Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Costello announces for Ernst legislative seat

One and probably two legislative special elections coming up in the state's southwest corner, as KMA reports that State Rep. Mark Costello is running for Joni Ernst's seat, State Senate District 12.

Almost forgotten in the noise of the Senate race, at least since the primary, was the factoid that Ernst was mid-term. According to the article, Ernst has not yet resigned from the legislature, therefore Terry Branstad hasn't yet set the date. But with the session coming up, the dates are limited and it'll no doubt be in the middle of the turnout-killing holidays.

Normally any special election in the near-tied Iowa Senate would be a huge deal; the Democrats' only major win this year was holding onto that 26-24 edge.

(Humor me and picture just for a moment an alternate universe where Bruce Braley wins and Joni Ernst falls from her national rock star status back to a back bench in the Iowa Senate minority.)

But Ernst's seat is bloody red, the second most Republican in the state last I checked. She first won in January 2011 in a district that was further east, when Kim Reynolds became lieutenant governor. Democrats nominated Ruth Smith in that special but made no real effort. My guess is that played a role in Smith leaving the party and running as a             for US Senate this year.

(That's right,              . No identifying label at all. Still no satisfactory explanation why the traditional "nominated by petition was dropped for Smith and "Independent" Rick Stewart, but my bet is Stewart got at least half his votes from the I word and hurt Braley more than Ernst. Which I think was the idea.)

The district as configured now is Page, Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, Taylor and Ringgold counties. Fremont, Mills and the northern 2/3rds of Montgomery would face a second special if Costello, just re-elected unopposed to the House, wins.

Costello lists the other key players in the seat and rules them out. This is safe enough turf that a Republican could easily and confidently resign the House seat to run for the Senate, without risking either. That would save the cost of the second special election. The only person in living memory to have done this was Democrat Bob Dvorsky, who resigned from the House in February 1994 to run for the Senate seat in a special.

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