Wow. Just wow.
Given the choice between 1) a former US Attorney with Harvard Law on the resume and 2) "the governor's choice" with a well known family and business name, Senate District 18 Republicans chose 3) the other one. The party activist.
Linn County GOP
The special election nominating system itself is the best explanation for this seemingly odd result. In a pre-convention piece that didn't make a prediction, Craig Robinson wrote:
While county GOP leadership elections are not typically competitive contests, Golding’s position with the county party shouldn’t be over looked. It means that the most ardent activists know her or know of her. That’s not necessarily the case with the other candidates, and county activists tend to favor one of their own over someone they don’t know.Remember, tonight's voters were mainly party activists who went to the 2010 caucuses on a Saturday afternoon, the hardest core of the hardest core, and they voted for one of their own. I've seen this in conventions in my party, too. A core group of party activists can be pretty insular and sometimes resents "outsiders" swooping in just when the stakes are greatest. The special election nomination process is one of the few places where the party activists have real, tangible power.
So they picked the strongest possible Linn County Republican... but the weakest candidate for the election. In a district with a long tradition of choosing above the fray moderates of both parties, an angle Mathis was already taking in her announcement press release, the GOP chose someone with "Republican co-chair" as her main credential.
Complicating things more, Golding lives in the old Senate District 18, where this election is being held... but NOT in the new Senate District 34, which includes the vast majority of Old 18. So if she wins, she either moves to stay with her voters, or stays put and runs in a very different district that has none of Marion and most of Jones County. (Robinson: "Moving will not be easy since Golding lives in a very expensive home.") That's Senate 48, with a dead-even party balance; Rep. Nate Willems (D-Lisbon) is already running there.
But that's next year. For now, this is about time and money and ground game.