District of the Day: Senate District 44, House Districts 87 and 88
Senate District 44
Registration: D 15807, R 10288, N 13113, total 39229, D+ 5519
Incumbent: Tom Courtney, D-Burlington
Here's a good illustration of the ripple effect of redistricting. A triple-up two districts to the west in 2001 led to significantly different lines for Gene Fraise of Fort Madison and an empty district in Burlington. The beneficiary was Tom Courtney, who slid comfortably into the seat without without GOP opposition (he beat an independent Some Dude) in 2002 and no opposition at all two years later. The Republicans finally tried in `08; David Kerr only scored 40% but carried Louisa.
The revised district keeps Des Moines and Louisa counties intact. Courtney also keeps a chunk of western Muscatine County, which grows. Despite that the party margin is almost identical.
But it's polarized; the Courtney Senate seat is made of of one heavily Democratic House seat and another that's dead even.
House District 87
Registration: D 9569, R 4099, N 6322, total 20006, D+ 5470
Incumbent: Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington
Another District Draws Itself seat; Burlington's population is 84% of ideal House district size. West Burlington historically was carved off, but now they're together and are 94% of a district. Lose three townships to the north, add one on the south, and that's Dennis Cohoon's district. He's been in the House since 1987 and sometimes gets an opponent. Some Dude Dave Selmon actually held Cohoon to 59% in last year's toxic climate.
House District 88
Registration: D 6238, R 6189, N 6791, total 19223, D+ 49
Incumbent: Tom Sands, R-Wapello
The Des Moines Register recently dubbed part of this district "the Hispanic Highway" - Iowa Highway 70 from West Liberty to Nichols, Conesville, and the Columbus Junction area. This is the descendent of the district I ran in two maps ago, though I moved north and it moved south. Espanol was already common at the door 15 years ago, and this census both West Liberty and Conesville reported Hispanic majorities in the census with Columbus Junction just short at 48%.
The current version of the district got a bizarre start in 2002. My former opponent, Barry Brauns, got paired up with fellow Republican Jim Hahn in a very unbalanced pair: Hahn's whole district plus Brauns' one precinct. He "moved" to a post office box in Nichols, then bailed on the race just after the primary. (Brauns "moved back" soon after to try for a comeback, but we'll discuss that Monday.)
The subsequent Republican convention nominated banker Tom Sands, then of Columbus Junction (he's now moved downstream to Wapello). Democrats look at the lines in Des Moines County and hope for the best, and have made some credible efforts, but Sands has lasted a decade now. The toughest challenge was in 2008, when former Columbus City mayor Frank Best held him to just 53%. Despite that, Sands got a bye in 2010.
Sands keeps the same basic configuration, with Louisa as the core of the district. In Des Moines County, he keeps the rural and small towns west of the city, but loses West Burlington to Cohoon. The seat expands north geographically, making up for population loss; no place was hit harder by the 2008 flood than Louisa County. Sands adds most of the northern tier of Muscatine County: West Liberty, Atalissa, Moscow, and rural Wilton, though the city of Wilton itself stays with Jeff Kaufmann. Sands keeps Nichols and Conesville in western Muscatine but drops Fruitland (the fruit in question would be melons) south of Muscatine city.
The result is a dead-even swing seat. Democrats are hoping to recruit Danville mayor Roger Doofenshmirtz, but Doofenschmirtz has not made his party preferences clear. Repeated scandals involving his older brother could also derail his campaign.
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