Thursday, May 19, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 19, House District 37 and 38

District of the Day: Senate District 19, House District 37 and 38

All you western Iowa rural Republicans who got paired? This is where your district went.

Ankeny has grown enough in the past decade that, for the first time, it gets split into two House districts. Old House District 70 was, basically, the city of Ankeny, which with its 2000 population of 27,000 was about 90% of a House seat. By 2010 Ankeny had grown to more than 45,000 and now dominates two House seats and is 3/4 of a Senate seat.

Senate District 19

Registration: D 11993, R 14170, N 11765, total 37984, R+ 2177
Incumbent: Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny

To get back down to the right population, this Senate district sheds almost a whole House district worth of turf to the west, including Polk City, Johnston (which doubled over the decade) and Grimes. That's all basically Erik Helland's turf, as two House districts turn into three.

This had been Jeff Lamberti's home base until he left to challenge Leonard Boswell in 2006. Democrats recruited a perfect candidate, Ankeny mayor Merle Johnson, but he came up just short against Larry Noble. Noble won an uncontested race in 2010, then immediately stepped down to become Public Safety commissioner in the Branstad Administration.

In the hurry-up special in January, Republicans had a hard-fought convention, with six candidates and five ballots. Winner Whitver is an ex-Cyclone footballer and a Drake law student, who had lost a 2006 House race on about as different a turf as you can imagine, inner city Des Moines, to Ako Abdul-Samad. Whitver easily won the special 63%-37%. Just 30, he's definitely on the GOP rising star list, and he has almost a full term to work the shrunken district before he's up in `14.

House District 37

Registration: D 5692, R 8060, N 6191, total 19972, R+ 2368
No incumbent

House District 38

Registration: D 6301, R 6110, N 5574, total 18012, D+ 191
Incumbent: Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny

Since Ankeny is about a House seat and a half, it needs a little extra turf. New District 37 goes north to pick up Alleman and east to the Bondurant city line. New 38 goes south to the Des Moines city limits, and includes Saylorville.

Kevin Koester easily beat a primary opponent in 2008 when Republican Carmine Boal retired. He drew a competitive (54%-46%) challenge from Democrat Matt Pfaltzgraf. Koester drew a bye in 2010, while Pfaltzgraf was in Iowa City running the No on 21 Bars campaign that set student turnout records but fell short.

But since then Koester's luck has changed. He got burned in the 2011 special Senate nominating convention, won by Whitver. In a major slap in the face to a sitting House member, not only was he not nominated, he was the second of six candidates to be eliminated.

Koester also finds himself on the wrong side of the district line. He's in the south, in the Democratic leaning district, while 37, to the north, is the one with a solid GOP margin. A move in an area with such high growth would normally be OK, but Koester's rejection by party activists might see him vulnerable to a primary. Pfaltzgraf, meanwhile, could head back home.

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