Monday, June 27, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 46, House Districts 91 and 92

District of the Day: Senate District 46, House Districts 91 and 92

Senate District 46

Registration: D 12145, R 11684, N 16335, total 40178, D + 461
Incumbents: Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Davenport and Jim Hahn, R-Muscatine

Our last week of District Of The Day begins with our last two-incumbent seat. A different pair of House districts gets combined, pairing up two Republican senators from two different counties. This new combined seat is exactly half and half: one House seat that's all Muscatine, one that's all Scott. (Specifics under each.) Making matters worse, it's a swing district with a very slight Democratic tilt, and both of the House districts have been won by Democrats in recent years.

Jim Hahn of Muscatine went to the House in 1990. He moved over to the Senate in 2004 when long-timer Dick Drake retired. That district went north into Jeff Kaufmann's Cedar County based House district. Hahn loses all of Cedar County, and the northern tier of Muscatine, and a tiny piece of Johnson that he won't miss much.

What he gets instead is a chunk of western Scott County and Shawn Hamerlinck. The Davenport city council member knocked off Democrat Frank Wood in 2008 by just 384 votes. That district went north into Republican Steve Olson's House district that was about half rural-suburban north and east Scott County and half rural-suburban south and west Clinton County.

Hamerlinck had kept a relatively low profile until a couple weeks back, when he told a delegation of students testifying about education funding to "go home." Most bets are that Hahn, who'll be 76 be Election Day 2012, calls it quits. Will Hamerlinck also "go home" after 2012?

House District 91

Registration: D 6054, R 6166, N 7394, total 19620, R+ 112
Incumbent: Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine.

When Hahn went to the Senate in 2004, Republican Barry Brauns tried a comeback after a two-year hiatus. But Nathan Reichert, who had run an unexpectedly close race in a 1995 special election for county auditor, won a big upset to become the first Democrat to take the Muscatine district in recent memory. He stayed atop the target list but beat the incumbent sheriff in 2006 and a city council member in 2008, only to sink beneath the wave in 2010. (Reichert may be interested in a comeback, either here or in the Senate race.)

Mark Lofgren, a first time candidate in 2010, finally took this seat back for the GOP, winning by 1500 votes. This is another District Draws Itself, as the city of Muscatine is 75% of ideal district size. Lofren also keeps suburban Bloomington Township (a GOP stronghold) and the same three townships in eastern Muscatine County including Stockton. He sheds one rural township to the west and adds the Fruitland area. This adds a little population and makes a swing seat even closer.

House District 92

Registration: D 6091, R 5518, N 8941, total 20558, D + 573
Incumbent: Ross Paustian, R-Walcott

No one really thought Elesha Gayman to have a chance in 2006, when the netroots activist shocked Jim (The Elder) Van Fossen. Gayman set a record, since broken by Anesa Kajtazovic, as the youngest woman elected to the legislature.

Gayman had a target on her back from day one in this rural-urban split district in northwest Davenport and western Scott County. Republicans recruited Farm Bureau leader Ross Paustian. But Gayman, who was briefly reported as a loser on Election Night 2008 until the absentees came in, held Paustian to 47% in the Obama wave.

Gayman's retirement - an odd term to use for a 32 year old - days before the 2010 filing deadline was just as surprising as her election. Democrat Sheri Carnahan made a serious effort, but Paustian had never stopped running after 2008 and won with 57%. He's kept a relatively low profile his first session.

The district keeps almost the same lean, a very slight D tilt, on paper. That should help Frank Wood, who joins Bill Heckroth and Rich Olive as former Democratic Senators attempting comebacks on the House side. (Anyone checked in with Staci Appel?) Wood, who announced June 15, narrowly (480 votes) knocked off Republican incumbent Bryan Sievers in 2004 despite the GOP trend, before falling to Hamerlinck in 2008 despite the Democratic trend. Wood ran county-wide in 2010, losing a supervisor race but running slightly ahead of the other two Democrats in a vote-for-three swept by the GOP.

As for the lines, the city portion shifts north (losing all its riverfront) and east to roughly Highway 61. Out in the county Paustian keeps very similar lines, and most of the county west of Davenport. He loses Buffalo and gains the city of Donahue, and keeps Eldridge, Long Grove, Walcott and Blue Grass.

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