An uncontested political race is like a forfeit in sports. It helps the won-loss record, but it's no fun for the fans and, even though it's the other team's fault, feels vaguely unsportsmanlike.
There's 125 ballgames this fall in the battle for the Iowa Legislature. More players may yet get on the field, but as of the primary, one of the big two teams is forfeiting the fight in 36 of those contests.
Parties have until Aug. 15 to nominate legislative candidates by convention. Minor party and independent candidates have the same deadline.
Unopposed seats are a dirty little open secret of politics. Neither political party responded to requests for a post-primary update. Parties like to keep the free rides they have, don't want to look bad for failed candidate recruitment efforts and no one wants to acknowledge that sometimes the lines and demographics determine the outcome and some races are just not winnable.
Take for example open Senate District 2 in the state's northwest corner, where George Bush's 2004 margin in Sioux County was larger than his statewide total. That's right, if Sioux County had been ceded to South Dakota, John Kerry would have won a 98-county Iowa. District 2 is one of six Senate races, out of 25, that Democrats are letting slide.
Most of those are on heavily GOP turf. But if an election year turns into a massive partisan landslide, like 1964 or 1974 for the Democrats or 1994 for the Republicans, parties may well regret any lost opportunities such as Senate District 30. Rumors of a top-tier Democratic candidate in that West Des Moines district, against Republican incumbent Pat Ward, failed to materialize.
Republicans are only leaving one Democratic senator unopposed, with no candidate against the state's longest-serving legislator, Jack Kibbie, in District 4. But they've left 20 House seats unchallenged.
Many of those are in heavily Democratic areas. The three House members with districts that are entirely in Johnson County are all unopposed. Greens and Libertarians have run, but Vicki Lensing has not seen a GOP opponent since her first run in 2000, and Mary Mascher has not faced a Republican since her second term in 1996.
While Democrat Doris Kelley only carried the then-open House District 20 in Black Hawk County with 51.5 percent in 2006, there is no Republican candidate this time. The GOP is also letting Mary Gaskill's House District 93 in Ottumwa slide. Though Wapello County is also strongly Democratic, the seat was held briefly by Republican Galen Davis. However, his one win was mainly the result of some divisive Democratic primaries.
Democrats are running candidates in 90 of 100 House contests, leaving 10 uncontested.
The Democrats aren't running against Mike May, R-Spirit Lake, in House District 6. Democrat Greg Stevens once held the seat. Redistricting made the district less Democratic in 2002, but he held on by less than 100 votes before May beat him by 1000 votes in 2004.
Democrats also made serious recent efforts at House District 79 centered in Cedar County. Democrat Mike Owen ran hard against GOP incumbent Dan Boddicker in 2002 and lost a close race to Jeff Kaufmann in 2004. Democratic numbers slipped a bit in 2006 when Owen chose not to run. Democrat Rebecca Spears, a self-starter unknown to party activists, filed this year but quit the race.
House District 69 is open this year as moderate Walt Tomenga is stepping down. He saw a competitive 2004 race but won handily in 2006. Conservative Erik Helland won big in the GOP primary, and moderates who backed Tomenga and primary loser Al Lorenzen have no Democratic option.
Races with no Republican candidate
Senate District 4: Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg
House District 15: Brian Quirk, D-New Hampton
House District 20: Doris Kelley, D-Waterloo
House District 22: Deborah Berry, D-Waterloo
House District 24: Roger Thomas, D-Elkader
House District 25: Tom Schueller, D-Maquoketa
House District 30: Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville
House District 34: Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids
House District 42: Geri Huser, D-Altoona
House District 46: Lisa Heddens, D-Ames (this race will likely have a Libertarian Party candidate)
House District 48: Donovan Olson, D-Boone
House District 49: Helen Miller, D-Ft. Dodge
House District 66: Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines
House District 68: Rick Olson, D-Des Moines
House District 77: Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City
House District 78: Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City
House District 88: Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington
House District 90: John Whitaker, D-Hillsboro
House District 93: Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa
Races with no Democratic candidate
Senate District 2: Open Seat (Dave Mulder retiring, Randy Feenstra GOP nominee)
Senate District 26: Steve Kettering, R-Lake View
Senate District 28: James Seymour, R-Woodbine
Senate District 30: Pat Ward, R-West Des Moines
Senate District 32: Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale
Senate District 36: Paul McKinley, R-Chariton
House District 5: Royd Chambers, R-Sheldon
House District 6: Mike May, R-Spirit Lake
House District 51: Rod Roberts, R-Carroll
House District 63: J. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale
House District 69: Open Seat (Walt Tomenga retiring, Erik Helland GOP nominee)
House District 79: Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton
House District 82: Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf
House District 83: Steven Olson, R-DeWitt
House District 97: Rich Anderson, R-Clarinda
House District 98: Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia