat race in Iowa House district 63 concluded yesterday. Republican Sandy Salmon defeated Democrat Bill Heckroth by a little more than 100 votes out of nearly 16,500 cast.

And in a final disappointment for Iowa Democrats, Republican Mike Breitbach held onto a narrow lead over John Beard after a recount in the open Senate district 28. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the final margin, which is probably either 17 or 22 votes out of nearly 30,000 cast.

Both parties have won some close statehouse races in Iowa over the years, but this year Democrats lost most of the heartbreakers.

Republicans have a 53 to 46 Iowa House majority, with a special election in House district 52 coming up soon. Democrats have a 26 to 23 Iowa Senate majority, with a special election in Senate district 22 set for December 11.

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Recount confirmed in Iowa House district 43

Yesterday Democratic candidate Susan Judkins formally requested a recount in Iowa House district 43, where she trails Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow by 22 votes out of 17,477 cast (approximately 0.1 percent). The recount will take place sometime before December 3.

Unofficial vote counts for Hagenow and Judkins in each of the 13 precincts are available on the Polk County Auditor’s website. Judkins carried the three Windsor Heights precincts. Each candidate won three West Des Moines precincts and two Clive precincts.

If Hagenow’s lead holds, Republicans will have a 53 to 47 majority in the Iowa House for the next two years.

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Iowa House district 43: Hagenow leads by 22 votes

The Polk County supervisors canvassed election results from Iowa House district 43 today and found Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow leading Susan Judkins by 22 votes: 8,741 to 8,719 with 17 write-ins. Judkins has until 5 pm on Monday, November 19 to request a recount. She would be crazy not to do so, in my opinion. Although recounts have rarely changed the outcome in Iowa legislative races, optical scanner machines do make mistakes when reading ballots, and Judkins trails by approximately 0.1 percent of all votes cast.

Iowa House Republicans are confident that Hagenow’s lead will hold–so confident that they elected Hagenow House majority whip today. He replaces Erik Helland, who was defeated in this year’s GOP primary to represent Iowa House district 39. The rest of the House leadership team includes Speaker Kraig Paulsen, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson, and assistant majority leaders Walt Rogers, Jeff Smith, Matt Windschitl, and Joel Fry. Republicans will have a 53-47 majority if Hagenow wins, and a 52-48 majority if a recount shows Judkins the winner.

Incidentally, the number of residents who voted for one of the candidates in House district 43 this year was substantially higher than the votes cast for Hagenow or his Democratic opponent in 2008. That year Hagenow defeated Jerry Sullivan in the old House district 59 by 8,240 votes to 8,147.

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