Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Northeast Corner Shakes Out

A triple announcement this week resolves a redistricting pair-up for Democrats in the state's northeast corner with a comeback attempt, a retirement, and a re-elect announcement.

The seemingly coordinated rollout began on Tuesday when former one-term representative John Beard of Decorah announced for Senate District 28.

That one caught my attention, because the empty seat had been rumored as an escape route for either one of two House members paired up in district 55: Roger Thomas of Elkader and Andrew Wenthe of Hawkeye.

The other shoes dropped Wednesday, with the two emails from the House Democrats landing an hour and a half apart: Wenthe, an extremely narrow winner in 2010, is stepping down, while Thomas is staying and running in the GOP-leaning House 55.

In retrospect it makes some sense. Oelwein-based Wenthe was on almost all new turf and had even speculated about moving south to Republican Dan Rasmussen's Oelwein-Independence based House 64. (Does Wenthe NOT doing that mean that one term Democrat Gene Ficken, who knocked off Rasmussen in `08 but lost the rematch in `10, may be making a comeback?)

Thomas will be running on new ground in Winneshiek, but the Senate map seems like a good fit for Beard. He gained the Winneshiek-Allamakee based house seat in 2008 when Republican Chuck Gipp retired. Beard was unopposed as of filing day in 2010, but Republican Bob Hager got in late and won in November.

The new map splits Winneshiek and Allamakee between House 55 and 56 (where Allamakee-based Hager is running again). This corner of the state is historically Republican, but trended strongly Democratic in 2008.

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