Thursday, June 16, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 39, House Districts 77 and 78

District of the Day: Senate District 39, House Districts 77 and 78

Senate District 39

Registration: D 12899, R 11970, N 14104, total 39008, D + 929
Incumbent: Sandy Greiner, R-Keota

Greiner was the only Senator to vote against The Map. She said it was about the lines around Hills, which are a bit goofy but that's because of the city limits. (There's a long story behind that.) But methinks it was really about getting handed a district that's half in Johnson County.

Greiner has served two separate tenures in each side of the Capitol. First elected to the House in 1992, she moved to the Senate in 2000. But she got the short straw in a redistricting triple-up and went back, begrudgingly, to the House in `02. In 2008 she stepped down, hoping to serve on the Republican National Committee, but lost that race at the state convention. Scarcely missing a beat, she got heavily involved in 2010: an early backer of the "draft" Branstad campaign, a big mover and shaker in "independent" expenditure group the American Future Fund, and as a candidate. Greiner knocked off first-term Democrat Becky Schmitz in a district that included the southwest corner of Johnson, but went south to the Missouri border: Washington, Jefferson, Van Buren, and eastern Wapello.

Now the district shifts north. She keeps almost all of Washington, and in a bit of good news gets back her original base in Keokuk County. But the expanded turf in Johnson County more than negates that. Her 2002-2008 House seat had a GOP registration edge of more than 1700, and the 2010 Senate district increased that to more than 2100.  Even her bit of Johnson County was all rural and included the county's most Republican townships.

Now Democrats have the advantage, and her new Johnson County turf has a distinctly just-built suburban flavor. Maybe the best news for Greiner is she has an odd district number and gets three years to try to win over those new Johnson County constituents. Or at least to vote in the Senate.

House District 77

Registration: D 7401, R 4856, N 7276, total 19552, D+ 2545
No incumbent

An open, strong Democratic district in Johnson County is a rarity rivaling a transit of Venus. As it turns out, we have both next year, and the twice in 112 years transit even occurs on primary election day.

And like a transit of Venus, an open Johnson County seat is more notable for its rarity than for its drama. Democrats have a top tier candidate in Sally Stutsman, who's won five county-wide elections for supervisor. Her lone career loss was for the House in 2000, but that was in a solid GOP seat based in Louisa and Muscatine, and she did far better than the Some Dude who lost four years earlier.

North Liberty anchors the new seat which covers the whole west and south border of Johnson. It starts with Swisher and Shueyville, picks up Tiffin and Oxford, and ends up in Lone Tree, wrapping around and not including the city of Hills. That's Stutsman's historic base, but the family farm is outside the city proper.

Stutsman was re-elected in 2010 and would leave the board mid-term if elected. So the big excitement may not be the House race itself but its ripple effect through local courthouse politics.

House District 78

Registration: D 5498, R 7114, N 6828, total 19456, R + 1616
Incumbents: Jarad Klein, R-Keota and Betty DeBoef, R-What Cheer

UPDATE November 4: De Boef retiring.

Washington County has seen three House winners in three elections, and now anchors a district with two representatives.

When Greiner left the House seat in 2008, her chosen successor was young Republican Jarad Klein. But the 2008 wave crested high enough to elect Democrat Larry Marek by 157 votes. Marek had a good biographical fit for the district, but was a little less of a fit for the House Democrats, and he aligned with the Six Pack of conservaDems. He was largely left to fend for himself at re-election time, even as the party was going all out for his senator, Becky Schmitz, on the same turf. The rematch coincided with the 2010 counter-wave and Klein won handily.

The new lines help Klein in one sense: the seat sheds all of the People's Republic of Johnson County where Marek earned his 2008 winning margin. Granted, south and west rural Johnson ain't downtown Iowa City, but Hills is so Democratic even I won it. Klein also drops eastern Jefferson County and a little bit of Washington (Crawfordsville and Brighton). In exchange he gets all of strong Republican Keokuk County... and with it a fellow Republican House member, Betty DeBoef.

Klein has multiple advantages in this pair. There's geography: about two thirds of this was his in the old map and he has strong ties to Keokuk County as well. He's also younger and has stronger party ties, especially to Greiner.

DeBoef, meanwhile, is on the leadership outs, and is one of the few senior members who doesn't chair a committee. Of late she's been aligning with the Crazy Caucus of Pearson, Massie, Alons and Shaw. She carpetbagged into Keokuk County in the first place; her original base when she won her first term in 2000 was in Rose Hill, across the line in Mahaska. In 2001 she got paired up with Danny Carroll in a Mahaska-Poweshiek seat, and when she moved to Keokuk County she had to fend off a couple primary opponents.

Assuming Klein runs here, he's got about the same partisan balance he had before; DeBoef's old seat was a bit closer but Democrats never made much effort against her. A self-starting Some College Dude college student won 34% in 2010.

Since I keep flinging that term around, some explanation. Its origins are at the blog Swing State Project, which was annexced recently and became Daily Kos Elections.
Some candidates start out with certain built-in advantages: They already hold office, they have personal wealth, or they have a prominent public profile. Some Dude has none of these. If you Google Some Dude's name, you'll find very little information-probably just the news article or blog post where they were first mentioned as a possible candidate. A good hint you're dealing with a Some Dude is that they're described as an "activist" or "Tea Party member" in press accounts. Note: Some Dudes sometimes win!
The one thing we know for sure: DeBoef says she won't oppose Klein in a primary. There's an open district just to the west, House 80, that includes her original home in Rose Hill. But it's swingy and Democrats already have a strong candidate (more tomorrow). There's also other nearby Republicans in pairs. Frankly, retirement may be her best option.

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