Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Primary Preview: Contested Democratic Senate Races

With my self-declared semi-hiatus, the beret is getting a little dusty. Time to shake off some cobwebs.

Most of the excitement this primary season is on the right hand side of the ballot, with two contested Republican congressional primaries and a rash of primary challenges and open-seat fights. There's much less action on the Democratic side - two weeks out, and huh? congressional challenger Joe Seng is invisible, perhaps hoping to be the Keith Judd of Iowa and attract votes simply by getting his name - barely - on the ballot.

But there are still some interesting legislative primaries, and since a May 19 campaign finance filing deadline is a big chunk to chew on all at once, I'll ease in with those races before working my appetite up for the Republican primary challengers.

Senate District 14

This is the open seat of former Senate GOP leader Paul McKinley, and the new turf is much friendlier for a Democrat. The new seat includes four whole counties - Clarke, Lucas, Decatur and Wayne - plus most of Mahaska, with the exception of Pella. It also has a chunk of southern Jasper County.

Democrat Dick Schrad, the former Knoxville City Manager, is the clear favorite here for the Democratic nomination. His opponent, James Demichelis Sr., won 33% in a 2008 House race.

Schrad had raised or loaned himself $4,339.20 and spent $3,567.18 by May 15. Demichelis did not file a report, indicating he likely was below the $750 reporting threshold. In fact, the most noteworthy thing about Demichelis is that James Demichelis Jr. is running in a House primary in an overlapping seat -- as a Republican, forcing family members to choose which party's primary they want to vote in. And the immediate family vote may well be a significant share of his support.

Senate District 38

Democrats see enough opportunity here that they're having a three-way primary. GOP freshman Tim Kapucian is drawn into a dead even seat with lots of new territory. The lines are simple: Benton, Iowa, Poweshiek. Three whole counties.

Rural Grinnell "activist" LaForest Sherman was first to announce for the Democrats, followed by Shelley Parbs of Urbana and banker Nick Volk of Walford. Watch that friends and neighbors dynamic.

Parbs had raised a respectable $7,410, largely from labor and also from some Linn County donors including former Cedar Rapids mayor Kay Halloran. Parbs had spent $3,364.65 by May 15. Volk raised $3,590, mostly from family, and spent $2,883.79. Sherman did not file a report.

Senate District 42

Democrat Gene Fraise, who has held some variation of this seat since 1986, is stepping down as he turns 80, prompting primaries in both parties. Lee County makes up 59% of the district, with Henry making up 33% and the rest bits of Washington and Jefferson.

The early favorite was Fort Madison mayor Steve Ireland, but he dropped out shortly before losing his battle with cancer in March. Donna Amandus, also of Fort Madison, was chairing Ireland's campaign, and is now running herself. She faces another Fort Madison candidate, electrician and party activist Bob Morawitz, and Mount Pleasant's Rich Taylor, a recently retired corrections officer.

Taylor has a big money lead with $17,544 raised -- $11,000 of that from his own union, AFSCME. (Other unions or groups don't look to be involved in this race.) He's spent $7,846.27 of that. Morawitz raised $8,021.30 and spent $1,532.42, just behind Amandus who has $8,673.91 raised and $5,148.24 spent.

Senate District 49

This Clinton-based seat is the only two year Senate term on the ballot. The Democratic race was in limbo for quite a while after Map Day due to a pair-up one seat to the north. But Tod Bowman stayed with Jackson County and this seat went open. Clinton County is whole and makes up about 3/4 of the seat, with the rest in and northern Scott County.

Two Democratic women are running: Rita Hart of Wheatland, a community volunteer and retired teacher, and Clinton attorney Dorothy O'Brien.

O'Brien has the money lead with $11,536.12 raised and $7,866.88 spent. Her donors included former legislators Art Ollie, Polly Bukta and Tom Schueller (who's attempting a comeback after losing a 2010 upset). Hart raised an also solid $9,073.00, with $6,922.75 spent. Hart donors included former auditor Charlie Sheridan. Clinton's current state representative, Mary Wolfe, donated to both candidates.

Whichever Democrat wins should be favored in November, but Republicans have a strong candidate. Andrew Naeve lost to Bowman by just 70 votes two years ago, in a more Democratic version of this seat.

Part two, when I get around to it next couple-a days, is the Democratic House primaries. Then I'll be back in shape enough to tackle the Republican races.

1 comment:

Justin Sharp said...

I haven't seen a single Demichelis sign around town that isn't made of plywood and spraypaint...which is never a good sign.