One of my pet peeves is the oxymoron "meteoric rise." As any space geek knows, meteors FALL.
Kent Sorenson's career can now truly be described as meteoric. In the wake of more details on the charges that he, tl;dr, sold his caucus support to the highest bidder(s), Michele Bachman and Ron Paul in turn, Sorenson took the hint from Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix and resigned late this afternoon.
The national media, bored from waiting around for the next nothing to happen in the shutdown standoff, is climbing onto this story quick. But as a local on the ground, I'm more interested for the moment in the strictly Iowa implications.
Remember the Battle Of Marion in 2011, when Swati Dandekar turned coat and risked the Democratic Senate majority to go to work for Terry Branstad? (Anesa Kajtazovic, Pat Murphy, Monica Vernon and That Other Dude do.) Remember how the entire Iowa political infrastructure descended on Linn County?
Staffers, get ready to spend LOTS of time in Warren and Madison Counties.
This is a swing seat, the lines not changed much since last decade when three senators won in three cycles and the House seats were also revolving doors. My old District of the Day post is relevant again. Staci Appel won in the spectacular Democratic year of 2006 and lost to Sorenson in the spectacular Republican year of 2010.
With the Senate balance just one seat, both parties will make a serious effort. Mike Gronstal sure could use one more senator's worth of breathing room, and Bill Dix will have an easier time getting to 26 next by staying at 24 on whatever day Terry Branstad sets this.
It must go without saying because no one has said it yet: the resignation helps Republican chances of holding the seat in the long run. Sorenson was a goner one way or another, primary or general.
You think Terry Branstad is calling Jodi Tymeson now? You think he could get the still popular ex-House member to serve even just the one session? (Whoever wins has to defend immediately again next year. Worked for Liz Mathis.) Or does he want to keep her on to clean up the mess at the Iowa Veteran's Home? And could Branstad even get a candidate of his choice through a nominating convention? He couldn't in the Battle Of Marion...
That convention will be a nasty dust-up. Both House seats saw Republican primaries last year. State Rep. Julian Garrett represents half the Senate turf, but he's got a patchy track record: lost to Appel in 2006, won a three way primary with 44% in 2010, and got challenged by one of the same opponents, Joan Acela, in 2012. House 25 seems to have a Warren vs. Madison dynamic.
House 26 is all Warren and was Democratic till Sorenson beat Mark Davitt in 2008. When Sorenson moved up in `10, tea partier Glen Massie scored a flukish win, joined the Krazy Kaucus, and quit after one term. In the 2012 primary, Warren County GOP "co-chair" Steve McCoy defeated Carlisle mayor Ruth Randleman 56-44.
But the November 2012 winner was Democrat Scott Ourth, who was expected to win in 2010 except it was 2010, and never really stopped running. On the House 25 side of the district, Katie Routh ran a respectable but unsuccessful race against Garrett, in the tougher half of the Senate district.
So those are all the names I can drop on short notice. Expect the Democrats to come to a consensus quick and the Republicans to have a convention split by geography and ideology. Heck, even choosing between Norwalk and Winterset for a convention site might get to be a fight.
A win for either sitting House member, Ourth or Garrett, would set up ANOTHER special election, unless they did what Bob Dvorsky did back in `94 and resign from one to run for the other. The Ourth seat in particular would be another hot race.
Sorenson, for his part, launched a buh-bye email to his constituents in which he hints: "I fall not backwards but forwards, I reserve the right to get back up on my feet and fight again down the road."
We'll see about that. There's still a lot of investigatin' left to go.