First thoughts on another disastrous election for Iowa Democrats

Bleeding Heartland will analyze the Iowa election results from many perspectives in the coming weeks. For now, let’s review the big picture: just like in 2016, the outcome was more devastating than any Democrat’s worst nightmare.

Turnout set a new record: Iowans cast at least 1,697,102 ballots, roughly 107,000 more than the high water mark of 1,589,951 people voting in the 2012 presidential election.

But as we learned in November 2018, high turnout doesn’t only help Democrats.

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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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Deep dive on Iowa Democratic Party's vote to certify 2020 caucus results

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted on February 29 to certify the 2020 Iowa caucuses, as published on the party’s official results page.

In most election cycles, that vote would be a formality. But about a third of those who participated in today’s meeting opposed certifying, due to questions about the accuracy of reported numbers in some precincts that were not part of the recanvass or recount requested by the Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg campaigns. They wanted the IDP to further review and if necessary correct results for certain precincts.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from a contentious debate and a list of SCC members who voted for or against certifying.

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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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Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa legislative races in 2019

I’ve always enjoyed writing about legislative happenings and campaigns, since my first year on the job as an analyst covering Russian domestic politics during a parliamentary election year.

While most political reporters were understandably assigned to follow the many presidential candidates visiting Iowa in 2019, I made it a priority to keep an eye on down-ballot races. The 2020 Iowa House and Senate elections may affect our daily lives more than whether Donald Trump or the Democratic nominee wins our state’s electoral votes. For one thing, breaking the GOP trifecta is the only way to guarantee that Iowa preserves nonpartisan redistricting for the coming decade.

I’m proud that Bleeding Heartland provided more in-depth coverage of potentially competitive state legislative races than any other Iowa news source this year. All of those stories are linked below.

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A few thoughts on campaign donations and Iowa caucus endorsements

Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy resigned as state political director for Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign on November 8, a day after Alexandra Jaffe reported for the Associated Press that Murphy “privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations.”

Among politically active Iowans, reaction to Jaffe’s scoop ranged from anger to disappointment to a shrug: “Isn’t this long accepted practice?”

No. While presidential hopefuls and their affiliated committees have often donated to Democratic candidates and party organizations, hoping for future support, it is rare for anyone to dangle a possible donation in exchange for an endorsement.

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