Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shop Talk: Countywide Mailing Shifts Stats

Look, I know you've been waiting for more Deeth Blog posts. I've been a busy guy. I've had a small but significant career change.

Most folks don't realize that for most of my 18 years at the auditor's office, I've been on the accounting staff, not the elections staff. True, I did a lot of elections work, but there were a few other things that were much less interesting.

But as of last week, I am now officially and permanently 100% elections. It's a move I've long wanted and has been long in the planning. And the timing is good, with voting for the June 7 primary starting tomorrow. Time to celebrate.




My work obsession this past month has been the county wide voter card mailing that dropped on March 31. To keep you readers entertained (as if drunk monkeys didn't already do that) I'm going to just rewrite the press release I wrote at work today.

Brief refresher course: As I've said so many times, no one's registration gets cancelled just for not voting. Everything depends on the mail. The law - mostly Motor Voter, from 1993 - requires us to send mailings periodically and regulates how and when we can and what we do if the mail gets returned to sender.



You knew I would.

When mail gets returned by the post office, or if someone signs a card saying "this person doesn't live here," we have to move the voter to "Inactive" status. Inserting standard rant: No campaign staffer understands Inactive status. They think it means what they call "a weak voting D" when it really means Probably Moved Away.

If we inactivate someone we have to do ANOTHER mailing to make sure the post office didn't mess up (a common culprit: missing apartment numbers or boxes). We can't cancel people without their OWN signature till two general elections happen - a fact I have patiently explained to parents of adult children for two decades. (The parents always seem more concerned about it.)

The law is set up to make it very hard to cancel a registration, and is NOT set up to reflect the realities of life in a college town. My personal holy grail for at least 10 years has been a woman who is now 46 who graduated and last voted here in 1992 but was still active registered at her sorority house. We had to just assume she was on the 25 Year Graduation Plan and just wasn't interested in voting.

I'm skimming over some details but you get the big picture. I've written it before and I want to get to the new stuff: the NUMBERS.

On Friday, March 31, Johnson County had 90,122 Active registered voters. The cards hit my house on Saturday April Fool's Day, and by Tuesday the 4th, we were getting two flats of cards a day at the office, mostly from people who had no changes and didn't have to return them. (More on that later.) But there were enough inactivations, changes, and full cancellations that our Active status numbers were dropping several hundred a day. (We did other registration stuff, but most of the changes were from the mailing.)

Beginning Tuesday, April 26, Active registration began increasing again, as the mailing tapered off to below the rate of routine new registrations. So we decided to say the mailing was "done," even though cards will trickle in indefinitely.

On Monday, April 25, our Active registration bottomed out at 83,119, a drop of 7,003.  

The mailing made a significant shift in Johnson County's party percentages. Young voters are both 1) more likely to graduate and/or move away from a college town, and 2) the most likely to register as No Party voters (what the Objective Press insists on calling "independent") or with the third parties.

Date
3/31/2016
pre-mailing
Democratic
43,000
47.71%
Republican
19,506
21.64%
Green
131
0.15%
Libertarian
381
0.42%
No Party
27,104
30.07%
County Total
90,122
Date
4/25/2016
post-mailing
Democratic
40,342
48.54%
Republican
18,218
21.92%
Green
117
0.14%
Libertarian
346
0.42%
No Party
24,096
28.99%
County Total
83,119
Change
Democratic
-2,658
0.82%
Republican
-1,288
0.27%
Green
-14
0.00%
Libertarian
-35
-0.01%
No Party
-3,008
-1.09%
County Total
-7,003


Between March 31 and April 25, 6460 Johnson County voters were changed from Active to Inactive status: 2361 Democrats, 1132 Republicans, 40 Libertarians, 17 Greens, and 2910 No Party voters. 

Another 857 voters were either fully cancelled or moved to other counties in Iowa (when someone moves within the state, the new county just takes them away from the old county on the statewide system): 368 Democrats, 173 Republicans, six Libertarians, a Green, and 309 no party voters). There's going to be more than that: I sent out about 50 letters to people who diligently sent back a card, carefully gave me their new address... but forgot to sign the card. Here's an envelope. Here's a form to sign. I get close to 100% response that way.

The inactivations and cancellations statistically overwhelmed the post-caucus "change my party back" folks. (The mailing also included all the new registrations and changes from caucus night). I looked at the immediate post-caucus trends in this post.

520 voters changed affiliation between February 16, when data entry from the caucuses was complete, through April 25. And the net shift is even smaller because nearly as many people changed TO a party as AWAY from a party.  For the amount of grumbling I've heard about the parties, the number of people who followed through and changed was quite small. (My guess is some folks know they have to be affiliated to vote in the primary and are waiting till after.) 
Party on April 25
Party on Feb. 16
Democratic
Republican
Green
Libertarian
No Party
Democratic
28
9
4
158
Republican
38
0
7
115
No Party
108
51
0
2
(no voters changed away from Green/Libertarian to other affiliations)

The upshot of all this is that as a percentage of active voters, Democratic registration is at an all-time record high 48.54% - and likely to go even higher by June 7, since Democrats have as usual a hot supervisor primary, while most precincts have no contested GOP races at all. Can the Johnson County Democrats top 50%?

Republicans hit their peak at 24.37% in June 1994, after the epic Terry Branstad-Fred Grandy primary, and stayed above 22% for about three years after that. At the moment, they're at 21.92%, well below the Gopher peak but almost exactly where they were after the 2012 caucuses. So more or less a tie for their highest level that's not related to the 1994 primary.

The Branstad-Grandy primary also dropped No Party registration to an all-time low of 31.03%, but that record is now shattered. No Party dropped 5.5% on caucus night and briefly dipped below 30%. After rallying a little in March (routine registrations tend to default to No Party), No Party registration dropped another full point from the mailing and is now sitting at just below 29%, two full points below the 1994 record.  That'll change fast this fall; No Party jumped a full percent from August to November 2012 and another full point just from Election Day registration that year. No Party registration last passed the Democrats in Johnson County during the run-up to the 2000 election, a lead which held up until caucus night 2004.

Our office last did a countywide voter card mailing in February 2012, under the Old Management and just after reprecincting. Active registration dropped by 11,623, from 92,451 on February 24, 2012, to 80,828 on April 13.

Most years, we choose the other option for the required list maintenance mailing, the National Change of Address (NCOA) list from the post office. We typically drop 3000 to 5000 a year, depending on how long ago a presidential election or the 21 Bar issue was on the ballot.


If you're REALLY number nerdy, I have a whole monster spread sheet of Johnson County data going back to the Ford-Carter election.

Of course, when you send 90,000 cards, some stuff goes wrong and some folks fall through the cracks. Anyone who hasn't gotten a card yet should contact the auditor's office so we can figure it out. 

Some folks were confused by the wording of the cards. If you don't move and don't change anything, and you don't have trouble with your mail, you never have to "renew" your registration. Enough people seemed to think you HAD to send the card back, even if nothing was changed, that clearly the wording could have been better. The wording got set statewide, not locally, but we're passing the feedback on to the Secretary of State and hoping to help improve it for the future. 

And yes. The sorority house sent back the card for the 46 year old grad who last voted in 1992, and she's Inactive at last.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell u
There's something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night...

This means so, so much more than just the hat that became my accidental trademark. I wouldn't have accepted it as my trademark otherwise.

I've written before that the Clash was my first ticket out of the mainstream. But even with the leftist politics, Strummer and Jones still exuded a much smarter but still pretty traditional machismo.

Prince broke all the rules. "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay? Controversy!" In a country where we're still fighting about who gets to use what bathroom, Prince was ahead of his time till the day he died.

And in my world, we had some local pride. I found Prince early. My college town was on the outskirts of the Twin Cities cultural orbit. I had one set of friends from that area who had Dirty Mind and Controversy and a few had tales of seeing him out at the clubs. Not a worldwide superstar yet, but definitely a big deal to us. Another set of friends, from the suburban side of the greater Milwaukee cultural-political divide that the rest of America only realized in the last few years, looked askance at the purple and the bikini briefs and the racial and sexual ambiguity.

So the release of 1999 was a big deal in my universe, and a challenging turning point. When my tape got unstrung, I chose the friends who got it, and moved into the theater house where straight wasn't an automatic assumption and where, yes, we partied like it was 1999 (a phrase Prince added to the language that has survived even after the millennium passed).

And the peak many of the parties I DJd there was the climax of the "Let's Go Crazy," when The Artist whose sound was so impeccable made the clearly deliberate choice of over modulating so hard, burying the needle so deep in the red, shredding harder than his only contemporary guitar rival Eddie Van Halen, that it felt like you'd hit a wall, shot clean through, and emerged on the other side unscathed yet changed.

That incredible run of 80s albums from Dirty Mind through Sign "" The Times and the hastily withdrawn Black Album - and the scattered gems that followed, will be the core of the legacy. It was a particularly intense music at a particularly intense period in my life. It at once dominated its time and was so far ahead of its time that it's STILL ahead of its time.

And when it was attacked by a certain senator's wife, I grew a permanent chip on my shoulder. Sometimes I wonder if 538 Prince fans in Florida felt the same way.

In his prime the albums weren't enough. How great were Purple Rain and 1999? Erotic City, 17 Days, and How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore didn't even make the albums. ... not even on the albums. (And Erotic City was so great that the DJs pretended it said "we can funk until the dawn" and put it on the radio.) Even a throwaway like "Horny Toad" or the forgotten hits like "Pop Life" or "Mountains" or the keyboard riff from Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back" would have been a career moment for a mere mortal.

I'm not a musician. I'm just a fan who can spot passion and inspiration without being able to describe it technically. My brother, who IS a musician and a sound engineer in the Minneapolis area, and who had the privilege of working with Prince once, never ceased to marvel at the man's genius. Prince set high standards for those who worked with and for him, and seemed to bring out the best in others. Who would have though Sheena Easton of all people would have had a killer duet vocal like "U Got The Look" in her?

"I Feel For You," "Manic Monday," "Nothing Compares 2 U"... Prince gave those hits away to other people. He had to make up whole new "bands" like Madhouse and the Family and whole new personas like Jamie Starr just to get all the music out of his system. And do you really think anything on the Time or Sheila E's albums other than Morris Day's lead vocals was played or written by anyone but Prince? (OK, Sheila E. for sure played some drums. But again - he brought out the best work in others.)

And please don't let him have left orders to destroy the unreleased stuff.

The popularity faded in the mid 90s, with the record company feud and the name change to ⚥ thing and his uneasy relationship with technology. I can't fill this attempt to do justice to his legacy with the one thing that would do it, the music, because he aggressively scrubbed the definitive versions, the classic tracks and videos, from the internet. But the man still had it, as anyone who caught the mini-set on Saturday Night Live a year and a half ago.


And just when I choke up for the who knows how many times today, I flip to MTV, which is doing what it did back in the day and playing videos, all Prince, all day today. And they're playing that song, the one you might associate with me. I adjust the beret and I smile.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In Praise of Closed Primaries

I'm going to express an unpopular opinion here. And I'm not even going to try to make a reasoned argument, I'm just going to blurt my gut-level opinion. Part of my latest bout of writers block is that I've been too guarded, too cautious. (Too many hours in closed door meetings do that to a guy.)

I really LIKE New York's tightly closed primary.

Maybe October 9 is a little too early for a party change deadline for an April 19 primary. But I'll be honest. I like that better than what Iowa has, where a $10,000 a year Republican donor can walk in on primary day, choose the Democratic Party's local candidates, all while asking "how soon can I change back?" as if party affiliation is just an inconvenience or some kind of joke.

(That'll be especially prevalent in Johnson County this year, when most Republicans will see a ballot with no contested races at all.)


Political parties, and political loyalty, are two things that are undervalued in our current political culture, and the decline of these institutional values play a big role in our current dysfunction. Both parties have nomination processes that are spiralling into chaos, and in both cases it's people who have no interest in the functioning of the party who are causing the distress.

Leaving aside the issues of third parties and single member districts for now, and dealing with the structure we have, I think actual Democrats should choose Democratic candidates, and actual Republicans should choose Republican candidates. And I think "independents" - why do people love that word so much? - should wait for the general election.

Now, is that an absolute? Maybe, maybe not. Pat Rynard makes a strong case for Democrats to cross over for Rick Bertrand against Steve King. And there are sincere independents who are drawn to a given candidate, though it's fewer and fewer each year due to generational change and because now there are actual consistent ideological differences between the parties. Not perfect, but there are no more segregationist Democrats or liberal Republicans. 

I also believe "I vote the person not the party" is mostly an excuse, falsely elevated and ennobled by the press, for "I have no consistent belief system." The outdated institution of print media loves the outdated concepts of split tickets and pure independents.

Here's a sniff test: If you went to one party's presidential caucus in February, you shouldn't get to vote in the other party's courthouse primary in June. That's the law in a lot of state, and I wouldn't complain if it were the law here. I say one change a year is fair. And the party change deadline should be BEFORE the candidate filing deadline. You should make up your mind about what you think about the big picture before you pick candidates.

And if you buy into a process, you should buy into the outcome. I am completely in support of Sore Loser laws that bar primary losers from general election ballots.

I also think the core party activists, they types who hold precinct committee seats, should either support the ticket or resign. And you get one pass in a lifetime on that. I used mine on Al Gore. The SECOND time you bolt the party, you're not really part of it any more. The third time, you're a cancer that needs to be amputated.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Qualified Support

EITHER Bernie or Hillary are FAR more qualified than Trump, Cruz, Kasich, or whoever else the Republicans pull out of a hat on the 13th ballot.

Let's all remember this, because it's looking more and more likely that the local activists are going to have to do the heavy lifting of post-primary patching things up and uniting behind the nominee - which math says is almost certainly Hillary.

Because the campaigns, and the Sanders campaign in particular, aren't helping things much.

There's two big problems with the "not qualified" remarks. Most obviously, it's a hard remark to walk back because it's too plausibly, too obviously, what the man actually thinks.

Part of Sanders' appeal is that he is incapable of bullshit. But bullshit is unfortunately a necessary political skill. He needs to walk it back, and he clearly knows he went a step too far. But he has no idea HOW to walk it back, and if he TRIES to walk it back, he looks like a fraud and damages his own image.

The other problem comes about in the unlikely but theoretically possible scenario where Sanders wins. He will need Hillary's supporters as much as she would need his. But he's just delivered a face slap to which he's completely oblivious.

In the mind of Sanders, ideology and issues are all. So when he says "unqualified," he believes he is talking about Iraq and campaign finance and banks.

As much as I hate to call something a "trigger," UNQUALIFIED is just that. It conjures up every openly sexist (Trump) or clueless (Sanders) boss who ever denied a woman with a better resume a promotion, and that's nails on chalkboard to female voters. You just want to tell Bernie, "dude, are you listening to yourself?"

So Sanders has basically just told his supporters not to vote for Hillary if she's nominated.
I'm a hopeful person, and I want to think that most of Bernie's supporters are reasonable people who simply like him better on issues. That's been my experience for the most part in my corner of the world. There is definitely a cult of personality, but I like to hope that it's noisy out of proportion to its real numbers the way the Ron Paul cult was. (For the record, I still hate the phrase "feel the Bern." And "the Bronx is Berning" and "Mississippi Berning" were also tone deaf.)

So if we locals keep the channels open, we can keep things together. The continuing national contest and a divisive local primary will delay this. But by fall, almost all Sanders supporters will readily acknowledge that Hillary is a far better option than Trump or Cruz.

Sanders talks at length, every speech, about building a movement. And he's succeeded far beyond what anyone expected, with long range implications for our politics. Not to sound patronizing. But I'm confident that Sanders' supporters will in the end be wiser than the man himself.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Voter Cards, Old Sorority Members

People Who Left Johnson County Decades Ago May Still Be Registered Voters

Thanks Mark Carlson and KCRG for the really scary headline. I seriously mean that. It's an attention grabber, and we need the attention.

Time for another long work related voter file maintenance mailing post. Let's just get the Elvis clip out of the way right away.



I repeat the jokes, like I repeat variations of this same post, and like I repeat the reminder to the new readers that I work at the auditor's office, because it can't be repeated enough. It all comes down to what the kid sorting the mail at the Alpha Xi Delta house does Saturday or Monday Friday. And because for some reason people seem to really like it when I write about the deep in the weeds details of my job.

That's roughly the day that Johnson County's county wide voter card mailing will reach your mailbox. (It was shipped out of Des Moines Thursday - I got mine today.) What you do - and what the Alpha Xi Delta house does - will have a big impact on how clean a voter roll we have this fall.

The most important thing to remember is: No one gets their registration cancelled just for not voting. Everything depends on the mail.  Iowa's system used to be simple: Four years without voting (or updating your registration), you were out.

That all changed with Motor Voter, which passed in 1993 and kicked in at the beginning of 1995. In addition to its better known component of registration at drivers license station, Motor Voter also made it very, very hard to cancel a voter registration. That was its intent - to keep people from being cancelled without their knowledge.

And there are restrictions on how often and under what circumstances we can mail you. Singling people out for different treatment, a practice called "caging," is controversial and sometimes illegal.  So we need to make the most of this county wide mailing, our first since 2012 because it's the best chance we have to clean things up. But a lot of it, we can't do without public help.


This is the worst one.

Suzy Sorority here registered to vote at the Alpha Xi Delta House in 1988. She graduated in 1991. Because people ask every time, no, she is not the house mom. She is still registered, on active status (more on that below), at the Alpha Xi Delta house. She is 46 years old.

I found her on Linked In. She's out of state, married with a different name. But we can't DO anything with that. Singling her out for different treatment, just because common sense indicates that she moved away, would be caging.

This one is the worst, but are many others and they start in the early 1990s. That's because the people who last voted in the 1990 governor election got cancelled in December 1994, right before Motor Voter kicked in.

The Greek houses are where the biggest problems are because the post office delivers their mail bundled and the residents sort it themselves. I did a pre-emptive strike memo to the Greek Council, and they've told the houses what they're supposed to do. (The dorms also sort their own mail, but they're excellent. The postal service itself handles the off campus apartments.)

We just have to hope that, Saturday or Monday, when the mail gets to the house, the person in charge of the mail got the memo, sorts the cards, checks the boxes that say “The person to whom this card is addressed does not live at this address,” SIGNS THE CARDS, and returns them.

That didn't happen four years ago when we did this mailing.

As long as the mail gets delivered, an election office has to assume that a person still lives at an address, and simply hasn't been interested in voting the last few elections. Same thing happens if your letter carrier is still delivering mail with your name on it to Mom and Dad's. We have to assume you're still in the basement.


And if Mom and Dad call, upset about it? We can do a little, but not a lot. We need YOU to respond, in writing, to completely cancel you. The most we can do with a response from someone else is put a voter on "inactive" status.

I've been trying to explain "Inactive" to every campaign staffer for 15 years, and they never get it. They assume it means the same thing as what staffers call a "weak voting D." So they invest a lot of time and effort because they think these are exactly the voters who need a push.


Wrong. These are voters where the election office has evidence indicating they moved away! I call it "preliminary cancellation." Because remember, the intent of Motor Voter is to make cancellation very, very hard. You have to sit on inactive status through two general elections. Meaning even if Alpha Xi Delta or Mom and Dad sends the card back, the person doesn't completely get cancelled till 2018. But at least it starts the clock ticking. If we don't get the card back, we can't send another one till 2020. (Also if Mom and Dad send us your address, I can follow up with a letter to you and a form to sign.)

We also inactivate people if the post office itself returns mail as undeliverable. That's why the law says your card has to be mailed, with return service requested - it's our double check that you live there.

But that also means if your mail ISN'T delivered for some minor and legit reason, such as you left your apartment number off when you registered, or you have a post office box (Tiffin is EXTREMELY picky) and it gets Returned To Sender (yes, we call this "Elvised") back to the auditor's office, we have to assume you DON'T live there. We inactivate your registration, and have to send you more mail. (The second mailing is sent forwardable and gives you a chance to fix stuff.)


So, repeating the steps. If you get a card for someone who doesn't live there:

1. Check the box: "The person to whom this card is addressed does not live at this address.” 
2. SIGN THE CARD. The signature is a big deal. My weird brain has never understood why a signature proves anything, but it doesn't matter because that's what the law says. Without it, we can't do a thing. 
3. Send it back. 



We recommend conventional mail, rather than owl. Owls are messy, and the cards are prepaid postage. 

There are a few other ways we cancel people - if we get a notice from another state, for example (all Iowa counties are on a statewide system). But if you re-register in another state and forget that you voted in Iowa City that one time in that one bar election, we don't find out. There is some cross state matching, but that's also iffy - especially if you changed your name, which is why our most extreme cases are mainly women.





And we've heard all the jokes before and we cancel people from the obituaries every morning.

So what happens when you get your own card?

If everything is correct, just keep it. You don't have to show it to vote, but it tells you where to go. We've had a lot of polling place moves since 2012.

If you want to change anything, put it down on the correction card, SIGN IT, and send it back. This mailing also includes all the new registrations and changes from the caucuses. I could insert my rant about people who change parties for a primary or caucus while asking "how soon can I change back?" but since I'm in public service mode I will note you have the right to change stuff.


If, for example, your godfather is murdered by Death Eaters and you inherit his house and elf.

The hardest problem, and the saddest unintended consequence of the law, is people in late life with cognitive problems. As long as the mail gets through, we can't inactivate the registration. You can't sign anything election related in Iowa as "power of attorney," so if you're caring for someone who can't understand enough to sign their own name anymore, we can't do anything till the end.

The data for the county wide mailing was processed by the Secretary of State on March 15. We've kept processing routine changes since then, so if you made a change in your registration after that date, you may get two cards and they may contain different information. Check the issue date, or ask.   

Monday, March 28, 2016

Unsolicited Democratic Unity Advice

One of the luxuries of amateur status is that I can block or unfriend or otherwise disengage with whoever I don't want to deal with. It seems I use this power most at primary time.

So if you're ranting about how you will NEVER EVER EVER vote for Hillary and that you're going to write Bernie in come November, buh bye, you're unfollowed.

If the Republican Party weren't collapsing very loudly and publicly, people would be more visibly worried about tension within the Democrats. I think about that, of course, so here's some unsolicited advice. Not universal principles, just applicable stuff for the current situation. There's something in here for everyone to both love and hate.

Be realistic and intellectually honest. This week's Bernie bump is less about "momentum" than it is about which contests came in which order. And while it may be THEORETICALLY possible for Sanders to win the nomination, if every remaining state votes like a downtown Iowa City precinct, it's extremely unlikely. The mathematical reality is, Hillary Clinton is very likely to be the nominee, and the rest of this rant works with that assumption.

Stop bashing states and processes. Bernie people, stop talking about how Hillary only wins in "red states" or "conservative Southern states." That's insulting to the largely African American electorates in those places, an electorate that's already disenfranchised by math and in some cases by vote-suppressing law in November. No, the Democratic nominee will not win Alabama (though North Carolina and even Georgia are in play). The presidential primary is the one place in the process where Alabama Democrats have a voice. Respect that.

On the other hand, Hillary people, stop talking about how Bernie only wins white voters and caucus states. That's ignoring a weakness that Team H needs to shore up with the activist base. People who'll sit at a convention all day also sit in a phone bank.

Do a couple more debates. Hillary, you're good at debates. This is an easy symbolic concession.

Rein in the crazies. There's a lot of ugly talk out there, and frankly more of it is coming from Sanders supporters. The campaign needs to do what it can to get a lid on it, and whatever they're doing so far isn't working. Tell them to loosen the tin foil hats - not every loss is a conspiracy.

Let everyone vote. Hillary, you of all people know how this feels. There's an old saying that people caucus with their hearts and vote in general elections with their heads. Let people have that spring fling.

But wrap it up soon after that. No matter how rosy the Bernie scenario,  Hillary is going to come out of the last state with a couple hundred delegate lead just on the pledged delegates, and with a multiple million vote lead in the body count. Yes, get your people to the convention, pack the hall for his Monday or Tuesday night speech, and do your thing. But you need to be on boad long before that. 

Give them something. I've always felt platforms are just symbolism without substance, But there are people who think they're important, so I see them as a no-cost way for Hillary to make some concessions.

In approximate decreasing order of likelihood, issues include:

1) Minimum wage. Just give this one up, Hillary. Say you're for $15. Won't matter. Even if we do flip Congress in an anti-Trump landslide, seats 200 through 218 are going to be Blue Dogs too scared of re-election to back anything much over $10 anyway, and the Republicans are ideologically opposed to HAVING a minimum.

2) Wall Street. Give your friends a heads up that you're going to have to talk tougher (you probably already have). Tweak the position paper in a way than makes Team Bernie a little happier. Even use the words "Glass-Steagall if you have to.

3) Health care. Sorry, Bernie, but Hillary is the last person who will open up a health care war again. You'll have to settle for, at best, peripheral improvements to Obamacare and, more likely, repeated vetoes of repeal.

4) TPP. Nothing can be done here. Bernie's an isolationist, Hillary's an internationalist.

The bird moment was great. But the moment after it was more revealing. Sanders was visibly struck speechless, then his first instinct was to call it a "dove of peace" and call for "no more war."

Which is why he's so visibly annoyed when debates turn to foreign policy: because in his heart, Sanders is a pacifist-isolationist, and he's smart enough to know that's not an electable stance so he immediately pivots back to macroeconomics.

Losers don't get to make demands. By this point the contest has played out everywhere and she got more votes. That's how this works.

She's not gonna dump the donors. Substantively, Clinton and Sanders are in the same place on campaign finance: overturning Citizens United via constitutional amendment. The biggest difference is: Clinton is not willing to unilaterally disarm against the Republicans with a no SuperPAC pledge or other such symbolism.

But someone needs to get thrown under the bus: Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Removing DWS at DNC, and replacing her with someone who says and does 50 State Strategy, would go a LONG way toward easing tensions. Given her endorsement from Obama today, this seems unlikely, but that was just an endorsement for her seat in Congress. That even gives DWS an "I want to focus on my district" out.

The running mate. There are a lot of measures of "progressive," Tom Fiegen, other than how badly someone Feels The Bern or not (egad I hate that phrase). There are very, very few high level electeds who have endorsed Sanders. Don't start naming the counter-examples. The fact that you can list them all just proves how short the list is.

Sanders supporters will be lucky to get someone who, despite solid issue credentials, was with Hillary for the nomination. An interesting name surfacing over the weekend: Al Franken.

But it's not gonna be a two woman ticket so forget Elizabeth Warren.

The super delegate problem. I don't have the answer here but this is clearly a symbolic thorn in Sanders' side, and superdelegate process will at least need to be discussed between the two camps.

Wasserman Schultz very ineloquently said that one reason for superdelegates is so the party leaders don't have to run against the grass roots activists. I've heard that same argument for years, but from the other direction.

No one is more likely to win an election than someone who has already won an election. So if the congressman has to run for national delegate against the 18 year old volunteer, the congressman is extremely likely to win. By taking the congressman out of that mix, it gives that volunteer a better chance.

Fight The Real Enemy. Eyes on the prize, people. The alternative is not a "pure" conscience free vote. The alternative is Mein Trumpf and the end of Weimar Amerika. And Republicans, if you're serious about Never Trump, the one viable Stop Trump candidate is Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What Happened In Arizona: One Professional's Speculation

As I've been following the Maricopa Meltdown from Tuesday night's Arizona primary, I've been frustrated by the lack of in depth-geeky detail.

The big picture is easy. The Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. No longer under the constraints of the pre-clearance requirement, local officials cut the number of polling sites from 200 down to 60, and also seriously mis-under-estimated turnout.

But that big picture doesn't tell ME what I need to know. The details of elections are literally my life's work (at least for the last 18 years and probably for the next 16 to 20 till retirement) and my To Do List includes primary responsibility for the turnout estimates.

So I've dug for details and here's the impressions I have so far.

First of all, this is NOT part of the Grand Unifying Theory Anti Bernie Conspiracy. Is it inexcusable? Yes. Did it suppress the vote and deny people their rights? Of course. But the decision to close 70% of the polling places was made by a Republican courthouse official, weeks before it was clear that either party's nomination contest would still be competitive. Human error is a more reasonable explanation than conspiracy.

An election infrastructure is both big and temporary. We rely on hundreds of temporary poll workers and locations that are on loan, and the workload is compressed into a small amount of time.

Contrary to myth, we do NOT have one ballot for every registered voter in our elections, and we do NOT have enough workers to handle it if every registered voter to show up.  Because that never happens and that only comes close to happening in a presidential general election.

There is an inevitable amount of resource-wasting in election administration, but every election we are balancing Likely Scenario against Worst Case Scenario. Past turnout and behavior in similar elections are the most accurate indicators. We are prepped for something MORE than we expect, but at the high end of the range we expect.

And we have back up plans just in case. In my county our polling places check in at least four times a day: 9 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, 6 PM. This serves two purposes. It feeds the media beast with information. More importantly, it gives us an alert. There are long-established turnout patterns in our county. By the 11 AM check in, we have a good sense if a site is at risk of running out of ballots or other supplies (or in need of more workers), and we can ship more out the door. I don't know if Maricopa County does something like this (they should) or if they were simply SO overwhelmed that they couldn't do anything about it.

Clearly, Maricopa was under-prepared. Here's some of my theories as to why.

It seems that the Arizona recorders and Secretary of State have been lobbying the legislature to dump the primary and go to either a caucus or a party-run primary. The issue is money and the argument is "it's the party's nomination process so the parties should pay." (Which, with the caucuses, is what Iowa does.)

There's a case to be made for that, and I suppose you could bill the parties for a primary the way Iowa counties bill school districts and cities for their elections. But billing the parties, or making them run the primary themselves, is not the law in Arizona yet.

This may be part of why the Maricopa recorder cut sites. If the attitude is, "we shouldn't have to pay for the parties' nomination contests," she may have been trying to either send a message or be passive aggressive about it. I'm going to prepare for what my budget can afford.

The polling site cuts in Maricopa, from 200 to 60, were only possible because the Supreme Court overturned the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act. Last presidential cycle, the county recorder would have needed Justice Department permission to make the cuts. That's not saying the intent in cutting polling sites was racially motivated. The impact certainly was, as the cuts were heavier in Hispanic areas. Given the polling and results in other states, that may have hurt Hillary more than Bernie, but I'm not here to argue that one.

As bad as it is that people didn't get to vote - that's ALWAYS bad - the uncast votes are almost certainly not enough to affect the 18 point margin Clinton had over Sanders, because most of the votes were cast early. Like many Western states (and like Johnson County) Arizona is a heavy early voting state. In most elections they see more votes early than on election day. They also have permanent absentee status. Check a box when you register, they mail you a ballot each election.

Early vote tends to be a leading indicator of election day votes. Officials know, or SHOULD know, the patterns of their communities. If I get X number of early votes, that probably means Y voters on Election Day.

But what happens when those ratios change?

That, I think, is what happened in Maricopa County. They closed early voting, saw X number of voters, and figured that was 90% of the total vote. (I'm just making up numbers; can't find the exact breakdown on the real ones.) Then it turned out to only be 70% of the vote because interest peaked late. So they got three times what they expected on election day - with three times FEWER voting sites.

Across the country, as the Democratic nomination race has progressed from state to state, we've seen similar patterns. Hillary starts off in a state with a big polling lead; as the campaign progresses to the state, Bernie closes the gap. State after state, we have also seen Sanders performing best with registered independents and with new voters.

So if the Bernie folks are madder, odds are more of them were affected. Not enough to close an 18 point gap, but enough to notice, especially if they think The Establishment is against them.

Arizona's voter registration deadline is 29 days before an election - one of the earlier deadlines in the country. I haven't been able to figure out if that is also the deadline for party affiliation changes; I think it is.

Experience has taught me that people are not always right about their own party affiliation. People who make a special trip into the election office are usually pretty confident. But then a few months later they go into the driver's license bureau, aren't in Political Mode, get asked to update their registration, and are feeling Independent that day.

Or they forget that they crossed over for a primary a few years back, and didn't realize that "asking for a Republican ballot" changed their affiliation. I've had people swear "I've been a Republican my whole life" even as I'm showing them the scanned record with their signature next to Democrat and their voting history with the last four Democratic primaries.

So forgive me if I take some of the claims I've heard from Arizona voters with a grain of salt - because I've heard them before and I know enough to not want to definitely judge unless I'm looking at the records.

Sure, clerical errors are possible; I've seen and made a few in my life. (I am good at my job. I am not perfect at my job.) What's NOT likely is massive and deliberate mis-entry. We don't have numbers on the party affiliation problems; we have anecdotal evidence from people who are - quite reasonably - upset. To me, random human error on the part of voters and workers is a more reasonable explanation than malpractice.

Another point of confusion here is the NAME of the election. Everyone in the national press calls this "the Arizona primary." Arizona does NOT call it the primary. It calls it the "presidential preference election." The "primary" is in August for state federal and courthouse stuff. Kind of like how we have a caucus for the presidential stuff and a June primary for the other stuff.

Actually, the better analogy may be between Iowa's partisan primary in June of even years, and a city primary which Iowa City sometimes has in October of odd years. You have to declare party for one but not the other, the voting hours are different, and some precincts don't participate in one of the two.

The Arizona PRIMARY is open to independents. The Arizona Presidential Preference Election is closed. You can't change on Election Day. You have to be registered with your party in advance, presumably by the 29 day voter registration deadline.

But I KNOW that people in Arizona asked about the "primary" when they meant the
"presidential preference election," because of the hundreds of people I talked to at my work who said "primary" when they clearly meant "caucus." From the Arizona Secretary of State site:
    I am not registered with a recognized party, can I still vote in the Primary Election?

        Yes. Arizona has an open primary law that allows any voter who is registered as independent to cast a ballot for one of the officially recognized political parties. The Primary Election is not the same as a Presidential Preference Election, while an independent voter may cast a ballot in a Primary Election, only voters who are registered with a recognized party may cast a ballot at the Presidential Preference Election.
18 1/2 years of experience tells me: If it can be misunderstood, it will be.

Arizona's early voting period runs three weeks, from 27 days to 11 days before the election. So there's a ten day window when voting is closed. Again, data from other states shows that Bernie peaks late and Bernie attracts independents.

So I can see a lot of people Feeling The Bern (for the record I HATE that that phrase has become a thing; candidate preferences aside it just is nails on chalkboard to my sense of language) in the last week, getting misinformed "oh, yeah, independents can vote in the primary," standing in a line that's too long because the local elected official thought most of the vote was already in and she's kind of pissed to begin with because she doesn't think she should be paying for this.

So you've been in line for forever, you finally get to the front, and you get a provisional ballot.

A provisional ballot is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. Iowa has had them for a very long time. Many states did not. Florida did not in 2000, so everyone who got canceled because some OTHER dude named Juan Corona was a serial killer just got a letter after the election saying "sorry, our bad" without even getting a CHANCE to vote. Provisional ballots are now required in all states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, and they're one of the better things in that law.

With a provisional ballot, the office can go back after the fact, check out the story, and try to count your vote. Since Iowa passed election day voter registration in 2008, most Iowa provisional voters are people who lost or never got their mailed ballot, and the process consists of checking and making sure we didn't get and count the mailed ballot.

The specific Arizona problem, provisional ballots for party affiliation questions, would not be applicable in Iowa. I'm not sure the timeline or the details in that state, but the way it's supposed to work is they review the ballot, see if the person was properly registered with the party, and count the ones they can.

Of course, a lot of things didn't go the way they were supposed to.

People who insist on voting provisional ballots at the wrong polling place don't get counted. That wasn't an issue in Arizona because they were using "vote centers," a trend in elections where multiple precincts vote at one site and you can choose which site to vote at. Iowa allows vote centers for local elections, but not primary or general elections.

One of the problems with vote centers, ESPECIALLY if you're doing it for the first time as Maricopa was Tuesday, is trying to predict how many people will chose which location. And for voters, there are anecdotal stories of the checkout line problem: bouncing from one site to the other looking for the shorter line.

None of these explanations, none of this speculation, is in ANY way meant to excuse what happened in metro Phoenix this week. It's just one professional's understanding of how this stuff works and how it could have gone so wrong.

How do we fix it? A really good question, and I have a strong bias but I think we start by talking to people who do it WELL.

HAVA passed in late 2002 simply because it was the one bill available on the shelf to Fix What Went Wrong In Florida. The people who drafted it were congressional staffers, not election administrators. The same is true of the other major recent federal law affecting election administration, the Motor Voter act of 1993.

A former co-worker attended a conference on HAVA soon after it passed and was talking with the legislative staffer who worked on it. The man could not conceive that a person would have a driver's license in one state yet want to register to vote in another - because he didn't stop to think about a college town with 10,000 plus out of state students.

And because Motor Voter makes it next to impossible to cancel a registration, we have a 46 year old graduate who last voted in 1992 still registered at a sorority house. (No, it's not the house mom.) And we have tearful adult children begging us to take Mom who has Alzheimers and has not voted in ten years off the rolls, and we can't without Mom's own signature, and she can't sign her name anymore.

The point is, there are always unintended consequences. So if the Feds are going to draft a law that tells local election administrators how many ballots to order and how many workers to hire, they need to use the right metrics and they need to get input from actual election administrators. Otherwise my county will have two dozen workers sitting on a campus precinct for a June primary to wait on five voters all day.

So fine, you say, let's do that? Democracy is worth it? OK, but then you also get into the issue of worker retention. Election workers have the downside of both paid staff (cost) and volunteers (people can quit when they want.) How many of those two dozen workers who waited on five voters all day will quit before November when you really need them?

So think this stuff thorough everyone, and ask people like me some questions. And thanks for reading this far. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

District Of The Day: All The Legislative Races 2016 Primary

After an interrupted sleep schedule and a lot of coffee, it's here, just 27 hours after the filing deadline: The Deeth Blog District Of The Day overview of all 125 legislative races.

This is insane in length, so feel free to read it in chunks or bookmark and save it for reference.

The partisan numbers are based on current, active voter registration, and all references to Democratic or Republican "rank" are based on that, Not perfect, and not a partisan voting index, but a reasonably good relative index. Also note that while the filing deadline for the June 7 primary is done, parties can still fill holes until August with nominating conventions.

Readers, if I'm completely wrong on any of this please straighten me out. Now, on with the countdown:

Senate District 1
Registration: D 8242, R 19413, N 13227, total 40945, R +11171
David Johnson (R), holdover

House District 1
Registration: D 3189, R 12115, N 5844, total 21173, R +8926
John H. Wills (R), incumbent

Wills is unopposed. He won the second most Republican seat in the state with 42% in a three way primary when Jeff Smith stepped down in 2014

Vice President of the Okoboji Protective Association. - See more at: http://kicdam.com/news/170071-wills-running-for-house/#sthash.4dFgNEHM.dpuf
Vice President of the Okoboji Protective Association. - See more at: http://kicdam.com/news/170071-wills-running-for-house/#sthash.4dFgNEHM.dpuf
Vice President of the Okoboji Protective Association. - See more at: http://kicdam.com/news/170071-wills-running-for-house/#sthash.4dFgNEHM.dpuf
Vice President of the Okoboji Protective Association. - See more at: http://kicdam.com/news/170071-wills-running-for-house/#sthash.4dFgNEHM.dpuf
House District 2
Registration: D 5053, R 7298, N 7383, total 19772, R +2245
Megan Hess Jones (R), incumbent

A marriage and a name change since last cycle but little else changes as Jones is for now uncontested. This Clay and Palo Alto seat is the least red district in this corner of the state, and Democrats made a serious effort when the district was new in 2012. But in 2014 only an independent Some Dude challenged. Dems have won in this area in the relatively recent past so not beyond reach if someone starts late.

Senate District 2
Registration: D 4917, R 23703, N 9295, total 37973, R +18786
Randy Feenstra (R), incumbent

This one IS beyond reach, the number one Republican Senate district. Feenstra, a former country treasurer, has been completely unopposed since he first filed in 2008 when relative moderate Dave Mulder stepped down after one term.

House District 3
Registration: D 3305, R 10112, N 6093, total 19550, R +6807
Daniel A. Huseman (R), incumbent

Huseman is unopposed and won 80% against a late starting Dem in 2002. His biggest headache was redistricting, solved when Royd Chambers retired after they were paired up.


The Confederate flag, South African version

House District 4 - The Orange Free State
Registration: D 1612, R 13591, N 3202, total 18423, R +11979
OPEN (John Kooiker, R, retiring)

We finally have a nickname for Sioux County that corresponds to People's Republic of Johnson County. Covers both Dutch Reformed ethnicity and extreme conservatism.

This decisive and inevitable primary in the most Republican seat in the state has been deferred through two legislators. Dwayne Alons died soon after the 2014 general. John Kooiker was nominated at an epic six candidate convention and won a hurry-up special election, but leaves the House without ever running in either a primary or general election.

Rock Valley mayor Kevin Van Otterloo and professor Jeff Van Der Werff both tried for the nomination at the convention. The third candidate, Skyler Wheeler, moved to the area for college and is touting his youth and what seems to be Kooiker's support. All are touting their solid conservative credentials but I don't speak Afrikaans so I can't measure the distinctions.

The Democrats actually ran in the special election but managed only 13% and finished third behind a write in candidate.

Senate District 3
Registration: D 8967, R 16713, N 12568, total 38335, R +7746
Bill Anderson (R), holdover

House District 5
Registration: D 3851, R 9307, N 6421, total 19615, R +5456
Chuck Holz (R), incumbent

Another heavily GOP seat that got filled in a special election, when Chuck Soderberg moved out of district to work for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. Holz easily beat one other candidate at a convention, was entirely unopposed in the special, and is thus far unopposed for a first full term.

House District 6
Registration: D 5116, R 7406, N 6147, total 18720, R +2290
OPEN (Ron Jorgensen, R), incumbent

Jorgensen was part of an all-new Sioux City area delegation in 2010 - remarkably, most of those new members are now gone, too. He was unopposed in 2014.

Democrat Perla Alarcon-Flory is a Spanish interpreter and school board member,
This is the 26th most Republican district, on the outer limits of seats the Democrats could win, but if a Donald Trump nomination boosts chronically low turnout in the Hispanic population of Woodbury county, a credible Latina candidate who's already won an election could benefit.

Alacorn-Flory will face the winner of a Republican primary. Chuck Grassley staffer Jacob Bossman has endorsements from Jorgensen and area senators Bill Anderson and Rick Bertrand, but first hast to get past attorney Jim Carlin.

Senate District 4
Registration: D 9743, R 14675, N 14773, total 39239, R +4932
Dennis Guth (R), incumbent

Tea Partier Guth upset former Senator Jim Black in the 2012 primary when this seat was new, then beat a serious Democrat with relative ease. He's kept up the crazy in office, getting into a highly publicized confrontation with out colleague Matt McCoy after an epic anti-gay rant.But the constituents must be OK with it, because no opposition.

House District 7
Registration: D 5227, R 6554, N 7904, total 19711, R +1327
Tedd Gassman (R), incumbent

Gassman, a former Winnebago County GOP chair and school board member, knocked off first term Democrat John Wittneben by just 44 votes in 2012. He has a rematch with Democratic veteran and ex-policeman Dave Grussing. Gassman won the 2014 matchup with 57%, and this is the #35 Republican district, but the climate should be better in a presidential year and Democrats have won here (Wittneben succeeded Marcy Frevert) so Grussing may have a chance of being triaged into the target list.

House District 8
Registration: D 4516, R 8121, N 6869, total 19528, R +3605
Terry C. Baxter (R), incumbent

Incumbent Henry Reyhons dropped out a week before the filing deadline in 2014 amid a bizarre and sad set of personal life issues. I'm not going to repeat them, just Google him.

Baxter beat ex-senator Jim Black, making another failed comeback attempt, at a nominating convention less than 24 hours before the filing deadline. He won the 2014 general easy with 64% and Democrats aren't running anyone yet.

Senate District 5
Registration: D 10733, R 12581, N 14179, total 37571, R +1848
Tim Kraayenbrink (R), holdover

House District 9
Registration: D 6646, R 5027, N 6390, total 18111, D +1619
Helen Miller (D), incumbent

Miller has been mostly safe since first winning in 2002, other than a fluke close race in wave year 2010, and was unopposed in 2014. The Republican is apparent Some Dude Gary Waechter:
Some Dude: Some candidates start out with certain built-in advantages: They already hold office, they have personal wealth, or they have a prominent public profile. Some Dude has none of these. If you Google Some Dude’s name, you’ll find very little information-probably just the news article or blog post where they were first mentioned as a possible candidate. A good hint you’re dealing with a Some Dude is that they’re described as an “activist” or “Tea Party member” in press accounts. Note: Some Dudes sometimes win!
House District 10
Registration: D 4087, R 7554, N 7789, total 19460, R +3467
Mike Sexton (R), incumbent

Sexton, who served a turn of the century Senate term, walked into this seat in 2014 with no primary and just a Libertarian in the general when two-term hard right Republican Tom Shaw retired. He's still walking.

Senate District 6
Registration: D 9857, R 13507, N 15149, total 38595, R +3650
Mark Segebart (R), incumbent

Segebart, then a county supervisor, won a three way 2012 primary for a new seat and beat a serious Democratic bid by Democrat Mary Bruner. This year the race drops right off the charts.

House District 11
Registration: D 4235, R 7131, N 6854, total 18247, R +2896
Gary Worthan (R), incumbent

Worthan has been comfortable since winning a December 2006 special and overwhelmed his last Democratic opponent with 74% in 2010.

Democrat Sara Huddleston was on the Storm Lake city council for 12 years but lost her re-election race last November. Not obvious from the name but Huddleston is Hispanic, so another one where the Trump Factor could boost turnout, and where a Latina candidate could help the top of the ticket. So even though this is the #82 Democratic seat, 50 State Strategy at its best,

House District 12
Registration: D 5622, R 6376, N 8295, total 20348, R +754
Brian Best (R), incumbent

Best knocked off two term Democrat Dan Muhlbauer in 2014, returning the old Rod Roberts seat to the GOP column. Democrats are running deputy sheriff Ken Myers, who drew attention as a 2012 Democratic National Convention speaker. This is the #53 Democratic seat so will likely be a targeted race, and Dems have done well with deputy sheriffs (see senators Steve Sodders and Kevin Kinney).

Senate District 7
Registration: D 11291, R 9005, N 9776, total 30177, D +2286

Rick Bertrand (R), holdover

Special Election alert: On the off chance that Bertrand's primary challenge to Steve King succeeds, this would be a prime opportunity for a late 2016/early 2017 Democratic gain. Also note: the hot King-Bertrand primary means a lot of independents and Democrats will be crossing over into the GOP contest, and that ripples into other races most notably Patty Judge vs. Rob Hogg.

House District 13
Registration: D 5362, R 4897, N 5053, total 15372, D +465
Chris Hall (D), incumbent

Hall is just 30 yet seeking his 4th term. He won an open seat in 2010 when Democrat Roger Wendt retired in ill health, then survived the only two incumbent Democrat vs. Republican general election pairup in 2012 (one-term GOP Rep. Jeremy Taylor landed on the Board of Supervisors in 2014) and easily beat a weak Republican in 2014.

Republican Shaun Broyhill won a 2013 school board election but resigned before taking his seat when an outstanding warrant bit him in the butt.

House District 14
Registration: D 5929, R 4108, N 4723, total 14805, D +1821
OPEN - Dave Dawson (D) retiring

We all have our process pet peeves. Mine are sore losers; if you buy into a primary process, you buy into the outcome. Also: If you're voting in a primary or a caucus and asking "how soon can I switch back," you aren't acting in good faith and should wait till the general election. Sorry not sorry.

Desmoinesdem of Bleeding Heartland's pet peeve is smooth handoffs - last second legislative retirements accompanied by announcements from the anointed successor. So her brain about exploded this week when three Democratic legislators retired in the final 48 hours before deadline.

Dawson steps down after two terms and the chosen one is police officer Timothy Kacena - there's that deputy sheriff thing again. Republicans are running Robert Henderson, a teacher who lost a 2015 school board race. Kacena is likely the favorite in the #28 Democratic seat.

Senate District 8
Registration: D 10180, R 9659, N 11260, total 31293, D +521
Michael E. Gronstal (D), incumbent

Governor Gronstal is the general in Iowa's biggest battle of all, bigger than even the presidential race: control of the state senate. Gronstal has held the majority by one vote through two cycles, blocking Terry Branstad's career-end fantasies of making Iowa into Scott Walker's Wisconsin.

So Gronstal in general is Undesirable Number One. As for Gronstal in particular, three Republicans are facing off in a primary for the right to fight the heavyweight champ.

Al Ringgenberg is back. The retired military officer was highly touted in 2012 but underperformed both in votes (45%) and especially in fundraising. He faces another military vet, Dan Dawson, and bar owner/party activist Mark Hansen.


House District 15
Registration: D 5254, R 4161, N 5673, total 15184, D +1093
Charlie McConkey (D), incumbent

Labor guy McConkey gained this seat against the Republican tide of 2014, as GOP incumbent Mark Brandenburg was elected county recorder after two House terms. Bill Riley, seeking to regain the seat for the Republicans, seems to be a Republican party activist.


House District 16
Registration: D 4926, R 5498, N 5587, total 16109, R +572
Mary Ann Hanusa (R), incumbent

This seat is right on the bubble of House control: #49 for the Democrats. Hanusa, who worked in the Bush 43 White House, held this seat for the GOP in 2010 when party switcher Doug Struyk retired late.

Democrats look to be making a serious effort with Steve Gorman, a firefighter. That's the other go-to occupation in Democratic candidate recruitment, see also senators Jeff Danielson and Chris Brase.

Senate District 9
Registration: D 9018, R 14764, N 12042, total 35886, R +5746
Jason Schultz (R), holdover

House District 17
Registration: D 4583, R 7619, N 6376, total 18617, R +3036
Matt W. Windschitl (R), incumbent

The Legislature’s leading Gun Guy won the seat by knocking off Paul Wilderdyke in a 2006 primary challenge from the right. Democrat Jan Creasman, a former West Harrison school board member, won 39% against Windschitl in 2008 and is making a second try.

House District 18
Registration: D 4435, R 7145, N 5666, total 17269, R +2710
Steven Holt (R), incumbent

Holt was the chosen successor when Schultz moved over to the Senate in 2014 and easily dispatched a Some Dude student who didn't get the message and ran in the primary. Democrats made a game effort but Holt won with 69%, enough to scare off opposition for now.

Senate District 10
Registration: D 9671, R 16031, N 15868, total 41696, R +6360
Jake Chapman (R), incumbent

Chapman had an all but free ride when this Dallas County and west exurbs district was new in 2012, with a weak primary rival and an uncontested general. Democrats are making their first attempt with Matt Paladino, a lab tech who feels like a self-starter. This is the 8th most Republican seat, not a likely spot for Mike Gronstal to play offense when he has to play so much defense.

House District 19
Registration: D 5102, R 9452, N 8551, total 23182, R +4350
Ralph C. Watts (R), incumbent

Watts was first elected to a new seat in 2002, and massive population growth cut his district in half in 2012, leaving him with just north and west Dallas County. Democrat Ken Herring held Watts to 58% in 2012, but he was unopposed in `14.

Democrat Bryce Smith, a young (early 20s) small business owner, has been up and running for almost a year and seems to be taken seriously by House leadership. But this race is very tough in the 12th most Republican seat.

House District 20
Registration: D 4569, R 6579, N 7317, total 18514, R +2010
Clel Baudler (R), incumbent

Retired state trooper Clel Baudler is Good Ole Boy in a district that's changed a LOT since he was elected in 1998, trending urban and exurban. Democrats have held him under 60% the last two cycles, so even though this is the 29th most Republican seat, Baudler feels like an under performer and it looks like Democrats take this race seriously. Scott Heldt has been a campaign and legislative staffer and worked with the Iowa Renewable Energy Association, so if nothing else he'll run a good race on tough turf.

Senate District 11
Registration: D 8430, R 18474, N 13604, total 40597, R +10044
Tom Shipley (R), holdover


House District 21
Registration: D 3812, R 8295, N 7116, total 19249, R +4483
Tom Moore (R), incumbent

Moore took over in a special election after the death of long time GOP Rep. Jack Drake and is unopposed for his first full term.

House District 22
Registration: D 4618, R 10179, N 6488, total 21348, R +5561
Greg Forristall (R), incumbent

Forristall is in the 6th most Republican district and has drawn primary challenges in the past. This year his primary opponent wins the prize for Most Epic Filing Photo:
Update: I'm reminded that Holder ran as an "independent Liberty" candidate in the 3rd CD last cycle. Assuming Forristall survives the musket fire, he has a free ride in November.

Senate District 12
Registration: D 7166, R 18133, N 11783, total 37153, R +10967
Mark Costello (R), incumbent


House District 23
Registration: D 3833, R 9566, N 6011, total 19454, R +5733
David Sieck (R), incumbent


House District 24
Registration: D 3333, R 8567, N 5772, total 17699, R +5234
Cecil Dolecheck (R), incumbent

This is Joni Ernst's home turf and her win prompted two special elections. Costello, who won the House 23 seat when it was new, moved over to the Senate to finish Ernst's term. That caused another special, which Sieck won.

Dolecheck is the only legislative veteran here, first elected in 1996. He drew one of the many unsuccessful primary challenges in 2012.

All these seats are among the reddest in the state and likely to remain unchallenged by the Democrats, as they were last cycle.

Senate District 13
Registration: D 12101, R 15398, N 13924, total 41515, R +3297
Julian B. Garrett (R), holdover


House District 25
Registration: D 5625, R 8228, N 7264, total 21162, R +2603
Stan Gustafson (R), incumbent

This seat has seen primaries every cycle since it opened up on Jodi Tymeson's 2010 retirement. The issue seems to be a rivalry between Warren and Madison Counties.
Tymeson was Madison-based but the subsequent winners have been from Warren.

After incumbent Garrett went to the Senate to replace the disgraced and indicted Kent Sorenson in 2013, Gustafson won the seat three times in six months. He beat former Madison County supervisor Joan Acela at the nominating convention, easily won the special election itself, then beat Acela again in the 2014 primary.

That was the fourth loss for Acela (who had lost to Garrett in 2010 and 2012 primaries), and she has finally given up. Instead, teacher Tim Mohs will try to take the seat back for Madison County. The winner faces Van Meter Democrat Justin Knight who looks like a self starter in a seat that's #77 for the Dems.

House District 26
Registration: D 6476, R 7170, N 6660, total 20353, R +694
Scott Ourth (D), incumbent

Ourth is a strong candidate in a borderline seat, #52 for the Dems. He won in 2012 after losing an upset in 2010 to fluke one term tea partier Glen Masie. In equally tough 2014 Ourth beat police officer James Butler with 54%.

Republicans seem to be less serious this cycle, running the interestingly named Rebel Snodgrass, an aluminum siding guy and party activist.

Senate District 14
Registration: D 9930, R 13417, N 12723, total 36124, R +3487
Amy Sinclair (R), incumbent

Sinclair, then a county supervisor, won a three way primary in 2012 when this seat was sort of new and sort of open. (Former GOP leader Paul McKinley lived in the lines but it was changed a lot and he retired.) Democrats made a game effort but this south central Iowa turf is just a little too tough and Sinclair won with 61%. They're leaving Sinclair alone this time.

House District 27
Registration: D 4744, R 6307, N 5812, total 16890, R +1563
Joel Fry (R), incumbent

Fry knocked off Democrat Mike Reasoner in one of 2010’s upsets. Democrats looked like they were making a serious run in 2014 with Osceola mayor Fred Diehl but Fry stomped him with 67%. Undeterred, Democrats are trying again with Rich Higdon, a farmer and retired Air Force officer. This seat is #68 on the Democratic depth chart.

House District 28
Registration: D 5186, R 7110, N 6911, total 19234, R +1924
Greg Heartsill (R), incumbent

Heartsill won this seat when it was new in 2012 and then faced an abortive (see what I did there) primary challenge last cycle that was abandoned over residence issues.

This is a heavy lift as the #71 Democratic seat, but Heartsill is one of the loonier and most extreme House Republicans. Democrat Megan Suhr is stepping aside after two unsuccessful runs, but Heartsill annoys Democrats enough to inspire two candidates. Lois DeWaard is a counselor specializing in animal communications, and Mary Duffy of Knoxville seems to be a party activist.

Senate District 15
Registration: D 13844, R 13423, N 13877, total 41296, D +421
Chaz Allen (D), holdover

House District 29
Registration: D 7124, R 5710, N 6977, total 19850, D +1414
Daniel Kelley (D), incumbent

Realtor Kelley was a late replacement candidate in Newton in 2010 after incumbent Democrat Paul Bell died. Police officer Wes Breckinridge was also a candidate at that nominating convention, and now is running a primary challenge.

The winner faces Republican Patrick Payton, who won 46% against Kelley in 2014.

House District 30
Registration: D 6720, R 7713, N 6900, total 21446, R +993
Zach Nunn (R), incumbent

Altoona has been a revolving door seat. Hard-right Republican Kim Pearson knocked off conservaDem Geri Huser in 2010, then quit after one term. Democrat Joe Riding won in 2012, but got knocked off last cycle by Zach Nunn of Bondurant, by a pretty solid 56-44% margin.

Riding, hoping for better results in the presidential year, is making a comeback attempt.

Senate District 16
Registration: D 14976, R 7275, N 9509, total 31935, D +7701
OPEN: Dick L. Dearden (D), retiring

The history of east Des Moines legislative districts is marked by multi-way primaries on the rare occasions that a district opens up, followed by years of quiet general elections as the legislators gain seniority and become legislative legends.

This is one of those rare occasions. Dearden won a five-way 1994 primary with 44% and was barely bothered after. (Second place went to Ruth Ann Gaines, who had to wait 16 years for another chance; keep reading.)

Dearden is hoping to hand the seat off to his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, who's worked for the state labor commissioner and Polk County elections (if the name Mauro means anything to you). But she has a strong opponent in labor attorney Nate Boulton, who leads in fundraising. (I'm completely biased in favor of Boulton here, as he volunteered for me long ago when he was in high school.)

This is the only Democratic state senate primary and whoever survives has either a free ride in the fall or a late self starter in the fifth best Democratic seat.

House District 31
Registration: D 7448, R 4673, N 5273, total 17476, D +2775
Rick Olson (D), incumbent

Like I said: The history of east Des Moines legislative districts is marked by multi-way primaries on the rare occasions that a district opens up, followed by years of quiet general elections as the legislators gain seniority and become legislative legends.

When 32 year incumbent John Conners retired in 2004, Olson led a six way primary field with 30%, and won the subsequent convention (35% is required for a nomination). Not much has happened since and nothing is happening now.

House District 32
Registration: D 7528, R 2602, N 4236, total 14459, D +4926
Ruth Ann Gaines (D), incumbent

A couple days before the 2010 filing deadline, incumbent Wayne Ford announced his retirement and endorsed Gaines, who wound up with no primary opposition. Gaines has easily beaten Republican and Libertarian Some Dudes since.

Senate District 17
Registration: D 16276, R 6695, N 9243, total 32387, D +9581
Tony Bisignano (D), holdover

House District 33
Registration: D 7848, R 3120, N 4522, total 15564, D +4728
Brian Meyer (D), incumbent

Meyer, then on the Des Moines city council, won this seat in a 2013 special after Kevin McCarthy's resignation, and had no opposition for his first full term.

Meyer faces a primary challenge from Jim Addy of political data firm Mapping Strategies. The Republicans, who literally chose their 2012 challenger to McCarthy from the audience at the nominating convention, aren't trying.

House District 34
Registration: D 8428, R 3575, N 4721, total 16823, D +4853
Bruce L. Hunter (D), incumbent

Hunter won a hurry-up January 2003 special and has been safe ever since. He beat a late starting Republican with 65% in 2014 and is thus far unopposed.

Senate District 18
Registration: D 16971, R 7205, N 9073, total 33433, D +9766
Janet Petersen (D), incumbent

After six terms in the House, Petersen was handed a perfect Senate district on Map Day 2011, and easily dispatched a fringe candidate in 2012. It votes on the presidential cycle, leaving her free in governor-cycle years for... whatever may happen. Lots of opportunities for a veteran legislator who's still only 44.

House District 35
Registration: D 7481, R 2235, N 3715, total 13510, D +5246
Ako Abdul-Samad (D), incumbent

Ako took over in 2006 when Ed Fallon ran for governor, and drew primary rivals early in his career, but has now comfortably settled in and is going unchallenged.


House District 36
Registration: D 9490, R 4970, N 5358, total 19923, D +4520
Marti Anderson (D), incumbent

Anderson won a well-contested 2012 primary when Peterson went to the Senate.

Two Some Dudes are competing in the GOP primary for the right to lose. Derek Tidball is an army vet who ran for Congress as an independent in Arizona in 2008, losing (duh) to Gabby Giffords of all people. Some Dudes with names like Scott Miller are impossible to search reliably.

Senate District 19
Registration: D 12995, R 17213, N 13631, total 44052, R +4218
Jack Whitver (R), holdover

This Is Where Your District Went
Registration: D 6434, R 10106, N 7366, total 24028, R +3672
John Landon (R), incumbent

John Landon was a controversial convention winner by one vote when this seat was new - as in newly constructed out of cornfields during the previous decade  - in the 2012 redistricting. It was a six way primary and he had finished third with just 16.5%. Despite that inauspicious start, he drew no primary challengers in 2014 or 2016.

Democrat Andrea Phillips is a homemaker who's been active on the Hillary Clinton campaign. This district is tough - #87 district for Democrats - but having one more candidate out there can't hurt the top of the ticket in a high growth high turnout area.

House District 38
Registration: D 6561, R 7107, N 6265, total 20024, R +546
Kevin Koester (R), incumbent

With Joan Acela of Madison County and David Johnson of Cedar County finally giving up, the contest for Most Persistent Failed Candidate has narrowed to two.

Ames Libertarian Eric Cooper has lost eight in a row (seven for the legislature and one for governor). Since Libertarians don't run in the primary, we won't hear from him till the August general election filing period.

But I'd place my bet on Brett Nelson of Saylorville. He's tried for this seat, and its predecessors, in the 1998, 2000, 2002, 2012, and 2016 primaries, and in 2014 he lost a primary to Senator Jack Whitver. He generally gets 10 to 15% of the vote.

Nelson gets the edge because he's stepped up his game to two losses a year. (Which does not seem to have hurt Monica Vernon.) After losing in 2012 and 2014 in the primary, he filed against the same opponents again as a sore loser independent in the general election.

This primary is likely to be Nelson's eighth straight loss, giving him a tie with Cooper. Cooper can regain the lead in the fall, but Nelson can tie again with another independent run.

All this almost makes me feel sorry for Nelson's nemesis, Kevin Koester, who won this seat in 2008, naturally beating Nelson in the primary. I say ALMOST because this seat is critical to House control. It's the more Democratic half of Ankeny and #48 for the Democrats. Heather Matson is clearly a top tier candidate and Democrats will push hard to win this seat.

So if Nelson can make that independent run and pull 4% away from Koester, like he did in 2012, that's be cool. On principle I oppose Sore Loser runs, but in his case I'll make an exception. Come on, Brett, you have your record to think about.

Senate District 20
Registration: D 12948, R 17491, N 12889, total 43498, R +4543
Brad Zaun (R), incumbent

2014 was even a tougher loss for Brad Zaun than 2010. In 2010 everyone knew there would be another chance, either against Leonard Boswell or, as it turned out, when Tom Latham retired. But that second chance blew up in an upset, multi-ballot convention that came down to Zaun vs. Anyone But Zaun. The generational change in the seat from Latham to David Young now makes Zaun an also-ran.

Zaun hinted at challenging Young in this year's primary, and for a while worked on changing the law to set up a runoff system to replace Iowa's convention system. But both ideas fizzled and Zaun is settling for another run for his Senate seat.

He faces Democrat Miyoko Hikiji. Even though the numbers are tough for Hijiki, It'll be interesting to see Iowa's leading Donald Trump supporter running against someone with a foreign sounding name, especially when she's a military vet who grew up in Cedar Rapids.

House District 39
Registration: D 6231, R 9710, N 7302, total 23338, R +3479
Jake Highfill (R), incumbent

Highfill was, under bizarre circumstances and apparently without a thorough vetting, the only one of a dozen GOP primary challengers to knock off an incumbent (Erik Helland) in 2012, and was almost the only incumbent knocked off in a 2014 primary. He lucked out because he drew two opponents who split the vote, winning with just 46%.

So it's not good news for Highfill that he has just one primary challenger, opthalmologist Christian DenOuden.

Johnston is very tough turf for a Democrat (the #85 Democratic seat) but Highfill underperformed in 2012 and Democrats are ready with nurse Maradith Morris. Still tough, and probably beyond reach if DenOuden is able to knock off Highfill. One of those unusual situations where the incumbent is probably the weaker candidate.

House District 40
Registration: D 6717, R 7781, N 5587, total 20160, R +1064
John Forbes (D), incumbent

Forbes holds one of the tougher seats for Democrats (#59 on party registration) but won a second term with a decent 55% against a late starting opponent in 2014.

Still, Forbes is a promising enough target that two Republicans want to challenge here. Eric South and Scott Reed both seem like party activists with few online tracks. Republican readers, help me out here.

Senate District 21
Registration: D 17538, R 12387, N 10155, total 40317, D +5151
Matt McCoy (D), holdover

House District 41
Registration: D 10727, R 4968, N 4485, total 20298, D +5759
Jo Oldson (D), incumbent

Oldson won a three way primary for this seat in 2002 and now faces a primary challenge from Eddie Mauro, who brings family ties and a prominent record as a baseball coach. The winner has a free ride so far in the fall. Oldson crushed a Green Party opponent (the only Green candidate in the state) in `14.

House District 42
Registration: D 6811, R 7419, N 5670, total 20019, R +608
Peter Cownie (R), incumbent

Cownie hasn't really been tested since he won this as an open seat 55%-42% in 2008. He drew a Some Dude opponent in 2014, and his 2010 and 2012 opponents BOTH dropped out too late to get their names off the ballot.

But even as just a name on the ballot with no campaign, the 2012 Democrat drew 43%, so there's a strong base here. Claire Celsi owns a PR firm - a lot of overlap with campaign skills there - and has deep community roots. So Cownie has a target on his back, both for taking back the House AND to stifle the higher ambitions he's known to have.

Senate District 22
Registration: D 12480, R 16764, N 13994, total 43392, R +4284
Charles Schneider (R), incumbent

Schneider was on the West Des Moines City Council in 2012 when incumbent Republican Pat Ward died, three weeks before Election Day. Schneider won a hurry-up special a month after the general election, beating Desmund Adams, who now is pursuing the 3rd CD nomination.

In his first general election - seems odd, after he's served four full sessions - Schneider faces banking underwriter Andrew Barnes. Democrats were making a serious effort with Adams in 2012, in part because they thought the relatively moderate Ward was vulnerable to her conservative primary challenger. But Barnes is probably a lot lower on Mike Gronstal's depth chart.

House District 43
Registration: D 7067, R 7537, N 5267, total 19942, R +470
Chris Hagenow (R), incumbent

Hagenow has had two nailbiters in presidential years: he won his first race in 2008 by a razor close 91 votes, and in 2012 beat Susan Judkins by just 23.

Democrats looked like they might get a primary here, but 2014 state auditor candidate Jonathan Neiderbach stepped aside and Dems are going with Drake journalism professor Jennifer Konfrst (who needs to buy a vowel for her last name). She has deep district roots; mom Berry Glover is on the Windsor Heights city council and dad is Iowa journalism legend Mike Glover. This seat is critical to both parties and will be fiercely fought. In contrast...

House District 44
Registration: D 5413, R 9227, N 8727, total 23450, R +3814
Rob Taylor (R), incumbent

...this district probably won't be fought at all. This is the other This Is Where Your District Went, in high-growth eastern Dallas County. Taylor walked into the seat without a primary when it was new in 2012, and easily beat a credible Democrat. 2014 was uncontested in both primary and general.

Senate District 23
Registration: D 13771, R 10676, N 11572, total 36282, D +3095
Herman C. Quirmbach (D), holdover

House District 45
Registration: D 6910, R 4992, N 5734, total 17768, D +1918
Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D), incumbent

Wessel-Kroeschell won a four-way primary when this seat opened up in 2004 and has been relatively comfortable since. She'll face the winner of a GOP primary between Sondra Childs-Smith and Diane Waddy Romero. And probably a second fall opponent, since persistent Libertarian Eric Cooper lives here.

House District 46
Registration: D 6861, R 5684, N 5838, total 18514, D +1177
Lisa Heddens (D), incumbent

Heddens went to the House in 2002 when a whole bunch of Ames area seats turned over. No one else is running yet.

Senate District 24
Registration: D 11459, R 13720, N 14770, total 40063, R +2261
Jerry Behn (R), incumbent

Behn, in the Senate since 1996 and one of several Spinal Tap drummers who took a turn as senate minority leader, won with 56.5% in 2012. He faces attorney Keith Puntenney, one of the landowners suing over the Bakken pipeline, so look for activists on that issue to get involved here.

House District 47
Registration: D 5921, R 6523, N 7487, total 19976, R +602
Chip Baltimore (R), incumbent

Baltimore upset Democrat Donovan Olson in 2010 and won the rematch in 2012 by a bigger margin, then drew a weaker opponent in 2014.

Based on party registration, this would be seat #50 for the Democrats, and two Boone Dems are lined up to face Baltimore: county party chair George Ensley and Deb Duncan, who works in small business development.





House District 48
Registration: D 5538, R 7197, N 7283, total 20087, R +1659
Rob Bacon (R), incumbent

Sherrie Taha, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, was by far the weakest candidate I've ever seen run for major office in Iowa and the worst public speaker I've seen run at any level. I often wondered if we would have been better off just leaving Bill Northey alone.

This cycle, Taha is not leaving Rob Bacon alone, in the #32 GOP/#69 D seat. Bacon did two years in the Senate before getting paired up with Bill Dix and switching to the House, where he was unopposed in 2014. Plus he has the nice committee name Friends Of Bacon, which is pretty much everyone I know.

Senate District 25
Registration: D 8515, R 16411, N 14251, total 39296, R +7896
Bill Dix (R), holdover

House District 49
Registration: D 4701, R 7551, N 7342, total 19683, R +2850
Dave Deyoe (R), incumbent

Deyoe, first elected in 2006, beat the same opponent back to back in 2012 and 2014 and has thus far deterred opposition.

House District 50
Registration: D 3814, R 8860, N 6909, total 19613, R +5046
Pat Grassley (R), incumbent

For months - no, years - I was watching for the Last Second Switcheroo Scenario: On deadline day, Grandpa does not file for the US Senate and Grandson does. I lowered the odds periodically, but always imagined it.

I was wrong on that one. Chuck has his hands more full than usual this year with two credible opponents and a Supreme Court vacancy. Pat, meanwhile, has six more years to build the resume; he's also rumored for Secretary of Agriculture if and when Bill Northey steps down.

Redistricting gave Pat a pairup that he won in an epic primary against Annette Sweeney and, once that was done, a top ten Republican seat. Democrat Doris Fritz is back for more punishment after losing to Grassley 74-26% in 2014.

Senate District 26
Registration: D 11155, R 11578, N 16396, total 39175, R +423
Mary Jo Wilhelm (D), incumbent

Now we're getting serious. Democrats absolutely need to re-elect Wilhelm to keep control of the Senate. She won a tough race by 126 votes in 2012, when redistricting paired her up with Merlin Bartz. This cycle Republicans have recruited Waylon Brown, business owner and county Farm Bureau VP.

Democrats are lucky that several of their tougher seats are even-numbered and land on the higher turnout presidential cycle. And the context flows into the presidential primary; when "establishment" Dems talk about party building and helping down-ballot candidates, they mean people like Wilhelm, and boosting college town turnout doesn't help that.

House District 51
Registration: D 5132, R 6238, N 7849, total 19241, R +1106
OPEN - Josh Byrnes (R),retiring

Byrnes gained this seat in 2010 when six term Democrat Mark Kuhn stepped down. Neither side has a primary so we go straight to the general with Democrat Tim Hejhal, a high school principal, and Republican Jane Bloomingdale, the Northwood mayor (she also has an independent run for a courthouse office in the past).

House District 52
Registration: D 6023, R 5340, N 8547, total 19934, D +683
Todd Prichard (D), incumbent

Prichard was a comfortable special election winner when Brian Quirk quit immediately after getting re-elected in 2012, and was unopposed in 2014. He faces Republican Stacie Stokes.

Senate District 27
Registration: D 10723, R 13175, N 15348, total 39298, R +2452
Amanda Ragan (D), holdover

House District 53
Registration: D 6624, R 4681, N 8099, total 19436, D +1943
Sharon Steckman (D), incumbent

Steckman took this seat from the GOP in 2008 when Bill Shickel retired. This year she faces Cerro Gordo Republican chair Barbara Hovland.



House District 54
Registration: D 4099, R 8494, N 7249, total 19862, R +4395
Linda L. Upmeyer (R), incumbent

One more Iowa gender barrier broken by a Republican woman who leaves Democrats seething. In her first re-election race as the first female House speaker, Upmeyer can focus on keeping order - and keeping 51 seats without worrying about an opponent of her own.

Senate District 28
Registration: D 10469, R 13608, N 13582, total 37735, R +3139
Michael Breitbach (R), incumbent

Even tough the Democrats held 26 seats in 2012, this one broke Democrats' hearts. Breitbach, who'd lost a 2010 House race, beat ex-rep John Beard by just 17 votes.

So this will be one of the few places where Mike Gronstal is on offense. Democrats are running human services coordinator Jan Heikes. With hot races on the House side as well, look for the northeast corner to be very busy.

House District 55
Registration: D 5520, R 6567, N 6497, total 18620, R +1047
OPEN - Darrel Branhagen (R), retiring

Branhagen took this seat over in 2014 when longtime Democrat Roger Thomas, who'd been hurt in redistricting and barely held on in 2012, retired. But it seems Branhagen only had one term in him.

Both parties have primaries. Republicans will choose between Alex Popenhagen of Elgin and Muchael Bergan of West Union. Dems have former county supervisor Steve McCargar of Decorah and attorney/ex-Marine Pat Ritter of West Union.

Ritter looks like the House leadership's favorite but in districts like this, the friends and neighbors factor is big; whoever can get their town to turn out better wins. Either way, this is seat #58 for Dems and 43 for Republicans, so it'll be a targeted race.

House District 56
Registration: D 4949, R 7041, N 7085, total 19115, R +2092
Patti Ruff (D), incumbent

Ruff, a former school board member, has the most Republican House seat held by a Democrat, the #73 Democratic district by registration. She knocked off one term Republican Bob Hager in 2012 when redistricting split his base. Now Kristi Hager, Bob's spouse, is trying to take the seat back for the Republicans.  But first she has to get past a primary with Lowell Engle of Harpers Ferry, who started late in 2014 and lost to Ruff 56-44%.

Senate District 29
Registration: D 14392, R 11468, N 16817, total 42756, D +2924
Tod R. Bowman (D), holdover

House District 57
Registration: D 7376, R 6424, N 8198, total 22050, D +952
OPEN - Nancy Dunkel (D),retiring

Dunkel walked into the rural Dubuque County seat without primary OR general election opposition in 2012, and easily beat a weak Republican and a Libertarian in 2014.

Dunkel was one of the last second retirements and she helped recruit/anoint banker Tom Stecher. Republicans were caught unaware but got Shannon Lundgren, who had been running for the Board of Supervisors, to switch to this race. This is the #34 Democratic seat so Stecher has an edge, and a head start because he'd been tipped off.

House District 58
Registration: D 7016, R 5044, N 8619, total 20706, D +1972
OPEN - Brian Moore, R, retiring

This is the most Democratic seat (#25) in GOP hands and thus the best shot at a Democratic pickup. Moore, who had lost a Democratic Senate primary in 2010, switched parties, shocked everyone be knocking off incumbent Tom Schueller, then won a 2012 rematch. But he had to have figured his luck would eventually run out.

Yet surprisingly, it's Republicans, not Democrats, who have the primary.

Attorney Andy McKean of Anamosa served in the Senate and House in the 80s and 90s, and then later on the Jones County Board of Supervisors. I worked for his 1992 opponent and remember McKean had the only round yard signs I've ever seen. He faces convenience store owner Joshua Sundstrom of rural Mechanicsville and Bellevue city council member Allen Ernst. Different towns, rural seat... watch that Friends And Neighbors vote.

The winner will see Bernard Democrat Peter Hird in the fall in a race both Democrats and labor (Hird is an IBEW member) will target.

Senate District 30
Registration: D 12236, R 12639, N 14211, total 39278, R +403
Jeff Danielson (D), incumbent

First elected in 2004, Danielson is a perennial GOP target, surviving a 2008 recount against Walt Rogers by two dozen votes.  He faces Bonnie Sadler, a pharmacy company executive.

House District 59
Registration: D 6076, R 5388, N 7002, total 18584, D +688
Bob Kressig (D), incumbent

Kressig is a perpetual target in Cedar Falls. His 2014 win with 55% was actually one of his easier races. This cycle's GOP challenger, Drew Speer, seems a little Some Dude-ish.

House District 60
Registration: D 6160, R 7251, N 7209, total 20694, R +1091
Walt Rogers (R), incumbent

One to watch: Both candidates here had higher ambitions at one time, and dropped 1st Congressional District bids in favor of this seat.

Rogers first won this seat in 2010 after losing a very close 2008 Senate race to Jeff Danielson. He was up and running for Congress in 2014, but dropped out late before the primary.

Democrat Gary Kroeger had been running for the congressional nomination this cycle. The former Saturday Night Live cast member hadn't been getting much traction as the third wheel in the Vernon-Murphy rematch, but as a legislative candidate he's a strong contender, and he seems to have gotten a lot of points from other Democrats for switching to this race. That should help keep Kroger on the priority list in the #60 Democratic seat.

Senate District 31
Registration: D 15554, R 6411, N 12363, total 34492, D +9143
William A. Dotzler Jr. (D), holdover

House District 61
Registration: D 7093, R 3947, N 6383, total 17503, D +3146
Timi Brown-Powers (D), incumbent

This has been a revolving door seat, with five members since 2004. When Anesa Kajtazovic stepped down in 2014 to run for Congress, Brown-Powers took 68% in a three way primary and easily beat Republican Nathan Bolton (not to be confused with Senate 16 candidate Nate Boulton, a Democrat). Brown-Powers is unopposed so far.

House District 62
Registration: D 8461, R 2464, N 5980, total 16989, D +5997
OPEN Deborah L. Berry (D) retiring

Last time this seat was open, Berry, finished first in a four way 2002 primary. But she only won 33%, short of the 35% required. The district then saw two (!) special nominating conventions with some underlying race issues before Berry finally emerged as the nominee after the second convention.

Maybe it feels a little unfair. But with that history you can almost see why when Berry retired she did it at the last second with a smooth handoff, announcing the day before the deadline just as the chosen successor, community-school coordinator Ras Smith, was filing. This is a done deal in the #3 Democratic seat.

Senate District 32
Registration: D 10167, R 11287, N 16925, total 38463, R +1120
Brian Schoenjahn (D), incumbent

Schoenjahn was first elected in 2004 with 53% in an open seat race when two term Republican Kitty Rehberg stepped down, and despite the borderline district (#27 for Dems) he's won solid re-elections.

Republicans are going with Craig Johnson, who lost a 2014 House race to Bruce Bearinger in the more Democratic half of the district.



House District 63
Registration: D 4757, R 6627, N 8888, total 20320, R +1870
Sandy Salmon (R), incumbent

Salmon, a 2010 primary loser, beat former Senator Bill Heckroth, probably the strongest possible Democratic candidate for the turf, in 2012. Her committee name is Friends of Salmon, which is not as good as Friends of Bacon.

Salmon is one of the loonier extremists in the House, which had helped her attract THREE Democratic challengers, all from Waverly. Nurse Teresa Meyer won 42% against Salmon in the 2014 general. She faces teacher Eric Stromberg and Some Dude Matthew Evans.

House District 64
Registration: D 5410, R 4660, N 8037, total 18143, D +750
Bruce Bearinger (D), incumbent

This seat was technically a Democratic gain for Bearinger in redistricting year 2012, and the region had flipped back and forth between Republican Dan Rasmussen and Democrat Gene Ficken under the prior map. Craig Johnson, now in the Senate 32 race, held Bearinger to 51% in 2014. But Republicans have yet to recruit a challenger.

Senate District 33
Registration: D 15353, R 10126, N 11782, total 37478, D +5227
Rob Hogg (D), holdover

Special Election alert: Hogg does not have to give up his seat for his US Senate run. That's up a steep hill, but should the improbable happen, Dems will have little trouble holding this seat in a special.

House District 65
Registration: D 8402, R 4181, N 5385, total 18085, D +4221
Liz Bennett (D), incumbent

This seat opened up in 2014 due to Tyler Olson's brief run for governor. In a bit of an upset, Bennett beat Cedar Rapids school board member Gary Anhalt in the primary and was unopposed in the general. Republican Harry Foster was a late starting convention candidate in 2014 and won 38% challenging Hogg.

House District 66
Registration: D 6951, R 5945, N 6397, total 19393, D +1006
Art Staed (D), incumbent

Staed won one term in 2006, lost by 13 votes to Renee Schulte in 2008, then came back to beat Schulte in 2012 after the new map improved the turf. It's improved enough that Staed got a free ride in 2014, and also so far this cycle.

Senate District 34
Registration: D 12678, R 13453, N 14949, total 41275, R +775
Liz Mathis (D), incumbent

Because Mathis is so prominent and such a strong candidate, and because Republicans so badly botched 2012 candidate recruitment (the candidate literally tried to secede from the united States)  it's easy to forget that her district is marginal, right on the edge of Senate control at #25 for the Dems and #26 for the GOP.

Terry Branstad knew that when he kicked Swati Dandekar upstairs to the Utilities Board in 2011, setting up the special election that the Dems clinched when they recruited the former TV anchor.

Republicans are taking this race more seriously this time with Rene Gadehala, a Linn-Mar school board member. The popular Mathis still ranks as a favorite, but she'll have to work a bit harder and will have less time to help other Senate candidates like she did in 2012.

House District 67
Registration: D 6043, R 7224, N 7401, total 20765, R +1181
OPEN - Kraig Paulsen (R),retiring

Paulsen walked away from the speakership and got himself a sweet gig, opening up a GOP leaning but not impossible seat in north metro Cedar Rapids.

Republicans stole the Liz Mathis page out of the playbook when they recruited Ashley Hinson, a KCRG reporter. The station played up her "mysterious" departure for all it was worth - she left on a Friday and announced the next Monday, exactly as Paulsen was retiring. So watch Channel 9 carefully for fairness of coverage. 

Democrat Mark Seidl, an attorney, is making a third bid. He lost a 2010 race to Renee Schulte on worse turf, then challenged Paulsen after redistricting in 2012.

House District 68
Registration: D 6635, R 6229, N 7548, total 20510, D +406
Ken Rizer (R), incumbent

The main Marion seat is one of the swingiest in the state, flipping in 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2014. Retired Air Force commander and pilot Rizer knocked off Democrat Daniel Lundby after one term in 2014.

Sam Gray has enough chutzpah that in 2012, he ran for and was elected as a Democratic national convention delegate at age 17. So don't tell him the legislature at 21 is impossible. He's been up and running for months, but at the last minute special ed teacher Molly Donahue got in.

Senate District 35
Registration: D 15016, R 8738, N 13500, total 37449, D +6278
Wally E. Horn (D), holdover

Retirement watch: Horn, who is the senior legislator and has served since 1972, has announced he's stepping down in 2018.

House District 69
Registration: D 7226, R 3884, N 6672, total 17887, D +3342
Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D), incumbent

Kirsten's toughest race here was the special election nominating convention in 2009, and she is so far unopposed.

House District 70 Registration: D 7790, R 4854, N 6828, total 19562, D +2936
Todd E. Taylor (D), incumbent

Taylor also went to the House in a special election, in 1995, and has had little or no trouble since. 2016 Republican Steve Van Fleet seems to be of Some Dude caliber.

Senate District 36
Registration: D 10738, R 11525, N 13803, total 36125, R +787
Steven J. Sodders (D), incumbent

Republicans couldn't get their preferred candidate, former senator Larry McKibben, through the primary in 2012, and Sodders beat perennial loser Jane Jech 54-46. He won the seat solidly when McKibben stepped down in 2008.

This cycle, no GOP primary and Republicans are going with farmer Jeff Edler. By party registration, this is on the line of control, #26 for the Democrats.

House District 71
Registration: D 5474, R 5083, N 6006, total 16589, D +391
Mark D. Smith (D), incumbent

Dem leader Smith took this seat from a Republican in 2000 and despite its middling status (#41 for the Dems) has only seen one really close race, when Jane Jech came close in 2010. After her fourth loss (three to Smith and one to Sodders) Jech has finally given up. Smith is unchallenged and free to focus on his other candidates in the Fight For Fifty-One.

House District 72
Registration: D 5264, R 6442, N 7797, total 19536, R +1178
Dean Fisher (R), incumbent

Fisher won an open House 72 in 2012 by just 216 votes over Nathan Wrage, who'd beaten Democratic leadership's preferred candidate in a primary upset. Wrage took 2014 off but is back this cycle. He faces John Anderson of Tama, who ran a write in race for county supervisor and who sounds pretty Some Dudeish, in a primary.

Senate District 37
Registration: D 15611, R 10460, N 12479, total 38697, D +5151
Robert E. Dvorsky (D), holdover

House District 73
Registration: D 6330, R 6216, N 7329, total 19928, D +114
Bobby Kaufmann (R), incumbent

This seat has been the great white whale to Democrats for several cycles: seemingly competitive on paper (#42 for Democratic registration), but beyond reach.

The best shot was in 2012, when Jeff Kaufmann stepped down to hand off to son Bobby. But the local Dems blew it with internal strife. In 2014 the leadership recruited candidate couldn't get through a primary, and the locals wasted resources on four-time loser David Johnson, who actually ran worse than the person who moved away but forgot to take her name off the ballot in 2008.

Johnson has finally given up, but now the Democrats have no one, and seem likely to give up despite the tempting numbers until Kaufmann The Younger pursues higher ambitions and the seat opens up.

House District 74
Registration: D 9281, R 4244, N 5150, total 18769, D +5037
Dave Jacoby (D), incumbent

Jacoby won this seat in a 2003 special when then Democratic leader Dick Myers retired. His last opposition was a weird 2010 primary where the opponent dropped out and then back in; Dave prevailed by roughly 70 points.

Senate District 38
Registration: D 10791, R 12933, N 16381, total 40207, R +2142
Tim L. Kapucian (R), incumbent

Kapucian won this seat 53% to 47% in 2008 when Republican John Putney retired, then beat Dem Shelly Parbs by about 3000 after redistricting in 2012. That seems to have been enough to scare off Democratic opposition for now.

House District 75
Registration: D 4935, R 6253, N 8512, total 19746, R +1318
Dawn E. Pettengill (R), incumbent

Pettingill was a target for a couple cycles after her infamous D to R party change on the last day of the 2007 session. But the district seems to have trended to the right with her and she won with about 70% last time.

The Democratic primary looks like a Friends And Neighbors fight with Dennis Mathaus from the Benton side of the district and Paula Denison from Iowa County.
 
House District 76
Registration: D 5856, R 6680, N 7869, total 20461, R +824
Dave Maxwell (R), incumbent

Maxwell won a close 53-47 race against Rachel Bly when the seat was new in 2012, then won more easily in `14 over former Grinnell school board president Eric Pederson. This cycle Dems are going with social worker Jacob Tornholm. This is the number 54 seat for Democrats and could be competitive if they can get a student turnout boost out of Grinnell.

Senate District 39
Registration: D 12574, R 13027, N 13878, total 39628, R +453
Kevin Kinney (D), holdover

House District 77
Registration: D 7741, R 5681, N 7089, total 20610, D +2060
OPEN - Sally Stutsman (D), incumbent

Stutsman, a longtime county supervisor, won with 60% when the seat was new in 2012 and was unopposed in `14. In the #24 Democratic seat, the favorite will be the winner of a primary between North Liberty mayor Amy Nielsen and Abbie Weipert of Tiffin. (Yes. She is married to my boss.)

Republicans have a contest too. Former Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips, who ran in the Senate 37 primary last cycle, is identified with the social conservative wing, while Paula Dreeszen of rural Iowa City is from the libertarian wing.

House District 78
Registration: D 4833, R 7346, N 6789, total 19018, R +2513
Jarad J. Klein (R), incumbent

Klein lost this seat in an upset in 2008 to Democrat Larry Marek (the seat went into Johnson County then) but came back to win in 2010, when the climate was redder and when Marek, who'd defected on some key votes, was left to fend for himself.

Washington County has a strong Republican faction called "Free County" that's part tea party, part libertarian, and all anti-tax. They've primaried Klein before and are trying again with Marcus Fedler. Dems are letting this one go.

Senate District 40
Registration: D 9272, R 16193, N 12432, total 37987, R +6921
Ken Rozenboom (R), incumbent

The Democrats lost this seat on Map Day 2011 when Tom Reilly's turf was dismembered and all the Dutch areas around Oskaloosa and Pella were combined into an Orange Free State East. County supervisor Rozenboom walked in without much of a fight in 2012 and looks set for an uncontested re-election.

House District 79
Registration: D 3770, R 9445, N 5969, total 19242, R +5675
Guy Vander Linden (R), incumbent

Vander Linden knocked off  Democrat Eric Palmer in 2010 when this district went north to Grinnell, then kept a safer seat after a redistricting pairup. No Democrat is up for this fight.

House District 80
Registration: D 5502, R 6748, N 6463, total 18745, R +1246
Larry Sheets (R), incumbent

Sheets narrowly beat Joe Judge of the Monroe County Judges in 2012 race when the seat was new and the priority high, then beat a Some Dude independent last cycle. Dems are running recent college grad Levi Grenko of Centerville, but the open seat in 2012 was likely their best chance.

Senate District 41
Registration: D 13618, R 10945, N 10949, total 35623, D +2673
Mark Chelgren (R), holdover

No Special Election Alert: Chelgren dropped his congressional bid against Dave Loebsack late.

House District 81
Registration: D 7294, R 4440, N 5459, total 17227, D +2854
Mary Gaskill (D), incumbent

Gaskill, the former county auditor, has been in the House since 2002. She overwhelmingly won a bizarre 2010 primary over a former county supervisor. (Short version: the guy resigned, moved out of state to take a government manager job, then moved back soon after with no explanation. Sounds like something we've heard lately.)

This year Gaskill is being primaried by former city council member Jeremy Weller. Age is a rather unsubtle issue here; Gaskill is 74 and Weller is 38. Weller says he has long been interested in running for this seat and that Gaskill told she wanted "one more term" more than one term ago. He's also criticizing Gaskill as being "inaccessible." Whoever wins does not yet have a Republican opponent, though Republicans have capitalized on Democratic splits in Ottumwa before.

House District 82
Registration: D 6324, R 6505, N 5490, total 18396, R +181
Curt Hanson (D), incumbent

Hanson won an epic special election, fueled by big outside anti-gay expenditures for his opponent, in the fall of 2009. He's settled in for stronger wins since, as Fairfield continues trending blue, and as yet Republicans have no candidate.

Senate District 42
Registration: D 12223, R 10576, N 13267, total 36152, D +1647
Rich Taylor (D), incumbent

Taylor, a labor guy from the smaller, Henry County part of the district, won a three way primary then beat Lee County supervisor Larry Kruse in 2012 when longtime legislator Gene Fraise retired.

Republicans have a primary between two Mt. Pleasant candidates. Danny Graber is a business owner and home school advocate. Ralph Holmstrom challenged Rep. Dave Heaton in a 2014 primary - it wasn't entirely clear till late if Heaton was running or retiring - but lost 70-30.

House District 83
Registration: D 7869, R 3409, N 6340, total 17671, D +4460
Jerry A. Kearns (D), incumbent

Kearns won this seat for as long as he wants in a 2008 primary. Republicans got nuthin'.

House District 84
Registration: D 4354, R 7167, N 6927, total 18481, R +2813
David E. Heaton (R), incumbent

Heaton has been in since 1994 and is a perennial retirement rumor, but is still running.  After winning that primary with Holmstrom, Heaton crushed perennial candidate Lee Harder, running as an independent for the first time, in the general. Democrats are running Iowa Army Ammunition Plant employee and mental health advocate Carrie Duncan on turf that's tough for any Democrat not named Vilsack.

Senate District 43
Registration: D 23176, R 7736, N 12680, total 43885, D +15440
Joe Bolkcom (D), holdover

House District 85
Registration: D 12752, R 4473, N 7006, total 24401, D +8279
Vicki S. Lensing (D), incumbent

House District 86
Registration: D 10424, R 3263, N 5674, total 19484, D +7161
Mary Mascher (D), incumbent

The heart of the People's Republic of Johnson County and the two most Democratic seats in the state. Republicans last tried here back in 2000 when Lensing was first elected.

Senate District 44
Registration: D 13853, R 10571, N 12790, total 37306, D +3282
Thomas G. Courtney (D), incumbent

Courtney won this new seat without a fight in 2002 and has been solid since. Republicans are running pharmacist and former school board member Tom Greene.


House District 87
Registration: D 8330, R 4209, N 6096, total 18687, D +4121
Dennis M. Cohoon (D), incumbent

At age 62 Cohoon is the senior House member, first elected in a 1987 special. He won  with under 50% in 2012 in a bizarre three way race where a sitting Democratic supervisor finished second running as an independent, and the Republican placed third. No opposition in 2012 or so far in 2014.


House District 88
Registration: D 5523, R 6362, N 6694, total 18619, R +839
Thomas R. Sands (R), incumbent

Another frustrating one. This district's large Hispanic population will be motivated with Donald Trump on top of the GOP ticket. But Democrats go back and forth between giving Sanders serious races or byes.

Sara Sedlacek held Sands to 53% in 2012, but that last 3 or 5 percent is a huge lift for the Democrats.  This cycle, they have no one, not even a total Some Dude like their 1996 nominee. Sad!

Senate District 45
Registration: D 15048, R 7433, N 14845, total 37529, D +7615
Joe M. Seng (D), holdover

House District 89
Registration: D 7285, R 4609, N 7950, total 19931, D +2676
Jim Lykam (D), incumbent


House District 90
Registration: D 7763, R 2824, N 6895, total 17598, D +4939
Cindy Winckler (D), incumbent

In 2012 Lykam overwhelmed a relatively serious challenger 2 to 1 while Winckler beat a last minute Liberty Republican and a perennial candidate running as an independent. Nothing for either in 2014, nothing so far this year.

Senate District 46
Registration: D 11503, R 12052, N 15041, total 38721, R +549
Chris Brase (D), incumbent

On Map Day 2011 this seat had TWO Republican incumbents, yet on Election Day 2012 ended up with a Democrat. Shawn Hamerlinck knocked off Jim Hahn in the only two-senator primary of the redistricting cycle, but lost to Muscatine firefighter Brase.

Republicans need this seat to take control and are back with a Muscatine candidate, former state rep Mark Lofgren. Lofgren beat three-term Democrat Nathan Reichert in 2010 and stepped down in 2014 for an unsuccessful primary run in the 2nd Congressional Distrrict. Look for this race to get hot and, in the QC TV market, expensive.

House District 91
Registration: D 5655, R 6024, N 6868, total 18587, R +369
Gary Carlson (R), incumbent

Four Republicans started in this race in 2014 but only two made it to the primary. HON executive Gary Carlson easily beat the one remaining candidate, party activist Mark Cisneros, in the primary.

Democrat John Dabeet made two runs here but is now on the Muscatine school board, so the Dems are trying two new candidates.  Businessman Phil Wiese looks like the leadership pick; he faces Jessica Brackett, head of Clean Air Muscatine (CLAM, in the pearl button city, get it?)

House District 92
Registration: D 5848, R 6028, N 8173, total 20134, R +180
Ross Paustian (R), incumbent

Walcott Republican Ross Paustian is making his fifth consecutive run and has a 2-2 lifetime record. He lost in a top-tier challenge to Democrat Elesha Gayman in 2008, then won when Gayman stepped down in 2010. Former Senator Frank Wood knocked him off in 2012, and Paustian in turn knocked Wood off in `14.

So he wins in off years and loses in presidential years.  Teacher and veteran Ken Krumwiede may see that as an opportunity. This is the #43 seat for Democrats by registration and one of the most closely divided; if Democrats hope to take the House they need this one.


Senate District 47
Registration: D 13198, R 15109, N 16038, total 44552, R +1911
Roby Smith (R), holdover

House District 93
Registration: D 7162, R 6261, N 7383, total 20901, D +901
Phyllis Thede (D), incumbent

Thede, in the House since 2008 after a narrow 2006 Senate loss, won with 53% in `14. This cycle she faces computer tech and Republican activist Kurt Whalen. 

House District 94
Registration: D 6036, R 8848, N 8655, total 23651, R +2812
OPEN (Linda J. Miller) (R), incumbent

Miller, who went to the house after bumping off an incumbent in a 2006 primary, announced her retirement early (attn: desmoinesdem) but only one Republican candidate got in: Bettendorf city council member Gary Mohr. Democrats made a fairly serious effort in 2012 with Maria Bribriesco, but she then lost a 2014 Senate race and Democrats are letting this House seat go for now.

Senate District 48
Registration: D 10690, R 12397, N 15808, total 38992, R +1707
Dan Zumbach (R), incumbent

This new open seat was the scene of a top priority 2012 race between farmer Zumbach and state Rep. Nate Willems, whose seat was largely dismantled in redistricting. This is the #28 seat by registration for Democrats and one of the few possible pickups. Their candidate, Scott Peterson, is former mayor of Mt. Vernon, which is the Dems' traditional go-to place for talent in this are (if the names Foege, Osterberg, and Loebsack mean anything to you).

House District 95
Registration: D 6258, R 6441, N 7689, total 20462, R +183
OPEN - Quentin Stanerson (R) retiring

Stanerson beat Democrat Kristi Keast twice - by 200 votes when the district was new in 2012, and more comfortably in 2014. But he's stepping down after just two terms.

Both parties have settled on their candidates. Republicans are running Coggon area farmer Louis Zumbach (relation if any to Senator Dan unknown but they can probably split the yard sign bill). Democrats have retired superintendent Richard Whitehead. This evenly split seat is critical to control for both sides.

House District 96
Registration: D 4432, R 5956, N 8119, total 18530, R +1524
Lee Hein (R), incumbent

Hein moved in 2011 to stay with this district after getting just barely paired with fellow Republican Brian Moore. He had beaten Democrat Ray Zirkelbach in 2010 when the district was bluer. Democrats have heir first candidate since 2010 in Matt Hanlon of Anamosa.

Senate District 49
Registration: D 12202, R 10794, N 16364, total 39468, D +1408
Rita Hart (D), holdover

House District 97
Registration: D 5690, R 6711, N 8781, total 21246, R +1021
Norlin Mommsen (R), incumbent

Democrats made an effort at this seat when it was open in 2014, but Mommsen won with a solid 60% and Democrats have no one in this cycle.

House District 98
Registration: D 6512, R 4083, N 7583, total 18222, D +2429
Mary Wolfe (D), incumbent

Defense attorney Wolfe won a close race when the seat was open in 2010, beat an independent in `12, and was unopposed in 2014. Jeannine Eldrenkamp, an activist on "victims of family court," seems like a self-starter for the Republicans.

Senate District 50
Registration: D 16666, R 9020, N 12545, total 38382, D +7646
Pam Jochum (D), incumbent

Jochum moved smoothly over to the Senate in 2008 (a 70% win over Some Dude John Hulsizer Jr.) after 16 years in the House, when Mike Connolly retired.

Hulshizer is moving up on our Perennial Persistent Candidate list, though he has a ways to go to catch Brett Nelson and Eric Cooper. He also lost a 2006 House race to Jochum and the 2012 GOP primary for this seat. Undeterred, he's trying again.

House District 99
Registration: D 8806, R 5161, N 6589, total 20632, D +3645
Abby Finkenauer (D), incumbent

This seat opened up when Pat Murphy left for his congressional run in 2014. In a bit of an upset, Finkenauer beat attorney Steve Drahozal, who was presumed to be Murphy's choice, in the Democratic primary.  She then dispatched a late starting Some Dude Republican and is unopposed for now.

House District 100
Registration: D 7860, R 3859, N 5956, total 17750, D +4001
Charles Isenhart (D), incumbent

In our last district Isenhart, elected in 2008 when Pam Jochum moved to the Senate, has seen no opposition since 2010.