Saturday, March 17, 2012

District Of The Day Reboot: Iowa Senate District 41, Iowa House District 81 & 82

Senate District 41
Registration: D 15692, R 12289, N 14038, total 42067, D +3403
Incumbent: Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa; holdover seat

Enjoy the ride, Chickenman; you won't be back in 2014.

Mark Chelgren, whose claim to fame was his party hardy RAGBRAI persona, was the fluke of the year, emerging from a recount with a ten vote win over Bloomfield Democrat Keith Kreiman. He rolled up the margin in three whole rural counties: Appanoose, Davis, and Wayne. Chelgren has cut an abrasive profile in his first session, but with Democrats in Senate control he's been noticed less that the House Krazy Kaucus of Pearson, Massie and Shaw.

The most Democratic Senate seat held by a Republican keeps a big Democratic edge. The district keeps Ottumwa and a slightly different portion of Wapello County; under the old lines within Wapello, Krieman was ahead by nearly 1000 votes. Davis County also stays in the district. But from there the district goes east, grabbing all of Van Buren and adding most of the population of blue-trending Jefferson County. The district line wraps around the east of Fairfield, bringing it into the district.

Fairfield was home base for Democratic Senator Becky Schmitz, who won in a district that also included Van Buren in 2006. Schmitz, who lost to Sandy Greiner in 2010, is reportedly interested in a comeback. If she can wait a cycle, this looks like excellent turf.

Campaign finance reports: Chelgren for Iowa Senate

House District 81
Registration: D 8937, R 4734, N 6336, total 20019, D +4203
Incumbent: Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa

The district Draws Itself: At 25,023, the city of Ottumwa is 82% of the size of a House district. Minor changes around the edges, of course. Instead of getting the townships south and west of the city, the district goes east to the county line, picking up Agency, Eldon, and the American Gothic house.

This seat was turbulent a decade ago; Republican Galen Davis took advantage of a local Democratic in-fight for a fluke 1998 win. He got knocked off by Democrat Mark Tremmel, who left after one term to run for county attorney.

In 2002 Gaskill, the former county auditor, won a close primary and settled in. She overwhelmingly won a bizarre 2010 primary over a former county supervisor (short version: the guy resigned, moved out of state, moved back soon after with no explanation). Republicans looked like there were making a serious effort last year with Jane Holody; even Mike Huckabee took an interest. But Gaskill earned a 57% win.

There were rumors of a primary challenge to Gaskill again, but they didn't materialize. The Republicans will have a primary between Rick McClure and Blake Smith. McClure challenged Gaskill as an independent in 2008.

Ottumwa trended Republican the last two cycles with Mariannette Miller-Meeks on the ballot, Republican enough for Chelgren's fluke win. But with MMM not running, I expect Wapello County to trend blue again.

Campaign finance reports: Gaskill for State Representative

House District 82
Registration: D 6755, R 7555, N 7702, total 22048, R +800
Incumbent Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield (Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield, retiring)

When Democrat John Whitaker resigned to take a federal Department of Agriculture job in the summer of 2009, Fairfield became the center of statewide attention. Anti-marriage equality groups pumped huge amounts of out of state money into Fairfield, and Democrats responded with an all-out effort as well. Retired drivers ed teacher Curt Hanson prevailed by just 127 votes over Republican Steve Burgmeier. Two independent conservative candidates, representing the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea, were in the race, and they drew more votes than the difference.

The rematch in the fall of 2010 was just the two of them. Despite the lack of Splitters!, the annus horriblis for Democrats and the fact that he was now just one of 100 races instead of the only game in town, Hanson increased his margin over Burgmeier to more than 1000 votes.

So even though this turf leans Republican, Hanson seems to be in good shape. While the lines change, the party balance is about the same. The new district has all of Van Buren and most of Jefferson County, including Fairfield, from Hanson's old seat, and only Davis from fellow Democrat Kurt Swaim's. The redistricting pair was resolved when Swaim retired.

Republicans have a primary. Bloomfield's James Johnson lost to Swaim by just 76 votes in 2010, and was last spotted on Team Bachmann. Campaign for Liberty activist Jeff Shipley of Fairfield ran for Iowa City council in 2009. Opposite ends of the district, and Fairfield has a strong libertarian streak.

Johnson for St Rep had $914 cash on hand on the January 19 report, all left over from 2010.  Curt Hanson for State Representative has been actively fundraising and reported $6272 on hand.

Original post 6/20/2011 Statewide Map: Front | Back (with City Insets) | Old Senate, House

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