Friday, March 16, 2012

District Of The Day Reboot: Iowa Senate District 34, Iowa House District 67 & 68

Senate District 34
Registration: D 12855, R 14159, N 16582, total 43648, R +1304
Incumbent: Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids

It was a genius move by Terry Branstad: since he was required to name a Democrat to the state utility board anyway, he went to the Senate and picked Marion senator Swati Dandekar. The special election win would have tied the Senate and changed the game.

But then Republicans split at convention and rejected Branstad's preferred choice, while Democrats scored a candidate recruiting coup with a 100 percent name ID former TV anchor. The Battle of Marion was probably over as soon as Liz Mathis entered the race, but Democrats worked like it wasn't and pulled off a relatively comfortable win.

The changes in the district lines were a bit of an issue in the special election. Mathis lives inside both old Senate 18 and new Senate 34. Republican Cindy Golding, however, lives in new Senate 48 and said she would run for re-election there if she won the special. (She eventually decided not to run.)

The geography changes a lot, but more than half the seat is still Marion. In fact, since it grew to 34,768, more than the ideal House District size, Marion is split between House districts for the first time ever.

More than any other in the state, this district looks like it was drawn by redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering. But it follows city limits and other regular boundaries; it's the city limits themselves that are a mess, a legacy of last decade's annexation war between Robins, Hiawatha, Cedar Rapids and Marion.

The special election was probably the Republican's best shot at beating Mathis. Their candidate this year, Randi Shannon of Cedar Rapids, is playing all the usual Constitutional Limited Government tea party cards and looks like a self-starter.

House District 67
Registration: D 6016, R 7537, N 8157, total 21733, R +1521
Incumbent: Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha

Paulsen used to have a rural-urban mix and took in most of the land area of Linn County. Now he gets an all-metro district, losing eight small towns and three of the four corners of the county. Paulsen keeps Hiawatha and Robins, both of which grew in population and area last decade. He loses the part of Cedar Rapids between the south side of Hiawatha and 42nd Street (precinct 46 and 47). Instead he gets the Bowman Woods area northeast of Council Street and Collins Road (precincts 29, 30, 31). He also gets the 4th ward of Marion, which is basically everything north and west of Indian Creek and is the more Republican part of town.

The old district was a swing seat, with a slim Democratic edge, and Paulsen had relatively close races his first three terms. Then in 2008, his opponent dropped out after voting had already started; the name on the ballot with a D after it still got 42%. Soon after the 2008 election, he took over as Minority Leader from Christopher Rants, and that helped establish him to the point that he avoided opposition in 2010.

Renee Schulte's 2010 Democratic opponent, attorney Mark Seidl, was redrawn into the district and is challenging Paulsen. That was one of the few districts where Democrats looked like they were going to play offense. But there was too much defense in 2010 to play any offense, and Seidl fell about 1100 votes short.

The Paulsen for State House Committee has a whopping $215,580 in the bank on the January 19 report, but most of that is no doubt meant for his team's targeted races. Seidl for State Representative had $20,359, making him one of the best financed challenger candidates.

House District 68
Registration: D 6839, R 6622, N 8425, total 21915, D +217
Incumbent: Nick Wagner, R-Marion

Just five years ago, the late Mary Lundby was leading the Republicans in the Iowa Senate. Now, in a symbolically powerful indication of the demise of the moderate wing of the GOP, her son Daniel Lundby is running for the Marion House seat she once held... as a Democrat.

“The Republican Party and the people I was supporting no longer placed the best interests of Iowa and its voters before their own party agenda.”" said Daniel Lundby in his press release.

Lundby is challenging Republican Rep. Nick Wagner, who went to the House in 2008 in a seat shuffle prompted by Mary Lundby's retirement. (She had planned to run for the Board of Supervisors, but cancer that had been in remission returned and she passed away in early 2009.) Wagner had lost to Swati Dandekar in the 2006 House race, but by a credible margin of 685. He came back to win the open seat race over Gretchen Lawyer in 2008, one of the few GOP gains in that Democratic wave year. Surprisingly, Democrats made no effort at all in 2010 as Wagner walked over in an uncontested election.

The district no longer includes all of Marion, which for the first time this census is larger than a House district. The most Republican part of town is now in speaker Kraig Paulsen's district. Wagner keeps the remaining three-fourths of Marion. But he loses the rural stuff he had to the north in Marion and Maine townships. Instead he goes south to the Johnson County line, picking up Bertram, Ely and their surrounding townships. This turns a Republican leaning swing seat into a Democratic leaning swing seat.

Nick Wagner for State House had a lead on the January 19 finance report, with $16,060 cash on hand to Lundby for Iowa House's $7592.

Original post 6/09/2011 Statewide Map: Front | Back (with City Insets) | Old Senate, House

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