Friday, March 16, 2012

District Of The Day Reboot: Iowa Senate District 28, Iowa House District 55 & 56

Senate District 28
Registration: D 11626, R 13638, N 15841, total 41133, R +2012
No Incumbent

Two candidates who lost close 2010 House races are facing off in a no-incumbent Senate race in the state's northeast corner. The seat covers all of Clayton and Allamakee Counties and parts of Winneshiek (including Decorah) and Fayette (NOT including Oelwein) counties.

Insurance agent Mike Breitbach, a Republican, lost to Democratic incumbent Roger Thomas by an unexpectedly close 122 votes in 2010. However, the Republican had a 500+ margin in Delaware County, which is not in this district. Thomas won their mutual home county, Clayton, by a similar margin, and the Democrat's edge in Fayette proved to be decisive.

Still, Brietbach has some name ID in that end of the district, which will be new turf for Democrat John Beard. The Decorah Democrat was a one-term House member in a Winneshiek-Fayette district, winning in 2008 but losing in `10 to late-starting Republican Bob Hager. On paper, the district has a GOP registration edge. But it's been swingy in the past. Winneshiek, historically GOP, trended very Democratic in 2008, but swung back in 2010.

Friends For Breitbach
had the money lead on the January 19 finance report with $11,776 cash on hand vs. Beard for Iowa Senate's $4148.

House District 55
Registration: D 5928, R 6910, N 7523, total 20385, R +982
Incumbent: Roger Thomas, D-Elkader (Andrew Wenthe, D-Hawkeye, retiring) Contested Republican primary.

In retrospect, Wenthe retiring and Beard running for Senate while Thomas stays here makes some sense. Oelwein-based Wenthe was on almost all new turf and had even speculated about moving south to Republican Dan Rasmussen's Oelwein-Independence based House 64. Thomas will be running on new ground in Winneshiek, but the Senate map seems like a good fit for Beard. (This seat would have been an all-Democrat triple-up if Beard had been re-elected.)

Still, Thomas has to cope with some radical changes. His old seat had all of Clayton County, the smaller part of Fayette, and a bit of northern Delaware (up to but not including Manchester). That district had an even party split, so this turf is less hospitable. It includes north Fayette. just three townships of Clayton plus the city of Elkader, where Thomas lives. Oelwein is out; the district is now dominated by Decorah and most of Winneshiek.

Three Republicans see an opportunity here. In 2010, Spillville Mayor Michael Klimesh fell more than 900 votes short of Brian Quirk, the only Six Pack conservaDem to survive 2010. That seat covered all of Chickasaw and Howard counties, where Quirk won his margin, plus southern and western Winneshiek, which Klimesh carried. The other Republicans in the race are Dustin Noble of Decorah and West Union minister Marshall Nessa. Three different parts of the district, so watch that friends and neighbors dynamic.

Campaign finance reports: People for Roger Thomas

House District 56
Registration: D 5698, R 6728, N 8318, total 20748, R +1030
Incumbent: Bob Hager, R-Dorchester

This was a heartbreaker for Democrats in 2010. Just two years earlier, Democrats saw enough of an opportunity when longtime Republican Rep. Chuck Gipp retired that they had a four way primary. Decorah Democrat John Beard, who'd done well in an unsuccessful 2004 Senate race, won that with a majority and gained the seat for the Dems with an 1800 vote November win, in a seat which on paper had an 1100 voter registration edge for the GOP.
And as of filing deadline in 2010, Beard was unopposed. But Republican Bob Hager got in late, and the climate of 2010 was too much for Beard.

Hager sheds Winneshiek in the new plan and picks up pretty much all of Clayton County from Thomas (except Roger's hometown Elkader). The new lines give him 300 fewer Republicans.

MFL Mar-Mac School Board President Patti Ruff of McGregor is in for the Democrats.

The friends and neighbors dynamic explains the 2010 race nearly as much as partisanship. The old district was close to half and half, Allamakee and Winneshiek. Beard won Winneshiek but Hager won Allamakee by just a little more, for a 257 vote win in the district. This time, Hager has to share his Allamakee base with Ruff.

Campaign finance reports: Bob Hager for Iowa House

Original post 6/01/2011 Statewide Map: Front | Back (with City Insets) | Old Senate, House

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