Saturday, August 18, 2012

District Of The Day 3: Iowa Senate District 26, Iowa House District 51 & 52

Senate District 26
Registration: D 12176, R 11736, N 16360, total 40291, D +440
Incumbents: Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton and Mary Jo Wilhelm, D-Cresco

For the second straight decade, redistricting has been unkind to Merlin Bartz. He goes from having a comfortable Republican registration edge of nearly 5000 to a district with a Democratic edge and a Democratic incumbent.

Mary Jo Wilhelm knocked off two-term Republican Mark Zieman in 2008; Zieman's dad had held the seat before him. The old district had a break-even registration and was four whole counties: Wilhelm's base of Howard (where she was a supervisor) plus Chickasaw, Winneshiek and Allamakee. Wilhelm won by about 1000 votes and carried all four counties. She keeps Howard, Chickasaw and a corner of Winneshiek, but loses Decorah and most of the Winneshiek population. (Decorah trended very blue that year.)

Bartz first went to the Senate in 1992 after one House term, then won again in 1996 and 2000. He used his free-ride year in 1998 to run for secretary of agriculture, but in a bit of an upset lost the primary.

In 2001, Bartz got paired up with Thurman Gaskill in the 2001 map, and resolved that problem by resigning during the 2002 session to take a Bush 43 administration Department of Agriculture job. That let Gaskill, in an even number district, hold over till 2004. When Gaskill retired in 2008, Bartz moved right back in.

The new district partners didn't even border each other before; they were separated by Democrat Amanda Ragan. The Bartz seat was his home county of Worth plus Winnebago, Hancock, Franklin, and most of the land in Cerro Gordo; he had Clear Lake but Ragan had Mason City. His 1990s district was Worth, all of Cerro Gordo, and a corner of Mitchell.
Floyd and Mitchell Counties, and a piece of eastern Cerro Gordo up to the limits of Mason City, come in from Ragan's old seat. This turf is new to Wilhelm and mostly new to Bartz. This is good news for Wilhelm (but bad news for Ragan.)

So Wilhelm has the geographic advantage, and a voter registration edge too. Indeed, it's better than her old district, which was break-even. Bartz has also gotten involved in a tin-eared legal fight with his neighbors, demanding that they pay half the cost of his livestock fence.

This is the second of the two Senate districts that are split between Congressional districts. (The other was Dennis Black's 15th district, split between Loebsack and Boswell/Latham.) Here, House 51 goes east into Braley's district, while House 52 is part of the east extension of Steve King's.

July 19 Campaign Finance Report: Citizens For Good Government (Bartz committee), Wilhelm for Iowa Senate Bartz has veen very active, raising $15,180.00 (almost all from four-figure donors)  and spending $16,731.47 during the period. He has $16,111.18 on hand. Wilhelm raised almost as much -- $14,345 -- in a mix of locals, PACs, Senate colleagues and a few heavy hitters. She spent $2,929.75, giving her the cash on hand advantage at $19,594.59. And of course who knows how much outside cash will flow in.

House District 51
Registration: D 5675, R 6453, N 7732, total 19872, R +778
Incumbent: Josh Byrnes, R-Osage

Republicans picked up this seat easily in 2010 when six term Democrat Mark Kuhn stepped down. Josh Byrnes had easily won the a Republican primary and beat Kurt Meyer, a losing candidate in the 2008 Democratic congressional primary, by 2400 votes.

The district remains a swing seat but the lines change a lot. Byrnes keeps only his home county of Mitchell, which is about a third of a district. The new turf goes west to Worth and east to Howard and a corner of Winneshiek. The three whole counties are similar in size.

Manly Democrat -- that's his residence, not an assessment of his machismo --Eric Hungerford is challenging here. (We had a female candidate who was a Fertile Democrat a couple cycles ago.)

July 19 Campaign Finance Report: Byrnes for Statehouse, Friends of Eric S. Hungerford Byrnes had $5,728.81, Hungerford just $780.

House District 52
Registration: D 6501, R 5283, N 8628, total 20419, D +1218
Incumbent: Brian Quirk, D-New Hampton, no Republican candidate

Brian Quirk is the sole survivor of the "Six Pack" of conservative Democratic legislators who blocked key bills, including labor's must-pass list, in the glory days of the Trifecta. They like it at home as he won by 900 votes in the tough 2010 cycle over Spillville mayor Michael Klimish, who's running elsewhere this year.

This decade Quirk's district moves west. Quirk keeps all of Chickasaw, but now Floyd County makes up the largest piece of the district. Quirk also gets a strip of eastern Cerro Gordo, 500 more Democrats, and no official Republican opposition. Independent opponent Craig Clark, former mayor of Rudd, lost to Josh Byrnes overwhelmingly (77-23%) in the 2010 GOP primary. With Republicans nominating candidates at conventions literally from the audience, it's interesting that they didn't just let Clark fill the ballot line for them.

July 19 Campaign Finance Report: Brian Quirk for State Representative

Senate District 26, House District 51 & 52: District of the Day 1 - 5/30/2011 | District of the Day 2 - 3/16/2012

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