Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

It's taken me longer than usual to dig through stuff, due to sheer exhaustion and, yes, some grieving. I haven't lost one that I truly hoped to win since 2004. (I've backed some futile causes in the meantime, like Public Power and the student city council candidates, with the full expectation of getting clobbered.)

Let's go in ballot order:

Small consolations: Roxanne Conlin wins Johnson County. First Grassley opponent to win so much as a county since John Culver; Art Small and Jean Lloyd-Jones barely carried any precincts.

In retrospect, this one peaked right around the primary, with that poll showing Conlin within 8 and Grassley under 50. But then the pollster got discredited, the beginnings of a buzz dried up, and the national tide turned.

With the national Democrats having to scramble and play defense with Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray and (unsuccessfully) Russ Feingold, there were no resources left for the 26th or 27th race. Things needed to catch on virally for Roxanne to have a shot, and it didn't happen.

So Grassley takes a sixth term, during which he breaks William Allison's record for longest serving Iowa senator. That takes him to age 83 in 2016, at which point he tries to hand off to grandson Pat.

Meanwhile, the US Senate turns out to be less bad than it could have been, with Harry Reid and Michael Bennet holding on and tea partier Joe Miller losing.

Resilience: In the context of the national wave, Iowa is remarkable for re-electing all three Democratic House members. Leonard Boswell benefited from a weak opponent; you could hear the air hissing out of Brad Zaun's tires when the Ex Girlfriend Incident hit the papers. Winning ugly, but winning.

Bruce Braley squeaked by with under 50 percent, fending off the outside money attacks. Nevertheless, he still may be a big winner, if a House leadership shakeup happens.

The first time Dave Loebsack ran, no one thought he'd win. The second time, no one thought he'd lose. Last night, Loebsack did what many of his 2006 classmates couldn't, winning a serious race against a wave. He proved the pundits, who saw him as more vulnerable than Braley and Boswell in the last predictions, wrong by outperforming them both. No one can ever call Loebsack a fluke again.

I'm still not sure yet whether Chet Culver's smaller local margin (62%, down from 68 in 2006) is the result of a better Republican absentee effort or whether it was movement away from Culver. Chet's own vote total was up 1,500 from 2006 but Branstad ran about 5,000 better than Jim Nussle.

Trivia: Libertarian Eric Cooper looks to have fallen well short of his quest for 2 percent and full party status. But Jonathan Narcisse and his "Iowa Party" came closer; last I saw he was at 1.8.

It is a goddamn tragedy that Mike Mauro lost. Of the four secretaries of state I've known in Iowa. he was by far the best; a consummate, serious fair election administrator with no ambitions beyond doing his job. Just a victim of the wave.

While Matt Schultz's win in itself does not bring with it his goals of photo ID and ending election day registration, there's a lot of power to make administrative rules and make voting harder. Plus, at age 31, we're likely looking at yet another Secretary with no background in elections who's just using the office as a stepping stone.

At least the spectacularly unqualified Brenna Findley didn't make it.

I'm still sorting through the legislative carnage (Scott Ourth lost?!?) Locally we lost Becky Schmitz and Larry Marek. Schmitz was a solid progressive vote while Marek, despite some problems on labor, was a good wind energy advocate. Nate Willems had a closer race than I expected. Also a special thanks to my old ally Nathan Reichert, who lost in Muscatine last night, for his six years of service.

One of the only bright spots of the night was Anesa Kajtazovic winning in Waterloo. That and Dan Muhlbauer, who beat nutbar Daniel Dirkx to gain Rod Roberts' vacant seat for the Dems.

The judicial races were successfully made partisan. The margin by which the three justices lost was roughly parallel to the gubernatorial totals in the counties I checked. There was also no collateral damage to lower court judges, as voters successfully, sadly, singled out the Supreme Court.

Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit deserve their own chapter in some future Profiles In Courage. Meanwhile, with conservatives divided on the merits of a constitutional convention, it fails two to one. With the Iowa House now in GOP hands, it falls to Mike Gronstal and the slim Democratic Senate majority to defend marriage equality. Fortunately, this is a battle Gronstal genuinely, passionately cares about.

City to Students: Drop Dead. The outcome isn't a surprise, but what's ugly is the polarization of the results. 91% 19 in precinct 11 (Courthouse, dominated by student apartments), 70%+ 21 on the east side. The result was close only in the handful of precincts where the housing transitions from student to townie: 10, 13 and 21.

The other, tangential news is that the student vote, especially in dorm precincts 3 and 5, was more Republican than one would expect. (The undervote rate - people marking the bar issue but skipping the top of the ticket - looked to be about 30 to 35 percent in the core student precincts.)

Team 19 needed a couple thousand more votes out of their weeks-long satellite voting blitz, and had almost no message to the townie community.

My long range prediction is this costs the UI a couple thousand enrollments a year. The tenured faculty and administrators, secure in jobs insulated from the marketplace, will be happy to be rid of the "bad" ones, and smug in their message of We're Not A Party School Anymore. But there will be an inevitable contraction of the local economy and even the population. The fantasy of "reviving" downtown is long gone, moved west in 1998 with the mall. So you got rid of the drunks. Great. People still want a big flat free parking lot.

It's just not good for a community to be so divided, and I don't see a good way to heal a division so fundamental, so "Whose Town Is This Anyway". Perhaps we'll figure that out in next year's city election. Meanwhile, Republican caucus season starts in a couple hours.

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