District of the Day: Senate District 36, House Districts 71 and 72
Senate District 36
Registration: D 12112, R 12376, N 14570, total 39075, R+ 264
Incumbent: Steve Sodders, D-State Center
Sodders keeps all of his home base, Marshall County, which makes up two-thirds of this seat. The old district had all of Hardin County and the tiny piece of Ackley in Franklin County. The district moves east to take in all of Tama County and a small piece of southern Black Hawk.
Sodders took a Republican-leaning seat from the GOP in 2008 when Larry McKibben retired, winning by more than 3,000 votes. 2008 was a Democratic wave, of course, and Sodders was fortunate not to be on the ballot in 2010. The new lines will help him in 2012, as he sheds 1500 Republicans and this becomes a true swing seat.
House District 71
Registration: D 5988, R 5687, N 6553, total 18234, D+ 301
Incumbent: Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown
The District Draws Itself: With a census population of 27,552, Marshalltown is 90.4% of ideal district size. Even the rural part stays almost the same, adding one township and keeping the communities of Albion and Liscomb.
Democrat Mark Smith is the beneficiary of this geopolitical and numeric serendipity, and of course the partisan balance barely changes. This remains a swing seat, as it's been for years (one upside of The District Draws Itself is comparisons across decades are possible). There was a 58 vote race here in 1992, and Smith won the seat in 2000 by knocking off three term Republican Beverly Nelson-Forbes by just 275. He settled in to the point where he was unopposed in 2004 and 2006, and beat Republican Jane Jech by more than 1700 in 2008. But in a rematch with Jech against the 2010 GOP wave, Smith survived by just a 303 vote margin.
House District 72
Registration: D 6124, R 6689, N 8017, total 20841, R+ 565
Open seat; incumbent: Lance Horbach, R-Tama, not seeking re-election
Tama County has been the core of a district for a few maps, but always seems to get partnered toward a different compass point. Horbach won his first term by nine (!) votes over Democrat Bill Brand in 1998. (If I remember right, election night had Horbach ahead by two.) That district ran east into Benton County. Four years later, Horbach's turf shifted northwest as the district gained all of Grundy (and lost the southeast corner of Tama County around Chelsea). This decade Tama County is whole again, but gets sent west to pick up all of Marshall County south and west of Marshalltown. (This probably means a Tama-Poweshiek district in 2021 since every other direction has been done.) It also adds what looks like the leftovers of Black Hawk County: two rural townships and La Porte City. "The long skinny shape of Big Creek Township gives this district a little panhandle, which I like," said redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering.
What this district won't have is Horbach, who announced before The Map was even released that he's not running in 2012. Whoever does run will get a district that's significantly less Republican. The old Tama-Grundy seat had a GOP registration edge of almost 2500, and Horbach had gradually settled into the comfort of uncontested races. This new district has a Republican registration margin of just 565.
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