Monday, July 21, 2008

Democrat Has Big Money Edge in Open House District 89

Democrat Has Big Money Edge in Open House District 89

The Iowa House District 89 race, once again, features a young first time candidate against an older contender with deep community ties.

But with the retirement of longtime incumbent Republican incumbent Sandy Greiner, the parties have reversed roles. It's the Republicans who have the young candidate with Jarad Klein, while the Democrats have the older contender with Larry Marek.

Marek rolled up a big fund raising lead in the July 19 reports, with $14,924 cash on hand to Klein's $3,131.

But Klein is clearly a GOP priority, with his large red and white signs on the highways of Washington County outnumbering those for higher on the ticket Republican candidates.

Democrats made this a top priority race in 2004 with Mark Shearer, who represented Washington County in non-consecutive terms in the House and Senate. In 2006, underfunded Democrat Mark Nolte, young and with few long term ties to the district, made the race closer than expected.

Klein says his relative youth – he's 27 to Klein's 68 – has its advantages “The energy and enthusiasm wears off on other folks,” he told Iowa Independent at the Republican state convention. “As a young farmer, a young family man, and a young businessman, I believe I'm the best person represent our district.”

Along with a family farm background, Klein has worked as a legislative clerk and a Republican Party campaign staffer.

Greiner, who is stepping down after 16 years in office, is the only representative the district has had under the present lines. First elected to the House in 1992 out of a district in Washington and Keokuk counties, Greiner moved to the Senate in 2000. But she drew the short straw when three senators wound up in one district after redistricting, and moved back to the House in 2002.

Washington County makes up about 70 percent of the district, which also includes parts of Johnson and Jefferson Counties. Washington has traditionally leaned Republican, but has trended the other way recently. Democrat Becky Schmitz carried the House 89 half of her Senate district in her narrow 2006 win in Senate District 45 over incumbent David Miller, and top of the ticket Democrats have run between 48 and 52 percent in the district since the turn of the century.

“Everything you hear on mainstream media is pretty negative,” Klein said of Republican prospects for 2008. “But the reality is night and day,” he said, citing the number and enthusiasm of volunteers.

“This is one of those races that will probably be decided by a few hundred votes either way,” House Speaker Pat Murphy told the crowd at a Marek fund raiser. “This is a winnable race and we're targeting it. The big difference is Larry has long term ties to Washington County,” said the speaker, prompting a handful of chuckles from the partisan crowd.

Klein and his family have farmed in both Washington County and in Keokuk County, which is outside the district. His address is on Keokuk-Washington Road, literally on the boundary of the district. “He isn't well known at all,” said Marek supporter Pete Morrison of Klein. “No one knows who he is.”

Klein said that's not what he's hearing while he's doorknocking. “They're hearing the message” of promoting strong families, building a strong job-producing economy, and balancing the state budget .

Murphy said House Democrats have tried to recruit candidates who fit their districts. Marek has a farm and soy marketing background and helped pass the Riverside casino referendum and organize the casino's charitable arm. “I've been involved with renewable fuels and soil conservation,” Marek told Iowa Independent. He's setting a goal of increasing Iowa's wind energy from 1 percent of the state's electrical generation to 25 or 30 percent, with a corresponding increase in jobs in the renewable sector.

“With Larry's experience as an assistant soil commissioner, he'll be a real asset on flood control,” said Rep. John Whittaker of Hillsboro, who represents the other half of Schmitz's Senate district.

Yet Marek also has a rural fiscal streak. “As a farmer, keeping taxes in line has always been important to me,” he told Iowa Independent.

Klein says as a full-time farmer he understands the tax pressures. “A lo of people, they have to go to town and get that second job because of taxes.”

No comments: