Wednesday, June 15, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 38, House Districts 75 and 76

District of the Day: Senate District 38, House Districts 75 and 76

Senate District 38

Registration: D 12356, R 12322, N 16759, total 41472, D+ 34
Incumbent: Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone

Clean, easy to comprehend lines in Senate 38: Benton, Iowa, Poweshiek. Three whole counties. That's a big move south for Benton-based Senate freshman Tim Kapucian. The old district had just a bit of Iowa (Marengo to be exact) then went west and north to take in most of Tama and all of Grundy.

Benton is still the biggest county in the district, and Kapucian won his home county by 1000 in a 53% to 47% 2008 win when Republican John Putney retired. And dropping Tama helps, as Democrat Randy Braden carried that county. But Kapucian rolled up the score in Grundy, and the new lines give him a dead-even district. Under the old lines, the GOP had a 2,500 registration edge. And this seat votes on the presidential cycle, which means maximized student turnout in Grinnell.

House District 75

Registration: D 5671, R 5854, N 8611, total 20149, R+ 183
Incumbent: Dawn Pettingill, R-Mt. Auburn

Pettingill took this seat, with a lot of party help, in 2004, overwhelming longtime Republican Dell Hanson by more than 1200 votes. But she was a thorn in the side of the Democratic caucus from the get-go, flaking off on many key issues. In a move that was played for maximum drama, Pettengill defected to the GOP on the last day of the 2007 session. (Then-speaker Chris Rants had telegraphed a "big announcement," and for a few hours the rumor mill thought it was his own resignation.)

So Democrats wanted this one bad in 2008, but Pettingill won with 55%, down just two points from her percentage as a Democrat in 2006. Then Democrats lost the 2010 race at the candidate recruitment stage, failing to find a challenger.

Other than her party, almost nothing has changed for Pettingill, who keeps her entire old district. In Iowa County she adds one township, which includes the unincorporated metropolis of Conroy. This is kind of a District Draws Itself thing; Benton County's population is 85% of an ideal House district and the county stays whole. The minimal changes mean this stays a swing seat.

House District 76

Registration: D 6685, R 6468, N 8148, total 21323, D + 217
No Incumbent

While the changes in Pettengill's district are trivial, this seat is completely reconfigured, combining cores of two different old districts and ending up with no incumbent.

The old districts went vertical. Eastern Poweshiek County and most of Iowa County (plus the leftovers of southeast Tama County) were in old House 76, represented by Keokuk County based Betty DeBoef. Old 75 had most of the population of Poweshiek: Grinnell and Montezuma. That was a hot swing seat for
multiple cycles. Democrat Eric Palmer and Republican Danny Carroll fought three straight contests; Carroll won the first in 2004, Palmer knocked him off in 2006 and thwarted the 2008 comeback. But in 2010 the wave swept out Palmer and replaced him with Guy Vander Linden.

Palmer and Vander Linden are both Oskaloosa-based, but Mahaska County isn't part of this turf. We'll look at that on Friday. What we have today is a horizontal district where about 60% is a complete Poweshiek County, and about 40% is the bigger part of Iowa County: Williamsburg, North English, Victor, most of the Amanas.

The Palmer-Carroll battles had counter-intuitive results: Democrat Palmer lived in red Oskaloosa, but won his margins of victory in Grinnell. Carroll lived in Grinnell but performed better in Mahaska. The question for Democrats: can they introduce Palmer to a friendly realtor in Grinnell? As for DeBoef, check back tomorrow.

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