First look at finalized Iowa maps, with incumbent match-ups

Iowa lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Legislative Services Agency’s second redistricting plan on October 28, by 48 votes to 1 in the Iowa Senate and 93 votes to 2 in the House. Democrats had already committed to approving any nonpartisan maps. Republicans liked that this plan (unlike the first LSA proposal) creates four U.S. House districts that Donald Trump carried. It also gives the party an excellent chance to maintain their Iowa House and Senate majorities.

Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom cast the only vote against the maps in the upper chamber. The plan puts him in the same district as his GOP colleague Adrian Dickey.

In the lower chamber, only GOP State Representatives Tom Jeneary and Jon Jacobsen voted against the redistricting plan. Both are placed in House districts with other Republican incumbents, but Jacobsen told Bleeding Heartland in a telephone interview that’s not why he opposed the plan. Rather, he said the legislative maps carve up Pottawattamie County outside Council Bluffs into several districts represented by incumbents who live elsewhere.

I’ll have more to say about some legislative districts in forthcoming posts. For now, here are the basics about the plan Governor Kim Reynolds will soon sign into law. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on November 4.

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The Iowa court ruling that could stop a Republican gerrymander

Terror gripped many Iowa Democratic hearts when the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) announced it would release a second redistricting plan on October 21. Governor Kim Reynolds soon scheduled a legislative session to consider the plan for October 28, the earliest date state law allows.

Democrats had hoped the LSA would spend more time working on its next plan. Iowa Code gives the agency up to 35 days to present a second set of maps. If lawmakers received that proposal in mid-November, Republicans would not be able to consider a third set of maps before the Iowa Supreme Court’s December 1 deadline for finishing redistricting work.

By submitting Plan 2 only sixteen days after Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first redistricting plan, the LSA ensured that GOP lawmakers could vote down the second proposal and receive a third plan well before December 1. So the third map gerrymander—a scenario Bleeding Heartland has warned about for years—is a live wire.

Nevertheless, I expect Republicans to approve the redistricting plan released last week. The maps give the GOP a shot at winning all four U.S. House districts and an excellent chance to maintain their legislative majorities.

Equally important, state law and a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court precedent constrain how aggressive Republicans could be in any partisan amendment to a third LSA proposal.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2021

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2021 session on January 11 with 31 Republicans, eighteen Democrats, and one vacancy in the district formerly represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks. A record twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber last year and double the six who served prior to 2018.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. A few committees have new Republican leaders.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican, and two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs, three Zachs, and two men each named Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

UPDATE: Republican Adrian Dickey won the January 26 special election to represent Senate district 41, giving the GOP a 32-18 majority. After he’s sworn in, I’ll note his committee assignments below.

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Sixteen Iowa Senate races to watch, with ratings

Iowans will elect 25 state senators today. Those races have attracted far less attention than this year’s Iowa House races, because Republicans have a lopsided 32-18 majority in the upper chamber and only a 53-47 advantage in the House.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep an eye on the Senate races, because this year’s outcome will influence Democratic prospects under the new map coming in 2021.

This overview covers five districts where both parties are spending six-figure amounts, seven districts where Republicans spent a significant amount, and four more districts where the results could shed light on political trends in various parts of the state, even though neither Democrats nor Republicans targeted the race.

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Greene retiring, Goodwin running in top-targeted Iowa Senate district 44

Ending months of speculation and conflicting rumors about his plans, Republican State Senator Tom Greene confirmed on February 12 that he will not seek re-election this year. His victory over long-serving incumbent Tom Courtney in Iowa Senate district 44 was one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 legislative races.

Tim Goodwin posted on Facebook on February 12 that he will seek the GOP nomination for this Senate seat. He said he’d had an “outpouring of support and encouragement to run from local, state and national officials.” A news release touted Goodwin’s past work as an educator, experience in private business, and commitment to “lower the tax burden on working families.”

Goodwin challenged long-serving Democratic State Representative Dennis Cohoon in Iowa House district 87 in 2018. He received about 43.4 percent of the vote in that race, which covered the Burlington area (the more Democratic half of the Senate district).

Former Burlington school board vice president Bryan Bross did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about whether he would consider running in this district as a Republican.

Of the 32 GOP-held Iowa Senate seats, this one has the best numbers for Democrats on paper: 13,176 active registered Democrats, 10,480 Republicans, and 14,366 no-party voters, according to the latest official figures. Although Senate district 44 swung heavily from a 15-point advantage for Barack Obama in 2012 to a 10-point edge for Donald Trump in 2016, voters here supported Fred Hubbell in the 2018 governor’s race by 50.0 percent to 48.1 percent.

It’s usually harder for a party to defend an open seat than to get an incumbent re-elected. However, outgoing Senator Greene is on record voting for every extreme bill the GOP-controlled legislature has approved since 2017. Goodwin will be a mostly blank slate. In that respect, it may be more challenging for the Democratic nominee to make the case against him.

Three Democrats have been campaigning in Senate district 44 since late last summer: former Senator Courtney, Rex Troute, and Kevin Warth. All confirmed on February 12 and 13 that they will compete in the Democratic primary. You can find more background on those candidates here and here.

UPDATE: Matt Rinker announced plans to seek the Republican nomination here as well. As of March 11, he had not filed nominating papers. The deadline is 5:00 pm on March 13.

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