Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Downballot is Quiet in Johnson County

It's almost all about the federal races in Johnson County this year. There's only one contested race between candidates below the U.S. House level on the ballot.

Today was the filing deadline for county offices, and the Democratic primary winners will be uncontested in November. Of course, the three Supervisor candidates - incumbents Rod Sullivan and Lisa Green-Douglass and newcomer Kurt Friese - are the survivors of a hard-fought June primary.

Sullivan will also, with the retirement of Pat Harney, become the senior supervisor in January when he starts his fourth term. Green-Douglass will be serving her first full term after winning a January special election.

The 2014 general election saw a decent supervisor race because Republican incumbent John Etheredge, an upset winner in a 2013 special election, was defending his seat, a task that proved impossible against Johnson County's Democratic counter-trend of that cycle.

Remember that term: counter-trend. Planning to discuss that soon.

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek and Auditor Travis Weipert will also be uncontested. It'll be Pulkrabek's fourth term and Weipert's second.

The legislative races are also quiet. Johnson County's three state senate seats are all on the governor cycle, so we'll be bystanders in the hard-fought battle for state senate control. Last cycle we were critical in that fight, with Kevin Kinney's gain for the Democrats offsetting a loss in Ft. Dodge and keeping Mike Gronstal's magic number at 26.

The only down-ballot contest between candidates is in open House District 77, where Democrat Sally Stutsman is retiring. North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen is favored to hold the seat for the Democrats over Republican Royce Phillips, former Tiffin mayor.

Johnson County's other four state reps - Democrats Dave Jacoby, Vicki Lensing and Mary Mascher and Republican Bobby Kaufmann - are all unopposed. That's normal for the three Democrats. Kaufmann saw serious opposition in 2012 and less serious opposition in `14.

The back side of the ballot is quiet too. With marriage equality now the law of the land, the desire for revenge on the last three Varnum-Brien Iowa Supreme Court justices has fizzled. Of course, that was always a non-starter in the People's Republic. In 2010, when three judges were defeated, I never saw a NO sign until the day after the election in the Des Moines Register.

The last few general elections saw high-profile ballot issues in Johnson County: two courthouse/jail issues, a local option sales tax, and the Mother Of All Issues, the 2010 21 Bar vote. We also had special elections for city offices, most notably in North Liberty in 2014. Solon has two city council seats on the ballot this year, but only one candidate filed for each seat.

There is one issue on the ballot, and it's as meta as you can get: a referendum about referendums. There's an Iowa City charter amendment to lower the petition requirements for city ballot issues.

That was the one substantive change from the charter review process of 2014-15. The city dropped the requirement that all signatures had to be "qualified" electors, which they interpreted as meaning registered to vote at current address. They checked every name and if your apartment number was wrong they crossed you off.

Now the the signatures can come from "eligible" electors, meaning you CAN register to vote even if you haven't done so. This is the standard for almost all other petitions, and these signatures are accepted at face value unless you're goofy enough to put down Coralville or West Des Moines for your address, or unless an opponent contests them. Good deal. But the trade off for that was raising the NUMBER of signatures. I wrote at the time that it was a fair compromise that would probably break about even, and most people seemed to agree.

But, it appears, not all. It seems to me like a presidential cycle would be a good time to get a high profile substantive issue on the ballot (the drug war has been mentioned) rather than a process issue. My guess is that the Referendum Referendum will mostly just confuse people. At least they have little else to be confused about. Heck, even Soil and Water and Ag Extension are uncontested. (Pro tip: Don't ask for information so you can "study" the soil and water and ag extension candidates. No such information exists.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

All 125: District Of The Day, 2016 General Election Edition

Over the past year-plus, Twitter has become my primary medium, and the long form blog posts are getting fewer and farther between.

But skipping a filing deadline, District Of The Day post would be like quitting entirely. So this weekend I've gotten the beret back on (instead of mowing the yard) and taken a look at the state of all 125 Iowa legislative races as of the Friday deadline.

The partisan numbers are based on current, active voter registration, and all references to Democratic or Republican "rank" are based on that, Not perfect, and not a partisan voting index, but a reasonably good relative index. Iowa Starting Line has an excellent post looking at campaign finance numbers after the July 19 filing date, and I'm not going to bother with rewriting or plagiarizing that. If you're into this post, you'll be into that one.

Readers, if I'm completely wrong on any of this please straighten me out.

Things start dull, as usual, in the Orange Free State in Iowa's northwest corner. (Still trying to get that term into the Iowa political vernacular as an equivalent to People's Republic of Johnson County.)

Senate District 1
Registration: D 7791, R 20870, N 12677, total 41414, R +13079
David Johnson (R Independent), holdover

I still say Johnson flips back to the GOP the day after Trump's loss. But having bet the beret that Tom Fiegen would run a sore loser US Senate race, I don't have enough berets to spare one for another bet.

House District 1
Registration: D 3198, R 12273, N 5897, total 21399, R +9075
John Wills (R), incumbent

House District 2
Registration: D 4593, R 8597, N 6780, total 20015, R +4004
Megan Hess Jones (R), incumbent 

John Wills won the second most Republican seat in the state with 42% in a three way primary when Jeff Smith stepped down in 2014. Megan Hess, now Hess Jones, won a new open seat handily in the 2012 redistricting despite a respectable Democratic effort. She drew an independent Some Dude in `14, and both Wills and Hess Jones get free rides this cycle.

Senate District 2
Registration: D 4512, R 24890, N 8825, total 38291, R +20378
Randy Feenstra (R), incumbent

The number one GOP Senate district is one of only two completely uncontested Senate races this year. In fact Feenstra has never had a primary OR general election opponent since the day he announced for this seat when it opened up in 2008.

House District 3
Registration: D 2999, R 11054, N 5636, total 19729, R +8055
Dan Huseman (R), incumbent

Huseman draws his first Democratic opponent since an 80% win in 2002. The Orange Free State doesn't seem like fertile ground for late starting progressive/Sanders-identified Mason McCoy, but he could pick up some votes on his pipeline opposition, an issue where immediate self-interest can trump ideology.

House District 4
Registration: D 1513, R 13836, N 3189, total 18562, R +12323
OPEN (John Kooiker, R, retiring)

This race is the third round in the struggle for succession that began when arch conservative Dwayne Alons died soon after the 2014 general. John Kooiker was nominated at an epic six candidate convention and won a hurry-up special election.

Kooiker and the Legislature must have been a poor mix, and he retires without ever running in either a primary or general election. He backed Skyler Wheeler, who won with 44% in a three way primary.

Jeff Van Der Werff is making his third try in less than two years. He was a candidate at the Kooiker convention, finished third in the primary with 26%, and is now running as an independent. There's no Democrat running to benefit from any split in the GOP vote. Not that it would help in the number one Republican district. The Democrats actually ran in the special election, but managed only 13% and finished third behind a write-in candidate.

Senate District 3
Registration: D 8885, R 17545, N 12410, total 38945, R +8660
Bill Anderson (R), holdover

House District 5
Registration: D 3790, R 9745, N 6374, total 19956, R +5955
Chuck Holz (R), incumbent

Another heavily GOP seat that got filled in a special election, when Chuck Soderberg moved out of district to work for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. Holz easily beat one other candidate at a convention, was entirely unopposed in the special, and is unopposed for a first full term.

House District 6
Registration: D 5095, R 7800, N 6036, total 18989, R +2705
OPEN-Ron Jorgensen (R) retiring

Jorgensen was part of an all-new Sioux City area delegation in 2010 - remarkably, most of those new members are now gone, too. He was unopposed in 2014. Attorney Jim Carlin won a primary squeaker - 57 votes - over Jorgensen's preferred candidate, Jacob Bossman.

Democrat Perla Alarcon-Flory is a Spanish interpreter and school board member,
This is the 25th most Republican district, on the outer limits of seats the Democrats could win, but if a Donald Trump nomination boosts chronically low turnout in the Hispanic population of Woodbury County, a credible Latina candidate who's already won an election could benefit or at least help the top of the ticket.

Senate District 4
Registration: D 9760, R 14814, N 14899, total 39530, R +5054
Dennis Guth (R), incumbent

"Goofy Guth" upset former Senator Jim Black in the 2012 primary when this six-county seat was new, then beat a serious Democrat with relative ease. He's kept up the crazy in office, getting into a highly publicized confrontation with out colleague Matt McCoy after an epic anti-gay rant.

Democrats recruited Susan Bangert in April, soon after the primary filing deadline. She polled 34% in a 2010 house race against another crazy GOPer, Tom Shaw.

House District 7
Registration: D 5244, R 6610, N 8022, total 19908, R +1366
Tedd Gassman (R), incumbent

Gassman, a former Winnebago County GOP chair and school board member, knocked off first term Democrat John Wittneben by just 44 votes in 2012. He has a rematch with Democratic veteran and ex-policeman Dave Grussing. Gassman won the 2014 matchup with 57%, and this is the #38 Republican district, but the climate should be better in a presidential year. Democrats have won here (Wittneben succeeded Marcy Frevert) so Grussing may have a shot. But looking at cash on hand, Gassman has a big edge, with $7004 to Grussing's $2824.

House District 8
Registration: D 4516, R 8204, N 6877, total 19622, R +3688
Terry C. Baxter (R), incumbent

Baxter was nominated at a convention less than 24 hours before the 2014 filing deadline, after Henry Rayhons dropped out (the reasons why, widely publicized). He beat Democratic nurse Nancy Paule Huisenga easily with 64%. Huisenga didn't file for the primary this cycle, but was nominated at a convention, so we have a rematch.

Senate District 5
Registration: D 10670, R 13183, N 14020, total 37977, R +2513
Tim Kraayenbrink (R), holdover

House District 9
Registration: D 6657, R 5109, N 6472, total 18300, D +1548
Helen Miller (D), incumbent

Miller has been mostly safe since first winning in 2002, other than a fluke close race in wave year 2010, and was unopposed in 2014. The Republican is former school board member Gary Waechter.

House District 10
Registration: D 4013, R 8074, N 7548, total 19677, R +4061
Mike Sexton (R), incumbent

Sexton, who served a turn of the century Senate term, walked into this seat in 2014 with no primary and just a Libertarian in the general when two-term hard right Republican Tom Shaw retired. Even the Libertarians, who may have a record number of candidates this cycle, aren't bothering here.

Senate District 6
Registration: D 9633, R 14274, N 14948, total 38949, R +4641
Mark Segebart (R), incumbent

Segebart, then a county supervisor, won a three way 2012 primary for a new seat and beat a serious Democratic bid by Democrat Mary Bruner. This year the Democrats punt. Segebart faces only Libertarian Nick Serianni, campaigning for "unconditional liberty and unrelenting freedom."

House District 11
Registration: D 4284, R 7259, N 6868, total 18447, R +2975
Gary Worthan (R), incumbent

Worthan has been comfortable since winning a December 2006 special and overwhelmed his last Democratic opponent with 74% in 2010.

Democrat Sara Huddleston was on the Storm Lake city council for 12 years but lost her re-election race last November. Not obvious from the name but Huddleston is Hispanic, so another one where the Trump Factor could boost turnout, and where a Latina candidate could help the top of the ticket. So even though this is the #80 Democratic seat, 50 State Strategy at its best.

House District 12
Registration: D 5349, R 7015, N 8080, total 20502, R +1666
Brian Best (R), incumbent

Best knocked off two term Democrat Dan Muhlbauer in 2014, returning the old Rod Roberts seat to the GOP column. Democrats are running deputy sheriff Ken Myers, who drew attention as a 2012 Democratic National Convention speaker.  Dems have done well with deputy sheriffs (see senators Steve Sodders and Kevin Kinney), but this seat seems to be taking a rightward swing, and in a bad sign Myers didn't file a July 19 finance report.

Senate District 7
Registration: D 11291, R 9005, N 9776, total 30177, D +2286
Rick Bertrand (R), holdover

Bertrand's primary challenge to Steve King fizzled, so Dems won't have a shot at picking up this seat in a special election.  But it's likely to open up in 2018.

House District 13
Registration: D 5352, R 5150, N 5006, total 15576, D +202
Chris Hall (D), incumbent

Hall is just 30 yet seeking his 4th term. He won an open seat in 2010 when Democrat Roger Wendt retired in ill health, then survived the only two incumbent Democrat vs. Republican general election pair-up in 2012 (one-term GOP Rep. Jeremy Taylor landed on the Board of Supervisors in 2014) and easily beat a weak Republican in 2014.

This Republican may be weaker still, despite having actually won an election. Shaun Broyhill won a 2013 school board race but resigned before taking his seat when an outstanding warrant bit him in the butt.

The district is more Democratic than the registration numbers indicate. It was +1804 for Dems in March, but the King-Bertrand primary drew lots of crossovers.

House District 14
Registration: D 5922, R 4320, N 4683, total 14974, D +1602
OPEN - Dave Dawson (D) retiring

We all have our process pet peeves. Desmoinesdem of Bleeding Heartland's pet peeve is smooth handoffs - last second legislative retirements accompanied by announcements from the anointed successor. So her brain about exploded in March when three Democratic legislators retired in the final 48 hours before deadline.

Dawson steps down after two terms and the chosen one is police officer Timothy Kacena - there's that deputy sheriff thing again. Republicans are running Robert Henderson, a teacher who lost a 2015 school board race. Kacena is the favorite in the #29 Democratic seat.

Senate District 8
Registration: D 10395, R 9938, N 11588, total 32159, D +457
Mike Gronstal (D), incumbent

Governor Gronstal is the general in Iowa's biggest battle of all, bigger than even the presidential race: control of the state senate. Gronstal has held the majority by one vote through two cycles, blocking Terry Branstad's career-end fantasies of making Iowa into Scott Walker's Wisconsin.

So Gronstal is Undesirable Number One. As for Gronstal in particular, Dan Dawson easily won a three way primary to earn a shot at the heavyweight champ. But Mike won't give up that belt easily.

House District 15
Registration: D 5362, R 4280, N 5821, total 15582, D +1082
Charlie McConkey (D), incumbent

Labor guy McConkey gained this seat against the Republican tide of 2014, as GOP incumbent Mark Brandenburg was elected county recorder after two House terms. Bill Riley, seeking to regain the seat for the Republicans, seems to be a Republican party activist.

House District 16
Registration: D 5033, R 5658, N 5767, total 16577, R +625
Mary Ann Hanusa (R), incumbent

This seat is right on the bubble of House control: #51 for the Democrats. Hanusa, who worked in the Bush 43 White House, held this seat for the GOP in 2010 when party switcher Doug Struyk retired late.

Democrats look to be making a serious effort with Steve Gorman, a firefighter. That's the other go-to occupation in Democratic candidate recruitment, see also senators Jeff Danielson and Chris Brase.

Senate District 9
Registration: D 9018, R 14764, N 12042, total 35886, R +5746
Jason Schultz (R), holdover

House District 17
Registration: D 4540, R 7904, N 6290, total 18777, R +3364
Matt Windschitl (R), incumbent

The Legislature’s leading Gun Guy won the seat by knocking off Paul Wilderdyke in a 2006 primary challenge from the right. Democrat Jan Creasman, a former West Harrison school board member, won 39% against Windschitl in 2008 and is making a second try.

House District 18
Registration: D 4400, R 7270, N 5624, total 17324, R +2870
Steven Holt (R), incumbent

Holt was the chosen successor when Schultz moved over to the Senate in 2014 and easily dispatched a Some Dude student who didn't get the message and ran in the primary. Democrats made a game effort but Holt won with 69%, enough to scare off opposition for this cycle.

Senate District 10
Registration: D 9822, R 16211, N 16255, total 42431, R +6389
Jake Chapman (R), incumbent

Chapman had an all but free ride when this Dallas County and west exurbs district was new in 2012, with a weak primary rival and an uncontested general. Democrats are making their first attempt with Matt Paladino, a lab tech who feels like a self-starter. This is the 8th most Republican seat, not a likely spot for Mike Gronstal to play offense when he has to play so much defense.

House District 19
Registration: D 5210, R 9604, N 8856, total 23751, R +4394
Ralph C. Watts (R), incumbent

Watts was first elected to a new seat in 2002, and massive population growth cut his district in half in 2012, leaving him with just north and west Dallas County. Democrat Ken Herring held Watts to 58% in 2012, but he was unopposed in `14.

Democrat Bryce Smith, a young (early 20s) small business owner, has been up and running for more than a year, has a high social media profile, and seems to be taken seriously. But this race is very tough in the 12th most Republican seat.

House District 20
Registration: D 4612, R 6607, N 7399, total 18680, R +1995
Clel Baudler (R), incumbent

I can't remember the last time I saw a four-way state legislative race, but this cycle we have three. And bizarrely, the reason there are four candidates here seems to be a party split... in the Libertarians.

Bob Boyle has the Libertarian label but Ryan Ketelsen, the 2014 LP nominee for lieutenant governor and an actual election winner (Panora city council), is running as an independent. Presumably representing the People's Front of Judea.

So that's the undercard. In the main event, retired state trooper Clel Baudler is a Good Ole Boy in a district that's changed a LOT since he was elected in 1998, trending urban and exurban. Democrats have held him under 60% the last two cycles, so even though this is the 32nd most Republican seat, Baudler feels like an under performer and the splitters! won't help. (The Big Liberty wing of the AJ Spiker-era Iowa GOP was often rumored to be looking at primarying Baudler.)

It looks like Democrats take this race seriously. Scott Heldt has been a campaign and legislative staffer and worked with the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. Heldt has a money edge with $4700 on hand to Baudler's $1431. This district is shifting from rural to exurban - will Trump backlash ripple this far out, or will a district that elects the rough-edged Baudler embrace the Donald?

Senate District 11
Registration: D 8505, R 18746, N 13762, total 41125, R +10241
Tom Shipley (R), holdover

House District 21
Registration: D 3835, R 8481, N 7130, total 19480, R +4646
Tom Moore (R), incumbent

Moore took over in a special election after the death of long time GOP Rep. Jack Drake and is unopposed for his first full term.

House District 22
Registration: D 4670, R 10265, N 6632, total 21645, R +5595
Greg Forristall (R), incumbent

Forristall easily dispatched a primary challenge from musket toting, tri-corner hat wearing Bryan Jack Holder, winning 80-20%. Holder, undeterred, is now the Libertarian nominee in the 3rd CD, where he ran as an "independent liberty" candidate in `14. As for Forristall, his race is much less colorful and interesting. He has no opposition in the 8th most Republican district.

Senate District 12
Registration: D 7029, R 19314, N 11216, total 37657, R +12285
Mark Costello (R), incumbent

Costello served one House term then took over from Joni Ernst in a special election. Democrats aren't trying in the #3 GOP seat, so Costello again faces Libertarian Don Brantz, a former Mills County supervisor who was in a very high profile way arrested on a sexual assault charge during the special election campaign. (I can't find the outcome of the case.)

House District 23
Registration: D 3806, R 9863, N 5987, total 19720, R +6057
David Sieck (R), incumbent

Ernst's 2014 win prompted two special elections. After Costello moved over to the Senate, Sieck won the special for the House seat. And I can't get through a District Of The Day without noting that Bob Dvorsky resigned from the House in 1994 to run in a Senate special and save the cost of a second election. If you're playing at home, #drink.

In his first general election, Sieck is running against Elvis. No, really. Craig Florian of Glenwood is an Elvis impersonator. This is your Democratic candidate in House 23:

In his spare time Florian has also been on a city council and run as an independent for county treasurer.

House District 24
Registration: D 3223, R 9451, N 5229, total 17937, R +6228
Cecil Dolecheck (R), incumbent

A real letdown after Elvis. Dolecheck, first elected in 1996, is unopposed.

Senate District 13
Registration: D 12209, R 15546, N 14167, total 42039, R +3337
Julian B. Garrett (R), holdover

House District 25
Registration: D 5693, R 8365, N 7394, total 21508, R +2672
Stan Gustafson (R), incumbent

Gustafson won this seat in a hurry-up special election in early 2013 when Garrett went to the Senate to replace the disgraced and indicted Kent Sorenson. The district has seen  Warren vs. Madison County primaries every cycle since it opened up on Jodi Tymeson's 2010 retirement, with Warren winning all of them (Tymeson was Madison-based). Gustafson won this year two to one. He now faces Van Meter Democrat Justin Knight who looks like a self starter in a seat that's #74 for the Dems.

House District 26
Registration: D 6516, R 7181, N 6773, total 20531, R +665
Scott Ourth (D), incumbent

Ourth is a strong candidate in a borderline seat, #51 for the Dems. He won in 2012 after losing an upset in 2010 to fluke one term tea partier Glen Massie. In equally tough 2014 Ourth beat police officer James Butler with 54%.

Republicans seem to be less serious this cycle, running the interestingly named Rebel Snodgrass, an aluminum siding guy and party activist.

Senate District 14
Registration: D 10032, R 13539, N 12847, total 36489, R +3507
Amy Sinclair (R), incumbent

Sinclair, now the only Republican woman in the Senate, won a three way primary in 2012 when this seat was sort of new and sort of open. (Former GOP leader Paul McKinley lived in the lines but it was changed a lot and he retired.) Democrats made a game effort but this south central Iowa turf is just a little too tough and Sinclair won with 61%.

Sinclair's only challenger is Ruth Smith, who has run here multiple times as a Democrat and, pissed off that Democrats didn't make her race a priority, later as an independent. She also ran for the US Senate in 2014.

House District 27
Registration: D 4779, R 6451, N 5808, total 17075, R +1672
Joel Fry (R), incumbent

Fry knocked off Democrat Mike Reasoner in one of 2010’s upsets. Democrats looked like they were making a serious run in 2014 with Osceola mayor Fred Diehl but Fry stomped him with 67%. Undeterred, Democrats are trying again with Rich Higdon, a farmer and retired Air Force officer. This seat is #66 on the Democratic depth chart.

House District 28
Registration: D 5253, R 7088, N 7039, total 19414, R +1835
Greg Heartsill (R), incumbent

Heartsill won this seat when it was new in 2012 and then faced an abortive (see what I did there) primary challenge last cycle that was abandoned over residence issues.

This is a heavy lift as the #68 Democratic seat, but Heartsill is one of the loonier and most extreme House Republicans, annoying Democrats enough to inspire two candidates, with teacher Martin Duffy the primary winner.

Senate District 15
Registration: D 14475, R 13448, N 13927, total 42019, D +1027
Chaz Allen (D), holdover

House District 29
Registration: D 7640, R 5624, N 6876, total 20183, D +2016
Dan Kelley (D), incumbent, defeated in primary

Like I said somewhere back around Sioux City, we all have our process pet peeves. Mine are sore losers; if you buy into a primary process, you buy into the outcome.

Usually sore loser candidates are mere nuisances. This one is a big deal. It's hard to believe anyone could wrest the 2016 award for Most Bitter Loser from Tom Fiegen, but he's done no real damage except to what little remained of his credibility. If this costs the Dems the seat, you have to give that no-prize to Dan Kelley.

Kelley was the only legislator defeated in a primary this year, losing to police officer Wes Breckinridge in a rematch of a 2010 nominating convention battle. It was a nasty and divisive race which Breckenridge won almost two to one.

But just before deadline Kelley filed as - get this - the "Stand Up To Bullies" candidate, the label more revealing than he may have intended. (I would have gone with Slightly Silly Party. More dignified.)

The beneficiary of this Democratic split is Republican Patrick Payton, who held Kelley to 54% in 2014. Kelley clearly has some negatives, and with a presidential year and without the baggage, Breckenridge would likely have run stronger against Payton in a one on one. But with a split, this one just moved way up the GOP target list.

House District 30
Registration: D 6835, R 7824, N 7051, total 21836, R+989
Zach Nunn (R), incumbent

Altoona has been a revolving door seat, switching parties the last three cycles. Hard-right Republican Kim Pearson knocked off conservaDem Geri Huser in 2010, then quit after one term. Democrat Joe Riding won in 2012, but got knocked off last cycle by Zach Nunn of Bondurant, by a pretty solid 56-44% margin.

Riding, hoping for better results in the presidential year, is making a comeback attempt in the #56 seat for Dems.

Senate District 16
Registration: D 15334, R 7216, N 9434, total 32193, D +8118
OPEN: Dick L. Dearden (D), retiring

This was the biggest primary of the year: a safe Democratic east side Des Moines seat that opened up with the retirement of Dick Dearden. He had hoped to hand the seat off to his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, but she lost a close primary to labor attorney Nate Boulton, who automatically becomes a rising star in state Democratic politics.

Boulton drew two last minute opponents. Republican Mike Pryor appears to be a Some Dude:
Some Dude: Some candidates start out with certain built-in advantages: They already hold office, they have personal wealth, or they have a prominent public profile. Some Dude has none of these. If you Google Some Dude’s name, you’ll find very little information-probably just the news article or blog post where they were first mentioned as a possible candidate. A good hint you’re dealing with a Some Dude is that they’re described as an “activist” or “Tea Party member” in press accounts. Note: Some Dudes sometimes win!
I can't even find the announcement. There's also a Libertarian, Christopher Whiteing, who at least has a candidate page (saved you a click: it's blank). Might be a good contest for second place, and keeps the hard-working Boulton out helping the rest of the ticket, boosting turnout in this safe seat.

House District 31
Registration: D 7614, R 4642, N 5196, total 17550, D +2972
Rick Olson (D), incumbent

Olson won this seat in 2004 after a six way primary and a convention , and not much has happened since. He drew two late starting opponents, Republican Matt Christoffersen and Libertarian Joe Gleason.

House District 32
Registration: D 7720, R 2574, N 4238, total 14643, D +5146
Ruth Ann Gaines (D), incumbent

A couple days before the 2010 filing deadline, incumbent Wayne Ford announced his retirement and endorsed Gaines, who wound up with no primary opposition. Gaines has easily beaten Republican and Libertarian Some Dudes since and gets both this time: Bill Charlier for the GOP and Seth Bartmess for the Libertarians.

Senate District 17
Registration: D 16562, R 6709, N 9470, total 32943, D +9853
Tony Bisignano (D), holdover

House District 33
Registration: D 7920, R 3111, N 4640, total 15756, D +4809
Brian Meyer (D), incumbent

Meyer, then on the Des Moines city council, won this seat in a 2013 special after Kevin McCarthy's resignation. He had an easy 69% primary win over Jim Addy this year.  The Republicans, who literally chose their 2012 challenger to McCarthy from the audience at the nominating convention, aren't trying, so Meyer faces only Libertarian Jeremy Tomlinson.

House District 34
Registration: D 8642, R 3598, N 4830, total 17187, D +5044
Bruce L. Hunter (D), incumbent

Hunter won a hurry-up January 2003 special and has been safe ever since. He beat a late starting Republican with 65% in 2014 and is unopposed.

Senate District 18
Registration: D 17141, R 7077, N 9211, total 33651, D +10064
Janet Petersen (D), incumbent

After six terms in the House, Petersen was handed a perfect Senate district on Map Day 2011, and easily dispatched a fringe candidate in 2012. She's unopposed this year, leaving her free to think about... whatever may happen in 2018 when she's a holdover. Lots of opportunities for a veteran legislator who's still only in her mid-40's.

House District 35
Registration: D 7479, R 2183, N 3733, total 13490, D +5296
Ako Abdul-Samad (D), incumbent

Ako took over in 2006 when Ed Fallon ran for governor, and drew primary rivals early in his career, but has now comfortably settled in. The Republicans have given up and Ako faces Libertarian Jocelyn Fry.

House District 36
Registration: D 9662, R 4894, N 5478, total 20161, D +4768
Marti Anderson (D), incumbent

Anderson won a well-contested 2012 primary when Peterson went to the Senate, took 68% in the general, and went unopposed in 2014. This year Republican Scott Miller won a low turnout primary 53-47%.

Senate District 19
Registration: D 13264, R 17387, N 14110, total 45028, R +4123
Jack Whitver (R), holdover

This Is Where Your District Went
Registration: D 6611, R 10213, N 7682, total 24657, R +3602
John Landon (R), incumbent

John Landon was a controversial convention winner by one vote when this Ankeny seat was new - as in newly constructed out of cornfields during the previous decade  - in the 2012 redistricting. It was a six way primary and he had finished third with just 16.5%. Despite that inauspicious start, he drew no primary challengers in 2014 or 2016.

Andrea Phillips is one of several suburban female Democratic candidates in Polk County. This district is tough - #84 district for Democrats - but having one more candidate out there can't hurt Hillary in a high growth high turnout area.

House District 38
Registration: D 6653, R 7174, N 6428, total 20371, R +521
Kevin Koester (R), incumbent

The battle for House control gets serious in these next few districts. This one is the second of our four-way races.

Koester has seemed vulnerable on some level ever since he was, as a sitting legislator, the first candidate eliminated at the multi-candidate 2011 state senate convention that nominated Whitver. Redistricting chopped the seat in half and Koester got the weaker half, now the #49 seat for Democrats. And this year, with Trump tanking the GOP brand in the burbs, Heather Matson is clearly a top tier candidate and Democrats will push hard to win this seat.

So that's the main event. But it wouldn't be an Ankeny election without Brett Nelson standing on the street holding signs. He lost the GOP primary to Koester by about the usual 85-15 margin, and is now running as an independent. He's oh-fer-8 and about to lose his ninth election in a row, putting him in a tie for Most Persistent Candidate. (Some years he annoys Whitver rather than Koester.)

Not to be outdone, the Libertarians are running Jeffrey Meyers. Don't laugh. Nelson's usual 4ish% and the Libertarian share are more likely to hurt Koester than Matson.

Senate District 20
Registration: D 13252, R 17545, N 13281, total 44297, R +4293
Brad Zaun (R), incumbent

2014 was an even tougher loss for Brad Zaun than 2010. In 2010 everyone knew there would be another chance, either against Leonard Boswell or, as it turned out, when Tom Latham retired. But that second chance blew up in an upset, multi-ballot convention that came down to Zaun vs. Anyone But Zaun. The generational change in the seat from Latham to David Young now makes Zaun an also-ran.

Zaun hinted at challenging Young in this year's primary, and for a while worked on changing the law to set up a runoff system to replace Iowa's convention system. But both ideas fizzled and Zaun is settling for another run for his Senate seat. Ya gotta wonder if he's secretly hoping for a Jim Mowrer win and another shot in 2018...

The challenger is Democrat Miyoko Hikiji. Even though the numbers are tough for Hijiki (#39 seat of 50 for Dems), it'll be interesting to see Iowa's leading pre-caucus Donald Trump supporter running against someone with a foreign sounding name, especially when she's a military vet who grew up in Cedar Rapids.

House District 39
Registration: D 6397, R 9802, N 7584, total 23913, R +3405
Jake Highfill (R), incumbent

Highfill is seeking his third term but has never really had a solid grasp on this seat since his upset primary defeat of Erik Helland in 2012. He lucked out in the 2014 primary by drawing two opponents who split the vote, winning with just 46%. So Highfill seemed doomed when he drew just one rival, Christian DenOuden, this year, but he held on with 58%.

Johnston is very tough turf for a Democrat (the #83 Democratic seat) but Highfill underperformed in 2012 and Democrats are ready with nurse Maradith Morris.

House District 40
Registration: D 6855, R 7743, N 5697, total 20384, R +888
John Forbes (D), incumbent

Forbes holds one of the tougher seats for Democrats (#55 on party registration) but won a second term with a decent 55% against a late starting opponent in 2014. This year's GOP opponent, Scott Reed, scored a three to one primary win but doesn't look like a serious challenge.

Senate District 21
Registration: D 18245, R 11971, N 10186, total 40660, D +6274
Matt McCoy (D), holdover

House District 41
Registration: D 11251, R 4624, N 4362, total 20350, D +6627
Jo Oldson (D), incumbent

Oldson easily won her toughest challenge in ages in the primary. Eddie Mauro ran a serious effort (with the usual La Machina absentee effort) and turnout was high, but Oldson crushed him with 67%. She's unopposed in November after facing only a Green Party opponent in `14.

Side note: that Green challenger was the party's only candidate in the state in 2014. This year, other than presidential nominee Jill "Anti-Vaxxer" Stein, the Greens have no federal or state candidates. That could change if Stein hits the magic 2% for full party status. The math of Iowa election law makes it incredibly easy for a candidate of a very small yet full status party to access the ballot, especially at the congressional level.

House District 42
Registration: D 6994, R 7347, N 5824, total 20310, R +353
Peter Cownie (R), incumbent

Cownie hasn't really been tested since he won this as an open seat 55%-42% in 2008. He drew a Some Dude opponent in 2014, and his 2010 and 2012 opponents BOTH dropped out too late to get their names off the ballot.

But even as just a name on the ballot with no campaign, the 2012 Democrat drew 43%, so there's a strong base here. This is the #48 seat for Democrats and a top target. Claire Celsi owns a PR firm - a lot of overlap with campaign skills there - and has deep community roots. She had $30,870 on hand in the July 19 report to Cownie's $115.065.

Senate District 22
Registration: D 13021, R 17015, N 14747, total 44982, R +3994
Charles Schneider (R), incumbent

It seems odd, after he's served four full sessions, but this is Schneider's first general election. Incumbent Republican Pat Ward died three weeks before the 2012 election, and Schneider beat Desmund Adams in a hurry-up special a month later.

Schneider faces banking underwriter Andrew Barnes. Democrats were making a serious effort with Adams in 2012, in part because early on it looked like Ward was vulnerable to a conservative primary challenger. But Barnes is probably a lot lower on Mike Gronstal's depth chart in the number 37 seat for Senate Dems.

House District 43
Registration: D 7275, R 7449, N 5379, total 20197, R +174
Chris Hagenow (R), incumbent

Hagenow has had two nailbiters in presidential years: he won his first race in 2008 by a razor close 91 votes, and in 2012 beat Susan Judkins by just 23.

Democrats looked like they might get a primary here, but 2014 state auditor candidate Jonathan Neiderbach stepped aside and Dems are going with Drake journalism professor Jennifer Konfrst. She has deep district roots; mom Berry Glover is on the Windsor Heights city council and dad is living legend Mike Glover, the dean of Iowa journalism.

This seat is critical to both parties and will be fiercely fought. Konfrst has a strong $40,877 in the bank on July 19, but Hagenow is sitting on $222,913. And who knows how much party/PAC money will flow here.

House District 44
Registration: D 5746, R 9566, N 9368, total 24785, R +3820
Rob Taylor (R), incumbent

This is the other This Is Where Your District Went, in high-growth eastern Dallas County. Taylor walked into the seat without a primary when it was new in 2012, and easily beat a credible Democrat. 2014 and 2016, both uncontested in primary and general.

Senate District 23
Registration: D 13927, R 10715, N 11749, total 36704, D +3212
Herman C. Quirmbach (D), holdover

House District 45
Registration: D 7072, R 5063, N 5870, total 18171, D +2009
Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D), incumbent

This seat is the home of the guy who's tied with Ankeny's Brett Nelson for Most Persistent Candidate. But at least Eric Cooper is on a clear ideological/partisan mission, and not merely delusional like Nelson.

Cooper has sought an Ames legislative seat for the Libertarians every cycle since 2000, except in 2010 when he was the nominee for governor. He's on track for his ninth loss in a row. Cooper draws decent double digits when he's the only opponent to a Democrat, and single digits when the GOP runs.

Wessel-Kroeschell has been relatively comfortable since winning a four-way primary when this seat opened up in 2004. Cooper wasn't her problem till redistricting in 2012. In addition to Cooper, she faces Sondra Childs-Smith (a second Republican dropped out pre-primary).

House District 46
Registration: D 6855, R 5652, N 5879, total 18533, D +1203
Lisa Heddens (D), incumbent

While BW-K gets two opponents, Heddens gets none. She went to the House in 2002 when a whole bunch of Ames area seats turned over.

Senate District 24
Registration: D 11155, R 14546, N 14667, total 40511, R +3391
Jerry Behn (R), incumbent

Behn, in the Senate since 1996 and one of several Defense Against The Dark Arts professors who took a turn as senate minority leader, won with 56.5% in 2012. He faces attorney Keith Puntenney, one of the landowners suing over the Bakken pipeline, so look for activists on that issue to get involved here.

House District 47
Registration: D 5752, R 6903, N 7476, total 20200, R +1151
Chip Baltimore (R), incumbent

The Minutemen fan in me would like to see (D-Boone) back in the legislature for the first time since 2010, when Baltimore upset Donovan Olson. Baltimore won the rematch in 2012 by a bigger margin, drew a weaker opponent in 2014, and based on numbers this seat seems to be trending redder.

Democrat Deb Duncan, who works in small business development, had an easy two to one primary win.

House District 48
Registration: D 5403, R 7643, N 7191, total 20311, R +2240
Rob Bacon (R), incumbent

The Baconator served two years in the Senate before getting paired up with Bill Dix and switching to the House, where he was unopposed in 2014. He gets bonus points for his committee name Friends Of Bacon.

Don't expect miracles in the #73 seat for Dems. Bacon faces Sherrie Taha, the hapless 2014 Democratic nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, who was by far the weakest major party candidate I've ever seen run for state-level office in Iowa in my 26 years here. Dems: If you're recruiting for Ag Sec for 2018 when it's rumored Bill Northey may do something else, remember that you've only ever won this office with shit on your boots (Dale Cochran, Patty Judge) and never with organic granola (Denise O'Brien, Francis Thicke, and Taha). 

Senate District 25
Registration: D 8622, R 16573, N 14353, total 39694, R +7951
Bill Dix (R), holdover

Off-cycle, Dix can devote his full attention to a Senate-control battle that's probably more important to Iowans than the presidential race.

House District 49
Registration: D 4764, R 7605, N 7422, total 19902, R +2841
Dave Deyoe (R), incumbent

Deyoe, first elected in 2006, was unopposed as of the primary filing deadline, but now is in the last of our three four-way contests. Democrat Mickie Franklin looks like a "party activist" (read: Some Dude). There's also Libertarian John Evans and Mike Knox, an "in the aisle not across the aisle" independent who's interested in bike safety.

House District 50
Registration: D 3858, R 8968, N 6931, total 19792, R +5110
Pat Grassley (R), incumbent

For months - no, years - I was watching for the Last Second Switcheroo Scenario: On deadline day, Grandpa does not file for the US Senate and Grandson does. I lowered the odds periodically, but always imagined it.

But I never bet a beret on it, which is good. Pat now has six more years to build the resume; one step of that may be Secretary of Agriculture if Bill Northey steps down (or up) in `18.

Redistricting gave Pat a pair-up that he won in an epic primary against Annette Sweeney and, once that was done, a top ten Republican seat. Democrat Doris Fritz is back for more punishment after losing to Grassley 74-26% in 2014.

Senate District 26
Registration: D 11149, R 11923, N 16348, total 39475, R +774
Mary Jo Wilhelm (D), incumbent

While the battle for the House is centered in the Des Moines suburbs, the fight for Senate control is in northern and eastern Iowa. Democrats are lucky that several of their tougher seats are even-numbered and land on the higher turnout presidential cycle.

Wilhelm won a tough race by just 126 votes in 2012, when redistricting paired her up with Merlin Bartz. Bartz was hurt by a fence spat with neighbors that wasn't very Iowa Nice.

This cycle Republicans have recruited Waylon Brown, business owner and county Farm Bureau VP. He's trailing in cash on hand with $7258 to Wilhelm's $58,578, but this is a must win for both sides so loook for those numbers to climb exponentially.

House District 51
Registration: D 5138, R 6413, N 7838, total 19410, R +1275
OPEN - Josh Byrnes (R), retiring

Byrnes gained this seat in 2010 when six term Democrat Mark Kuhn stepped down. Democrat Tim Hejhal, a high school principal, faces Republican Jane Bloomingdale, the Northwood mayor (she also has an independent run for a courthouse office in the past).

House District 52
Registration: D 6011, R 5510, N 8510, total 20065, D +501
Todd Prichard (D), incumbent

Prichard was a comfortable special election winner when Brian Quirk quit immediately after getting re-elected in 2012, and was unopposed in 2014. He faces Republican Stacie Stokes.

Senate District 27
Registration: D 10700, R 13440, N 15375, total 39579, R +2740
Amanda Ragan (D), holdover

House District 53
Registration: D 6656, R 4759, N 8194, total 19646, D +1897
Sharon Steckman (D), incumbent

Steckman took the Mason City seat from the GOP in 2008 when Bill Shickel retired. This year she faces Cerro Gordo Republican chair Barbara Hovland.

House District 54
Registration: D 4044, R 8681, N 7181, total 19933, R +4637
Linda L. Upmeyer (R), incumbent

One more Iowa gender barrier was broken by a Republican woman this year as Upmeyer became the first female House speaker. That fact leaves Democrats seething, yet they haven't found an opponent for Upmeyer since she moved into this district after the 2011 redistricting.

Senate District 28
Registration: D 10709, R 13826, N 13347, total 37969, R +3117
Michael Breitbach (R), incumbent

Even though the Democrats held 26 seats in 2012, this one broke Democrats' hearts. Breitbach, who'd lost a 2010 House race, beat ex-rep John Beard by just 17 votes.

So this will be one of the few places where Mike Gronstal is on offense. Democrats are running human services coordinator Jan Heikes. She gets a little help because Libertarians are running here with Troy Hageman. My theory is Libertarians take about two GOP votes for every one Democratic vote, so every three votes for a Libertarian is a net +1 for the Democrats.             

House District 55
Registration: D 5704, R 6585, N 6370, total 18703, R +881
OPEN - Darrel Branhagen (R), retiring

Longtime Democrat Roger Thomas, who'd been hurt in redistricting and barely held on in 2012, retired in `14. But his GOP successor, Branhagen, is one and done.

Both parties had primaries, and the general election puts Republican Michael Bergan against Democratic attorney/ex-Marine Pat Ritter. This is seat #54 for Dems and 47 for Republicans, so it'll be a targeted race.

House District 56
Registration: D 5005, R 7241, N 6977, total 19266, R +2236
Patti Ruff (D), incumbent

Ruff, a former school board member, has the most Republican House seat held by a Democrat, the #72 Democratic district by registration. She knocked off one term Republican Bob Hager in 2012 when redistricting split his base, and beat a late starter Republican 56-44% in 2014. Now Kristi Hager, Bob's spouse, is trying to take the seat back for the Republicans, after easily beating 2014 nominee Lowell Engle in the primary.

Senate District 29
Registration: D 14905, R 11560, N 16735, total 43291, D +3345
Tod R. Bowman (D), holdover

House District 57
Registration: D 7881, R 6314, N 8077, total 22332, D +1567
OPEN - Nancy Dunkel (D),retiring

Dunkel walked into the rural Dubuque County seat without primary OR general election opposition in 2012, and easily beat a weak Republican and a Libertarian in 2014.

Dunkel was one of the last second retirements and she helped recruit/anoint banker Tom Stecher. Republicans were caught unaware but got Shannon Lundgren, who had been running for the Board of Supervisors, to switch to this race. This is the #30 Democratic seat so Stecher has an edge.

House District 58
Registration: D 7024, R 5246, N 8658, total 20959, D +1778
OPEN - Brian Moore, R, retiring

This is the most Democratic seat (#28) in GOP hands and thus the best shot at a Democratic pickup. Moore, who had lost a Democratic Senate primary in 2010, switched parties, shocked everyone by knocking off incumbent Tom Schueller, then won a 2012 rematch. But he had to have figured his luck would eventually run out.

Attorney Andy McKean of Anamosa easily dispatched two primary rivals. McKean served in the Senate and House in the 80s and 90s, and then later on the Jones County Board of Supervisors. I worked for his 1992 opponent and remember McKean had the only round yard signs I've ever seen.

The original Democrat, Peter Hird, dropped out post-primary, and was replaced by Jessica Kean. So Kean vs. McKean, not confusing at ALL.

Senate District 30
Registration: D 12424, R 12631, N 14384, total 39653, R +207
Jeff Danielson (D), incumbent

First elected in 2004, Danielson is a perennial GOP target, surviving a 2008 recount against Walt Rogers by two dozen votes.  He faces Bonnie Sadler, a pharmacy company executive.

House District 59
Registration: D 6150, R 5353, N 7039, total 18664, D +797
Bob Kressig (D), incumbent

Kressig is a perpetual target in Cedar Falls. His 2014 win with 55% was actually one of his easier races. This cycle's GOP challenger, Drew Speer, seems a little Some Dude-ish. Kressig also gets an assist from an unusually strong independent candidate, Cedar Falls council member Nick Taiber, who's been identified with the Libertarians in the past but is not running under their label.

House District 60
Registration: D 6274, R 7278, N 7345, total 20989, R +1004
Walt Rogers (R), incumbent

Both candidates here had higher ambitions at one time, and dropped 1st Congressional District bids in favor of this seat.

Rogers first won this seat in 2010 after losing a very close 2008 Senate race to Jeff Danielson. He was up and running for Congress in 2014, but dropped out late, just before  the primary filing period.

Democrat Gary Kroeger had been running for the congressional nomination this cycle. The former Saturday Night Live cast member hadn't been getting much traction as the third wheel in the Monica Vernon-Pat Murphy rematch, but as a legislative candidate he's a strong contender, and has gotten a lot of points from other Democrats for switching to this race. In the #57 Democratic seat, the one-time Donny Osmond impersonator has a much better shot than the Elvis impersonator.

Senate District 31
Registration: D 15733, R 6400, N 12398, total 34723, D +9333
Bill Dotzler (D), holdover

House District 61
Registration: D 7184, R 3943, N 6430, total 17647, D +3241
Timi Brown-Powers (D), incumbent

The quietest race in a decade in a seat which has seen five members since 2004. When Anesa Kajtazovic stepped down in 2014 to run for Congress, Brown-Powers took 68% in a three way primary and easily won the general. That scared off any opposition for this year.

House District 62
Registration: D 8549, R 2457, N 5968, total 17076, D +6092
OPEN Deb Berry (D) retiring

At times, this Waterloo district has been the most Democratic seat in the state. Right now it's number 4, behind the two Iowa City seats and Jo Oldson's Des Moines seat, where the primary challenge boosted Democratic registration.

There was no primary here. Berry announced her retirement at the last second and handed off to the chosen successor, community-school coordinator Ras Smith. Independent John Patterson is taking issue with the smooth handoff, but the only real question is whether he can push Republican Todd Obadal into third place.

Senate District 32
Registration: D 10412, R 11327, N 16900, total 38731, R +915
Brian Schoenjahn (D), incumbent

Schoenjahn was first elected in 2004 with 53% in an open seat race when two term Republican Kitty Rehberg stepped down, and despite the borderline district (#26 for Dems) he's won solid re-elections.

Republicans are going with Craig Johnson, who lost a 2014 House race to Bruce Bearinger in the more Democratic half of the district.

House District 63
Registration: D 4975, R 6647, N 8797, total 20472, R +1672
Sandy Salmon (R), incumbent

Salmon, a 2010 primary loser and one of the loonier House Republicans, beat former Senator Bill Heckroth, probably the strongest possible Democratic candidate for the turf, in 2012.

Democratic nurse Teresa Meyer won a three way primary by just 33 votes. Meyer won 42% against Salmon in 2014.

House District 64
Registration: D 5437, R 4680, N 8103, total 18259, D +757
Bruce Bearinger (D), incumbent

This seat was technically a Democratic gain for Bearinger in redistricting year 2012, and the region had flipped back and forth between Republican Dan Rasmussen and Democrat Gene Ficken under the prior map. Craig Johnson, now in the Senate 32 race, held Bearinger to 51% in 2014. Republican Zach Schulz is a late starter. Possible friends and neighbor factor, with Schulz from Independence and Bearinger from Oelwein.

Senate District 33
Registration: D 14794, R 9465, N 10842, total 35344, D +5329
Rob Hogg (D), holdover

Hogg fell just short in the US Senate primary, but he came out of the loss with his status enhanced and is earning a LOT of chips campaigning statewide for legislative Democrats.

House District 65
Registration: D 8021, R 3892, N 4931, total 16969, D +4129
Liz Bennett (D), incumbent

This seat opened up in 2014 due to Tyler Olson's brief run for governor. In a bit of an upset, Bennett beat Cedar Rapids school board member Gary Anhalt in the primary and was unopposed in the general. Republican Harry Foster was a late starting convention candidate in 2014 and won 38% challenging Hogg.

House District 66
Registration: D 6951, R 5945, N 6397, total 19393, D +1006
Art Staed (D), incumbent

District lines are everything: Staed won one term in 2006, lost by 13 votes to Renee Schulte in 2008, then came back to beat Schulte in 2012 after the new map improved the turf. It's improved enough that Staed has gotten a free ride ever since.

Senate District 34
Registration: D 12429, R 12967, N 14375, total 39990, R +538
Liz Mathis (D), incumbent

Because Mathis is so prominent and such a strong candidate, and because Republicans so badly botched 2012 candidate recruitment (their first candidate literally tried to secede from the united States)  it's easy to forget that her district is marginal, right on the edge of Senate control at #23 for the Dems.

Terry Branstad knew that when he kicked Swati Dandekar upstairs to the Utilities Board in 2011, setting up the special election that the Dems clinched when they recruited the former TV anchor.

Republicans are taking this race more seriously this time with Rene Gadehala, a Linn-Mar school board member. The popular Mathis still ranks as a favorite, but she'll have to work a bit harder and will have less time to help other Senate candidates like she did in 2012. That's OK; that's what Rob Hogg is for.

House District 67
Registration: D 5885, R 6946, N 7151, total 20086, R +1061
OPEN - Kraig Paulsen (R), retiring

Paulsen walked away from the speakership and got himself a sweet gig, opening up a GOP leaning but not impossible seat in north metro Cedar Rapids.

Republicans stole the Liz Mathis page out of the playbook when they recruited Ashley Hinson, a KCRG reporter. The station played up her "mysterious" departure for all it was worth - she left on a Friday and announced the next Monday, exactly as Paulsen was retiring. So watch Channel 9 carefully for fairness of coverage. 

Democrat Mark Seidl, an attorney, is making a third bid. He lost a 2010 race to Renee Schulte on worse turf, then challenged Paulsen after redistricting in 2012.

House District 68
Registration: D 6544, R 6021, N 7224, total 19904, D +523
Ken Rizer (R), incumbent

The main Marion seat is one of the swingiest in the state, flipping parties in 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2014. With Brian Moore's retirement, Rizer is now the GOP incumbent defending the toughest turf this year (the #38 seat for Democrats).

Rizer, a retired Air Force officer, knocked off Democrat Daniel Lundby after one term in 2014. (Fallout from the Lundby-Rizer race played a big role in county supervisor Brent Oleson leaving the GOP and joining the Democrats in 2015.)

Marion Democrats are bragging about their five woman top of the ticket: Hillary, Patty Judge, Monica Vernon, Mathis, and Molly Donahue, a special ed teacher. Donahue won a competitive primary against rising star Sam Gray, who was elected as a Democratic national convention delegate at age 17 in 2012. So I'm guessing he has a comeback in him.

Senate District 35
Registration: D 14299, R 8305, N 12705, total 35539, D +5994
Wally E. Horn (D), holdover

Horn, who is the senior legislator and has served since 1972, has announced he's stepping down in 2018.

House District 69
Registration: D 6763, R 3701, N 6278, total 16855, D +3062
Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D), incumbent

Kirsten's toughest race here was the special election nominating convention in 2009, and she goes unopposed again.

House District 70
Registration: D 7536, R 4604, N 6427, total 18684, D +2932
Todd E. Taylor (D), incumbent

Taylor also went to the House in a special election, in 1995, and has had little or no trouble since. 2016 Republican Steve Van Fleet seems to be of Some Dude caliber and has to split votes with Libertarian Dave Cork.

Senate District 36
Registration: D 10803, R 11585, N 14019, total 36479, R +782
Steve Sodders (D), incumbent

Republicans couldn't get their preferred candidate, former senator Larry McKibben, through the primary in 2012, and Sodders beat perennial loser Jane Jech 54-46. He won the seat solidly when McKibben stepped down in 2008.

This cycle, no GOP primary and Republicans are going with farmer Jeff Edler. By party registration, this is on the line of control, #25 for the Democrats.

House District 71
Registration: D 5531, R 5087, N 6124, total 16773, D +444
Mark D. Smith (D), incumbent

Dem leader Smith took this Marshalltown seat from a Republican in 2000 and despite its middling status (#41 for the Dems) has only seen one really tough race, when Jane Jech came close in 2010. After her fourth loss (three to Smith and one to Sodders) Jech has finally given up. Smith is unchallenged and free to focus on his other candidates in the Fight For Fifty-One.

House District 72
Registration: D 5272, R 6498, N 7895, total 19706, R +1226~Dean Fisher (R)
Dean Fisher (R), incumbent

Fisher won an open House 72 in 2012 by just 216 votes over Nathan Wrage, who'd beaten Democratic leadership's preferred candidate in a primary upset. Wrage took 2014 off but is back this cycle after squashing a Some Dude five to one in the primary.

Senate District 37
Registration: D 15413, R 10200, N 12280, total 38071, D +5213
Bob Dvorsky (D), holdover

House District 73
Registration: D 6327, R 6156, N 7289, total 19844, D +171
Bobby Kaufmann (R), incumbent

This seat has been My Precious to Democrats for several cycles: seemingly competitive on paper (#42 for Democratic registration), but beyond reach. Internal strife among the Democrats cost us this seat in 2012 when it was open, and the weak 2014 candidate actually ran worse than the person who moved away but forgot to take her name off the ballot in 2008.

In part because no one in the Democrats wants to stir up the internal strife again, and in part because he seems personally popular, Kaufmann gets a free ride.

House District 74
Registration: D 9086, R 4044, N 4991, total 18227, D +5042
Dave Jacoby (D), incumbent

Last-minute rumors of a Republican (there was even a name) didn't pan out here, so Jacoby, in office since a 2003 special, goes unopposed again.

Senate District 38
Registration: D 10787, R 13591, N 16260, total 40762, R +2804
Tim Kapucian (R), incumbent

Kapucian won this seat 53% to 47% in 2008 when Republican John Putney retired, then beat Dem Shelly Parbs by about 3000 after redistricting in 2012. That initially scared off Democratic opposition. But two Democrats had filed in House 75, and after the drop-out deadline, they worked things out and Dennis Mathaus switched from that race to this one (he got close to a third of the primary vote anyway). There's also a Libertarian, John George.

House District 75
Registration: D 4802, R 6898, N 8264, total 20018, R +2096
Dawn Pettengill (R), incumbent

Pettingill was a target for a couple cycles after her infamous D to R party change on the last day of the 2007 session. But the district seems to have trended to the right with her and she won with about 70% last time.

Paula Denison from Iowa County was the candidate who stayed in the House 75 race.
House District 76
Registration: D 5985, R 6693, N 7996, total 20744, R +708
Dave Maxwell (R), incumbent

Maxwell won a close 53-47 race against Rachel Bly when the seat was new in 2012, then won more easily in `14 over former Grinnell school board president Eric Pederson. This cycle Dems are going with social worker Jacob Tornholm. This is the number 54 seat for Democrats and could be competitive if they can get a student turnout boost out of Grinnell.

Senate District 39
Registration: D 12519, R 13522, N 13746, total 39976, R +1003
Kevin Kinney (D), holdover

House District 77
Registration: D 7778, R 5636, N 7198, total 20737, D +2142
OPEN - Sally Stutsman (D), retiring

Stutsman, a longtime county supervisor, won with 60% when the seat was new in 2012 and was unopposed in `14. She's stepping down and both parties had primaries. This is Johnson County's only contested legislative race and the Democrat, North Liberty mayor Amy Nielsen, is a solid favorite over an unusually strong for Johnson County GOP candidate, former Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips.

House District 78
Registration: D 4741, R 7886, N 6548, total 19239, R +3145
Jarad J. Klein (R), incumbent

Klein, a Sandy Greiner protege, lost this seat in an upset in 2008 to Democrat Larry Marek (the seat went into Johnson County then) but came back to win in 2010, when the climate was redder and when Marek, who'd defected on some key labor votes, was left to fend for himself.

Washington County has a strong right wing faction called "Free County" that's part tea party, part libertarian, and all anti-tax. They often primary Klein and tried again this time. Going into the general, the opposition is Libertarian Joshua Miller, as Democrats have given up.

Senate District 40
Registration: D 9043, R 17204, N 12135, total 38484, R +8161
Ken Rozenboom (R), incumbent

The Democrats lost this seat on Map Day 2011 when Tom Reilly's turf was dismembered and all the Dutch areas around Oskaloosa and Pella were combined into a non-contiguous eastern exclave of the Orange Free State. Kind of like a bantustan.

Redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering used to work in the South African Mapping Department.

County supervisor Rozenboom walked in without much of a fight in 2012 and is one of just two uncontested senators this cycle (the other being Randy Feenstra).

In any case, the boundaries of the People's Republic of Johnson County are clearly stated in the name itself, but I've yet to precisely define the lines of the Orange Free State.

House District 79
Registration: D 3542, R 10222, N 5699, total 19525, R +6680
Guy Vander Linden (R), incumbent

Vander Linden knocked off Democrat Eric Palmer in 2010 when this district went north to Grinnell, then kept a safer seat after a redistricting pairup. No Democrat is up for this fight.

House District 80
Registration: D 5501, R 6982, N 6436, total 18959, R +1481
Larry Sheets (R), incumbent

Sheets narrowly beat Joe Judge of the Monroe County Judges in 2012 race when the seat was new and the priority high, then beat a Some Dude independent last cycle. Dems are running recent college grad Levi Grenko of Centerville, but the open seat in 2012 was likely their best chance. There's also a Libertarian, Garret Byrd.

Senate District 41
Registration: D 13819, R 10958, N 10935, total 35843, D +2861
Mark Chelgren (R), holdover

Anyone else remember back when Chickenman was running for Congress? Good times.

House District 81
Registration: D 7452, R 4388, N 5394, total 17281, D +3064
Mary Gaskill (D), incumbent

Gaskill, the former county auditor, has been in the House since 2002. This year she won a 59-41% primary victory over former city council member Jeremy Weller. Age was a rather unsubtle issue: Gaskill is 74 and Weller is 38. That settled things and no one else is running.

House District 82
Registration: D 6367, R 6570, N 5541, total 18562, R +203
Curt Hanson (D), incumbent

How things have changed: In the fall of 2009, Hanson narrowly won an epic special election, fueled by big outside anti-gay expenditures for his opponent.  He carried that race with under 50%, as the vote for two conservative independents was greater than the margin. (NOW I remember the last time I saw a four way Iowa House race.) But Hanson has settled in so well that this year he goes unopposed.

Senate District 42
Registration: D 12593, R 10602, N 13195, total 36494, D +1991
Rich Taylor (D), incumbent

Taylor, a labor guy from the smaller, Henry County part of the district, won a three way primary then beat Lee County supervisor Larry Kruse in 2012 when longtime legislator Gene Fraise retired.

Republican Danny Graber, also from Mt. Pleasant, is a business owner and home school advocate. This is the number 16 Democratic seat, on the outer fringes of the possible for the GOP.

House District 83
Registration: D 8069, R 3388, N 6279, total 17798, D +4681
Jerry A. Kearns (D), incumbent

Kearns won this seat for as long as he wants in a 2008 primary. Republicans got nuthin'.

House District 84
Registration: D 4524, R 7214, N 6916, total 18696, R +2690
David E. Heaton (R), incumbent

Heaton has been in the House since 1994 and is a long-time retirement rumor. It was so unclear that he was running again in 2014 that a self-starter got into the race. Heaton stomped him 70-30 and then beat perennial candidate Lee Harder, running as an independent for the first time, in the general.

This year, Democrats are running Iowa Army Ammunition Plant employee and mental health advocate Carrie Duncan on turf that's tough for any Democrat not named Vilsack.

Senate District 43
Registration: D 21436, R 6571, N 10253, total 38537, D +14865
Joe Bolkcom (D), holdover

House District 85
Registration: D 11582, R 3660, N 5366, total 20752, D +7922
Vicki S. Lensing (D), incumbent

House District 86
Registration: D 9854, R 2911, N 4887, total 17785, D +6943
Mary Mascher (D), incumbent

All quiet in the top two Democratic seats. There was briefly a rumor that Lensing would see her first GOP opponent since winning the seat in 2000. Nope.

Senate District 44
Registration: D 13953, R 10662, N 13110, total 37844, D +3291
Tom Courtney (D), incumbent

Courtney won this new seat without a fight in 2002 and has been solid since. Republicans are running pharmacist and former school board member Tom Greene.

House District 87
Registration: D 8366, R 4269, N 6260, total 18967, D +4097
Dennis M. Cohoon (D), incumbent

At age 62 Cohoon is the senior House member, first elected in a 1987 special. He won with under 50% in 2012 in a bizarre three way race where a sitting Democratic supervisor finished second running as an independent, and the Republican placed third. No opposition since.

House District 88
Registration: D 5587, R 6393, N 6850, total 18877, R +806
Tom Sands (R), incumbent Open Seat

A nothing race in my old seat (not really MY old seat, since I lost bigly) escalated quickly when Sands, in office since 2002, dropped out two days after the primary. It looked like a smooth handoff to Jason Delzell, who announced his candidacy within two hours of Sands' retirement, but somehow he wound up NOT running at the convention, which instead nominated David Kerr of Morning Sun.

Democrats weren't running anyone against Sands, but recruited Ryan Drew of rural Burlington once the situation changed. This may be the most Hispanic district in the state, covering the West Liberty to Columbus Junction packing corridor. Latino/as turned off by Trump will be turning out here, in the number 53 seat for Democrats.

Senate District 45
Registration: D 15164, R 7560, N 15050, total 37999, D +7604
Joe M. Seng (D), holdover

Seng's health has been in the news again lately.  Should the worst happen, this seat is solidly Democratic.

House District 89
Registration: D 7303, R 4672, N 8003, total 20077, D +2631
Jim Lykam (D), incumbent

House District 90
Registration: D 7861, R 2888, N 7047, total 17922, D +4973
Cindy Winckler (D), incumbent

In 2012 Lykam overwhelmed a relatively serious challenger 2 to 1 while Winckler beat a last minute Big Liberty Republican and a perennial candidate running as an independent. Neither has seen an opponent since.

Senate District 46
Registration: D 11763, R 12124, N 15125, total 39152, R +361
Chris Brase (D), incumbent

This is the ball game. Whoever wins this Muscatine-west Scott County seat is likely to control the Senate.

On Map Day 2011 this seat had TWO Republican incumbents, yet on Election Day 2012 ended up with a Democrat. Shawn Hamerlinck knocked off Jim Hahn in the only two-senator primary of the redistricting cycle, but lost to Muscatine firefighter Brase.

Republicans are running former state rep Mark Lofgren. Lofgren beat three-term Democrat Nathan Reichert in 2010 and stepped down in 2014 for an unsuccessful primary run in the 2nd Congressional District. Look for this race to get hot and, in the QC TV market, ex$pen$ive.

House District 91
Registration: D 5833, R 5949, N 6824, total 18655, R +116
Gary Carlson (R), incumbent

Four Republicans started in this race in 2014 but only two made it to the primary. HON executive Gary Carlson comfortably won both the primary and general (erstwhile opponent John Dabeet is now on the school board).

This year, Democrat Phil Wiese easily beat Jessica Brackett in a primary. I remember seeing Brackett spending all day and into the wee hours at the 2nd District convention in April, a few weeks before the primary. That was a day spent not doorknocking or making calls.

House District 92
Registration: D 5930, R 6175, N 8301, total 20497, R +245
Ross Paustian (R), incumbent

A revolving door: This seat has flipped parties in 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014. Walcott Republican Ross Paustian is making his fifth consecutive run and has a 2-2 lifetime record. He lost in a top-tier challenge to Democrat Elesha Gayman in 2008, then won when Gayman stepped down in 2010. Former Senator Frank Wood knocked him off in 2012, and Paustian in turn knocked Wood off in `14.

So he wins in off years and loses in presidential years, an opportunity for Democratic teacher and veteran Ken Krumwiede. This is the #47 seat for Democrats by registration and one of the most closely divided; if Democrats hope to take the House they need this one.

Senate District 47
Registration: D 13416, R 15349, N 16348, total 45349, R +1933
Roby Smith (R), holdover

House District 93
Registration: D 7277, R 6350, N 7518, total 21250, D +927
Phyllis Thede (D), incumbent

Thede, in the House since 2008 after a narrow 2006 Senate loss, won with 53% in `14. This cycle she faces computer tech and Republican activist Kurt Whalen.On paper, Bettendorf is trending blue; this once marginal seat is now #35 for the Dems.

House District 94
Registration: D 6139, R 8999, N 8830, total 24099, R +2860
OPEN-Linda Miller (R), retiring

Miller, who went to the house after bumping off an incumbent in a 2006 primary, announced her retirement early. This transition was less dramatic. Republican Gary Mohr, a Bettendorf city council member, walks into the legislature untouched.

Senate District 48
Registration: D 10472, R 12664, N 15300, total 38541, R +2192
Dan Zumbach (R), incumbent

This new open seat was the scene of a top priority 2012 race between farmer Zumbach and state Rep. Nate Willems, whose seat was largely dismantled in redistricting. This is the #29 seat by registration for Democrats and one of the few possible pickups. Their candidate, Scott Peterson, is former mayor of Mt. Vernon, which is the Dems' traditional go-to place for talent in this area (if the names Foege, Osterberg, and Loebsack mean anything to you).

Brian Cook, who badly lost the 2012 GOP primary to Zumbach, is in as a Libertarian.

House District 95
Registration: D 6089, R 6199, N 7478, total 19843, R +110
OPEN - Quentin Stanerson (R) retiring

Stanerson beat Democrat Kristi Keast twice - by 200 votes when the district was new in 2012, and more comfortably in 2014. But he's stepping down after just two terms.

Republicans are running Coggon area farmer Louis Zumbach (relation if any to Senator Dan unknown but they can probably split the yard sign bill). Democrats have retired superintendent Richard Whitehead. This evenly split seat is critical to control for both sides.

House District 96
Registration: D 4383, R 6465, N 7822, total 18698, R +2082
Lee Hein (R), incumbent

Hein moved in 2011 to stay with this district after getting just barely paired with fellow Republican Brian Moore. He had beaten Democrat Ray Zirkelbach in 2010. Zirkelbach had held on for three terms in a bluer version of this seat, and essentially got a bye for a big chunk of that time when he was called up for military duty. He briefly flirted with a US Senate run this year.

Democrats have their first candidate since 2010 in Matt Hanlon of Anamosa.

Senate District 49
Registration: D 12266, R 10976, N 16666, total 40029, D +1290
Rita Hart (D), holdover

House District 97
Registration: D 5676, R 6850, N 8915, total 21516, R +1174
Norlin Mommsen (R), incumbent

Democrats made an effort at this seat when it was open in 2014, but Mommsen won with a solid 60%. Democrat Jeff Wolf got in post-primary, and the Libertarians are running David Melchert.

House District 98
Registration: D 6590, R 4126, N 7751, total 18513, D +2464
Mary Wolfe (D), incumbent

Defense attorney Wolfe won a close race when the seat was open in 2010, beat an independent in `12, and was unopposed in 2014. Jeannine Eldrenkamp, an activist on "victims of family court," seems like a self-starter for the Republicans.

This is an All Woman Top Of The Ballot for Democrats with an asterisk, as Hart is not up for re-election. We'll give that asterisk to Mason City as well.

Senate District 50
Registration: D 17246, R 8904, N 12703, total 39037, D +8342
Pam Jochum (D), incumbent

Expect to see Jochum helping out other folks, since keeping 26 Senate Democrats and her president's chair is a bigger issue than her own re-election. She moved smoothly over to the Senate in 2008 with a 70% win over Some Dude John Hulsizer Jr. after 16 years in the House. 

Hulshizer is running again and moving up on our Perennial Persistent Candidate list. He also lost a 2006 House race to Jochum and the 2012 GOP primary for this seat. But even if he wins his fourth loss (huh?), he has a long way to go to catch Brett Nelson and Eric Cooper.

House District 99
Registration: D 9108, R 5068, N 6651, total 20915, D +4040
Abby Finkenauer (D), incumbent

Along with Marion, this half of Dubuque is an All Women Top Five On The Ballot spot for Democrats: Clinton-Judge-Vernon-Jochum-Finkenauer. They also have a female auditor seeking re-election, though they are letting dudes run for supervisor and sheriff. ("Dude" is specifically male, but Some Dude is gender neutral. And The Dude is a unique honorific.)

After winning a primary upset when Pat Murphy left the seat in 2014, Finkenauer has settled in fast enough to go unopposed for term two.

House District 100
Registration: D 8138, R 3836, N 6052, total 18122, D +4302
Charles Isenhart (D), incumbent

In our last district Isenhart, elected in 2008 when Pam Jochum moved to the Senate, has seen no opposition since 2010. Which means I haven't had to rewrite this paragraph for several District Of The Days in a row.