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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Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively little attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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