Thursday, June 18, 2009

Randy Feenstra in Down-Ballot Race

Freshman Sen. Feenstra Looking at State Treasurer

The Iowa Republican is reporting, or trial-ballooning, that freshman State Sen. Randy Feenstra is looking at a run for state treasurer next year against Democratic incumbent Mike Fitzgerald.

Is Sioux County, the most Republican in the state (81 percent McCain, and even hapless Senate candidate Christopher "Not Tom Harkin" Reed won) a reasonable base for a statewide race? Feenstra "has been actively trying to raise his profile ever since" coming to the Senate in January, write the IR. He went to the state senate unopposed, in both primary and general, when relative moderate (by Sioux County standards) Dave Mulder was squeezed out after one term.

It's a no-risk way for a mid-term state senator to boost his name ID. And Feenstra was county treasurer before going to the Senate so he can boast some qualifications. But his highest profile efforts in the Senate have been on gay marriage, not exactly a relevant topic to the job he may seek. Even Sioux County Republicans had enough of former senator Ken Veenstra's gay-bashing in 2004, when he lost his primary to Mulder.

Mike Fitzgerald gets just enough attention (mostly from keeping his name in the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt unclaimed property ads) that he's weathered the weak Democratic years since he first won office in 1982, when he beat longtime Republican incumbent Maurice Baringer. (Baringer's previous opponent in 1978? Current US Senate candidate Bob Krause.)

Fitzgerald went totally unopposed in 2006. He dispatched a relatively high profile candidate, future US Attorney and ex-Hawkeye footballer Matt Whitaker, in 2002 with just as much ease as he beat no-namer Joan Bolin (who?) in 1998: 55 percent each time.

Downballot offices depend upon the straight ticket (actual or de facto) more than a governor does. In 2006, there was roughly a 3 percent dropoff between the total votes for governor and in the two contested downballot statewide races (Mauro vs. Allison last second replacement Hanusa for Secretary of State and Bill Northey-Dusky Terry surprise primary winner Denise O'Brien for Sec of Ag). That's less of an under-vote than I expected to see. The only way a Sioux County base helps is by getting more voters to mark their way down that ballot below the top of the ticket races, and a 3 percent boost in the northwest corner isn't enough to overcome a low-key, noncontroversial figure like Fitzgerald.

Still to be determined: the new nickname for Sioux County that would be a conservative analogy to my own People's Republic of Johnson County.


Guardian of the Chicken Coop said...

Just a technical. Mike Fitzgerald actually beat Baringer in 1982. He did not retire.

John said...

I stand corrected, thanks