Under The Golden Dome had it first, now in the Register:
Swati Dandekar is stepping down from her Senate seat for a seat on the Iowa Utilities Board. Looks like Terry Branstad was able to buy her off for a $137,000 salary and open up a competitive Senate district before the 2012 election.
One more sign that Branstad 5.0 is not your father's Branstad. It's a dramatic high stakes move that, if successful, means a tied Senate for the 2012 session. (He sets the date, too. UPDATE 2 He has: November 8. Better than two days after Christmas or two days before Thanksgiving, and the same day as city elections.)
And this tied Senate will be very different than the 2005-2006 version. Tom Vilsack was in Terrace Hill then, and Mike Gronstal was sharing leadership with Stew Iverson, a guy he could occasionally work with. Paul McKinley, or whoever follows, are a different breed of cat.
You know that Wisconsin recall we had last month? The near-presidential turnout, the all-the-marbles dynamic? Yeah, that's all coming to Marion. I believe this is under OLD lines which are very close to dead even (GOP registration edge of 175). The new district is slightly more GOP.
Dandekar -- and hey, thanks a lot -- is the only Democrat in recent memory to win the seat, first for three terms in the House then in 2008 for the Senate. Dem Gretchen Lawyer lost the House race in 2008; Republican Nick Wagner won and was unopposed in 2010. Democrat Daniel Lundby, son of Dandekar's predecessor Republican Mary Lundby, is running in the House race. Also hailing from the area: Linn County supervisor Brent Oleson and former holder of multiple offices Paul Pate.
This will also be happening right in the middle of caucus season, with all the organizational and guest appearance significance that implies.
But all that's OK. Democrats: there's no choice here. We just have to win.
Every Democrat not just in Linn County but in the STATE needs to help on this one. Johnson County Democrats: This is a 40 minute drive away. Dubuque: a nice straight shot down 151. We are one senator away from being Wisconsin. The Battle of Madison is now the Battle of Marion. Game on.
Updates: Dems were up fast with a website keepthemajority.com. "Every Democrat in Iowa has to be focused on one question: What can I do to help in the special election and retain a majority in the Iowa Senate?" said IDP chair Sue Dvorsky. "It's time to suit up."
Yet amid the rallying cries, some much deserved criticism of Dandekar's decision. "I'm disgusted by her selfishness," writes Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids.)
Rallyig cries also from the other team. "While an evenly split Senate will not give Republicans control of the chamber, it would eliminate Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s ability to block legislation from even being debated," writes Craig Robinson. "That means issues that were never allowed to be debated in the senate, like the marriage amendment, various abortion bills, and even tax cuts, could now see the light of day. Gronstal’s heavy-handed ways also will ensure that activists from all across the state will be willing to help the Republican effort to win the seat."
Robinson also notes the caucus factor: "The presidential campaigns will have their hands full in organizing for the caucuses, but helping Republicans swing the balance of power in the State Senate would build a lot of good will. The presidential campaigns will look for ways to be helpful in the areas of boots on the ground as well as campaign contributions."