Monday, June 06, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 31, House Districts 61 and 62

District of the Day: Senate District 31, House Districts 61 and 62

Senate District 31

Registration: D 16166, R 6529, N 13458, total 36176, D+ 9637
Incumbent: Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo

An excellent Democratic district gets even better with minor line changes. Dotzler moved over to the Senate in 2002 after three terms in the House and has had easy races, winning with 63% in 2010. He keeps all of Waterloo northeast of the river and a similar chunk of the southeast, along with Elk Run Heights, Evansdale and Raymond. The changes are at the edges and are a bigger deal on the map than on the demographics. Dotzler gives up a couple rural fragments and picks up a couple different townships, Gilbertville and Washburn.

House District 61

Registration: D 7062, R 4058, N 6969, total 18,099, D+ 3004
Incumbent: Anesa Kajtazovic, D-Waterloo

Old House 21 had four winners in four cycles. Former TV anchor Tami Wiencek upset longtime legislator Don Shoultz in 2006 for one of the few Republican gains anywhere in the nation that year. Wiencek cut an earnest and moderate profile in her term, but when the chips were down she voted the party line which didn't help in this district. Democrats fought local celebrity with local celebrity, and recruited a seemingly top-tier candidate in former Hawkeye football star Kerry Burt to take the seat back in 2008.

But Burt self-destructed with personal and ethical issues in his first term. Privately Democrats hoped and begged for Burt to step down, but he went ahead and filed for re-election. Enter Anesa Kajtazovic and her feel-good biography: Bosnian refugee gets through college in three years. Burt didn't drop out until he was actually indicted in the school tuition case, after the deadline to take his name off the ballot. So technically Kajtazovic, the only Democrat with the nerve to step up and actually challenge him, beat Burt in the primary with 91% of the vote, which has to be some kind of record against an incumbent.

Republicans who had hoped for an easy gain against a scandalized incumbent were helpless against Kajtazovic, who beat former Waterloo mayor John Rooff with 59% to immediately earn two lines in the record books: first Bosnian-Iowan in the Legislature and at age 24 the youngest female legislator in state history. She's been winning headlines for hard work and enthusiasm, and Kajtazovic is a good bet to be the first incumbent re-elected out of this district since Shoultz in 2004.

Kajtazovic keeps roughly the same chunk of southeast Waterloo. The district grows to the south and east, gaining four rural townships, Gilbertville and Washburn. She sheds Eagle Township south of town. The changes help the district's Democratic margin by about 350 registered voters.

House District 62

Registration: D 9104, R 2471, N 6489, total 18,077, D+ 6633
Incumbent: Deborah Berry, D-Waterloo

Berry, who was then in her first city council term, finished first in the 2002 primary when this seat opened up. But she only won 33%, short of the 35% required. The district then saw two (!) special nominating conventions and some hard feelings, before Berry finally emerged as the nominee after the second convention. (To be direct: three African-American candidates, including Berry, split the primary vote. A poorly attended first convention nominated the lone non-black candidate, who was later persuaded to step down.)

Republicans saw an opening amidst the hard feelings and nominated former county supervisor Norm Granger (yet another ex-Hawkeye footballer). Waterloo has had some history with black Republicans, electing Granger and longtime supervisor Leon Mosley. But the partisan lean of the district helped Berry to a two to one win, with smooth sailing since. A 2006 opponent dropped out, then Berry won an easy three to one 2008 primary win against a power plant opponent (Berry has been, shall we say, utility-friendly in her career). No opposition at all in 2010.

The new district keeps its core: all of Waterloo northeast of the Cedar River. Berry picks up about a precinct in town, loses Poyner township, and keeps Elk Run Heights, Evansdale and Raymond. This is the second most Democratic district in the state, ranking between the two Iowa City seats.

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