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High Spirits, And A Sense Of Mission In Senate District 22

High Spirits, And A Sense Of Mission In Senate District 22

Charles Schneider, West Des Moines City Council, Senate District 22, IowaTonight was a night for Central Iowa Republicans to bounce back from Tuesday’s less than exciting election results.  Due to the passing of Pat Ward (whose loss was felt and reflected on tonight several times), Republicans needed to nominate a new candidate to run against Desmond Adams on December 11.

The special convention called to make the nomination select attorney and West Des Moines City Councilman Charles Schneider.

Six people ran.  The other five were Clive Mayor Scott Cirksena, Republican Activist Connie Schmett, Valley High School History Teacher Greg Hanson, Pat’s husband John who is an attorney, and former Waukee City Councilman Isaiah McGee.

You can see my twitter comments here.  Kevin Hall at live blogged here.

The convention was a bit of a challenge from a vote counting standpoint because voting in these conventions is, according to state law, done proportionally based on the number of Republicans that voted in the last general election, which for this seat was in 2008.  Redistricting after the 2010 census created a situation where determining how those votes fell into the existing precincts would be impossible, so each precinct got a voting weight of 1. However, since each precinct had different numbers of delegates, one with 7 apparently, each delegate got a portion of the 1 vote for their precinct.  So the numbers in the first ballot had fractions, and the second had decimal points.

There was only one motion brought from the floor, which was a request before the balloting to disqualify both Schneider and Ward because (as I grasped the delegate’s comments) as lawyers they are beholden to the Iowa Supreme Court.  The specific section of the Iowa Constitution that he was referring to is Article III, section 22:

Disqualification. Section 22. No person holding any lucrative office under the United States, or this State, or any other power, shall be eligible to hold a seat in the General Assembly: but offices in the militia, to which there is attached no annual salary, or the office of justice of the peace, or postmaster whose compensation does not exceed one hundred dollars per annum, or notary public, shall not be deemed lucrative.

It was clearly a stretch understanding of the text, and the chairman quickly ruled the motion out of order.

Each ballot took about 25 minutes between voting and counting.  I was expecting to have at least 3 ballots before having a winner declared.  All six candidates are highly qualified and are well respected in the community.  Reaching a decision in two ballots was both a surprise and a relief … wrapping up by 9:00 PM meant I could get home at a decent hour!

The most encouraging part of the evening was listening to everyone with a positive attitude about moving on from Tuesday’s losses.  Although winning Senate District 22 will not swing the balance of power to Republicans in the Iowa Senate, it does move the party one step in the direction of building a majority in 2014.  If Republicans are successful at winning this seat, it has the potential to create long-term momentum.

This will be a hard race.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the Democratic opponent, Desmond Adams, is a strong personality and tells a compelling story.  Look for Desmond to work this campaign from a moderate position.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As an aside, I met Charles Schneider while I was working in my garden one summer’s day in 2007.  He was walking the ward to introduce himself as a candidate.  He impressed me that day, and I’ve spoken with him a number of times since and have sought his help on a few city related issues.  He’s always had time for me, always friendly and does everything he can to ensure his constituents are getting the level of attention they need.  He has a lot of people’s respect in West Des Moines, and I hope he does well in the special election on December 11.

It was good to see and chat with Kevin Hall from, Gary Barrett from WHO Radio, and Bill Petroski from The Des Moines Register.  Bill will be covering the Iowa Senate this coming session.

I also got to spend some time with former Polk County Republican Party Chairmen John Bloom and Ted Sporer, David Fischer from the Campaign for Liberty, my Statehouse Representative Chris Hagenow, State Senator Jack Whitver, Republican Activist Kathy Ford, Scott Cirksena’s wife Julie and his mother (I’m embarrassed that I’ve forgotten her name), and Ryan Keller who is the Polk County Republican Party Executive Director.  Everyone I talked to was very upbeat about the future of the Republican Party.

Final Thoughts, What To Watch For, and Predictions

Final Thoughts, What To Watch For, and Predictions

Final Thoughts

Setting The Senate Table– Here is the link to our Iowa Senate overview.  Remember that as tonight starts Democrats already have 13 seats to the Republicans 11.  Factoring in uncontested races and races heavily favored to one party or the other the tally is R’s-19 and D’s 18.  Further adding in the 8 seats I see leaning one way or another leaves the count at R’s-24 and D’s21–with 5 seats as complete toss-ups.

A Blown Opportunity—The Republican Party of Iowa has done a great job this cycle by getting a candidate on the ballot in every Senate district statewide.  That said, regardless of how things turn out tonight, if they fail to take the majority a big lost opportunity will be in Senate District 34.  It is fair to note the Party really had nothing to do with this debacle and nobody could have predicted Randi Shannon’s melt down, which was the most embarassing episode in Iowa politcs in the last 10 years.  However you feel about the Ron Paul movement afoot here in Iowa, the Liberty PAC endorsed and supported Shannon and must take a ton of blame here.  This type of scenario playing out is absolutely unacceptable—if Republicans fall one seat short…this will prove haunting.

Differing Campaign Strategies—As we have discussed here before, one of the interesting things about the hotly contested Iowa Senate races is the opposite ways in which the two Parties have distributed money and resources.

While the Republican Party chose to spread their money around relatively evenly, the Democrats have staked out three races that they deem unacceptable to lose.  In these three races, combining the October 19th and the just released November 2nd reports, the Democrats have spent $1.01 million dollars.  The numbers are $381,000 in SD 26, $358,000 in SD 36, and $277,000 in SD 48.

If they don’t win these three seats, and lose a few other close ones they chose not to invest heavily in, this strategy will have been a disaster.

Time For RPI To Deliver—With the changing face of the RPI and the well documented upheavals along the way, perhaps no one has more on the line here in Iowa than the new leadership.  Many of these new folks have heavy Ron Paul ties and have impressive political accomplishments in the past—these include Ron Paul finishing a very close 3rd in the Iowa Caucuses and winning numerous Straw Polls in several states.  Winning elections is far different.

If Republican candidates do well this group can cement themselves, if they do not the battle to remove them will begin in earnest.  I for one am pulling for them to succeed—a leadership that knows how to win elections is never a bad thing.  If it turns out they can win elections, something tells me that compromising on both sides and co-existing is a real possibility.

What To Watch For

• If Ben Lange beats Bruce Braley or even runs within a few points of him, I believe there is over an 80% chance Republicans take the majority in the Iowa Senate.

• If Tom Latham is able to carry Polk County—and Romney is able to put up a good showing here—even if Romney loses Iowa I predict he will win the Presidency.

• If Tom Latham carries Polk County, 90% chance Dan Charleston is the new sheriff in town.

• Any of the following candidates winning will be the sign of a major Republican wave in Iowa—and likely nationally.  The following are all great candidates and good people who are running in heavily Democratic districts:  Dave Edwards (SD 16), Vicki Stogdill (SD 18), and Patti Branco (HD 34).


President—  Mitt Romney wins.  Besides the enthusiam advantage, this prediction is based on the fact that no president in the history of our Country has been re-elected with economic numbers this bad and a set of “accomplishments” this unpopular.  If he wins tonight then a shift has occured in America where results and actual achievements do not matter–I am cynical in general…but don’t believe we’ve reached this point yet.

Iowa Senate—  Republicans win majority.  Final count R’s-27 and D’s-23 (Note=this is counting Pat Ward’s Senate 22 seat as a Republican eventuality)

Iowa House—  Republicans hold majority.  R’s-57 and D’s-43

Iowa Congressional Delegation—  Victors= King, Latham, Loebsack, and in an upset Lange just beats Braley in the state’s closest contest.  Lange has a 25,000 voter registration deficit to make up here, but the district has seen him run both now and in 2010 and I think this history gets him over the hump this time.  25,000 is a big number to make up for sure, but keep in mind that he has a pool of 187,000 active Non-party voters to make it up in.


Thanks for following us in the lead-up to tonight, and be sure to check back in the following days for the breakdown of what happened here in Iowa and what it all means for the future of our great state!






Final Race In Our Series Of 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Breakdown of SD 26

Final Race In Our Series Of 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Breakdown of SD 26

The Candidates

Merlin Bartz (R)  vs. Mary Jo Wilhelm (D)

Two sitting senators square off here.  Sen. Merlin Bartz is in his second stint in the Iowa Legislature.  He served one term in the Iowa House, moved up to the Iowa Senate, resigned after 8 years to join the Department of Agriculture, and finally got elected back to the senate in 2008.

Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm formerly served on the Howard County Board of Supervisors, started her own residential appraisal business, and was first elected to the Senate in 2008.

The District

Our final race takes us to Northern Iowa’s Senate District 26, where five whole counties (Worth, Chickasaw, Floyd, Mitchell, and Howard), as well as parts of Winneshiek and Cerro Gordo, make up the territory.  Not much of a built-in advantage for either candidate here as the November numbers for voter registrations are: (D-12,741) (R-12,094) (NP-17,808) (D+647).

The Race

This is without question one of the top 3 high profile legislative races in the state.  Beyond being an incumbent vs. incumbent match-up, there is a lot of committee assignments and seniority on the line for each Party.  Bartz serves on the Appropriations, Local Government, Rules and Administration, and Ways and Means committees.  Meanwhile Wilhelm serves on the Commerce, Economic Growth, Education, Human Resources, and Local Government committees.

With the following factors in play: two incumbents, a swing district, and political control of the state likely in the balance, you would expect big money to follow—and sure enough that’s exactly what we have here.  Bartz raised $150,000 on his own, while the GOP chipped in $35,000.  This pales in comparison though to Sen. Wilhelm who raised $105,000 on her own but had the Democrat Senate Majority fund throw in a mind- boggling $224,000 on her behalf.

These totals make this legislative contest the one with the highest cumulative dollars spent in Iowa this year ($514,000), and the near quarter million dollar donation from the Democrat Party made Wilhelm the second biggest recipient of help from their Party of all the legislative candidates (trailing only the $237,000 Democrats gave Nate Willems in SD 48).

Disregarding for a moment the balance of power and looking at only these two candidates, I think both sides may even agree that Bartz would be a bigger loss to Republicans than Wilhelm would be to the Democrats.  I do not know how specifically Wilhelm is involved on her side with policy and the moving parts of legislation, but I do know that Bartz has a world of both local and federal experience that Republicans often rely on.  Put simply, besides replacing him on the four committees he serves on, it’s doubtful Republicans will be able to fully replace his intellectual assets anytime soon—that is without taking it from another area.

Two quick thoughts–one for each side

If Bartz and the Republicans lose this seat by a few hundred votes or less, which is very possible, they may look back and blame a public dispute that Bartz entered into with his neighbors in Grafton over $1,100 dollars worth of fencing.  Click the link to read about this head-scratcher, but it’s safe to say this did not earn him any votes and it certainly cost him some.  Especially for a guy out raising $150,000 to keep his seat, it sure seems like paying the $1,100 on his own would have been worth it.

It’s safe to say that if Wilhelm and the Democrats are unable to pull out this race…somebody in strategic leadership will be in hot water.  The reason for this is that the spending strategy employed by Democrats has been to create a firewall by dumping huge money into a few races that they saw as unthinkable to lose, meanwhile the GOP has spread it’s money much more evenly.  Consider this, in just three senate races (48, 36, and 26) the Democrat Party chose to invest $595,000.  If on Tuesday they don’t win these races or they find themselves on the losing end of some other close races that they short-armed resources to, this strategy will shoulder a large portion of the blame.

Further Information

Merlin Bartz -

Mary Jo Wilhelm -


The 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Breakdown of SD 36

The 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Breakdown of SD 36

The Candidates

Steve Sodders (D)  vs.  Jane Jech (R)

Steve Sodders is the incumbent senator here; he is a Deputy Sheriff in Marshall County and first was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008.  Jane Jech is currently a substitute teacher for the Marshalltown School District; she has 9 years of experience serving as a trustee for the Iowa Valley Community School Board.

The District

Senate District 36 is a couple of districts Northeast of Des Moines, and contains Marshall and Tama Counties and a bit of Black Hawk County.  Though Democrats need this seat badly the district on paper actually favors Republicans.  The voter registration numbers here are—(R-12,857) (D-12,736) (NP-16,488) (R+119).  Significant here is that over the last months Democrats have gone from being down almost a thousand to just a little over 100, this is clearly not a positive sign for Jech.

The Race

Much of the news in this district came in the Republican Primary where Jech surprised many by defeating the establishment’s choice of Larry McKibben, who is a former Senator.  This result was surprising for two reasons—first she has ran for the House twice before and lost and, second, not only did she defeat McKibben she crushed him by nearly 20 points.  This unconventional path that Jech took for the right to face Sodders is witnessed by her website noting that she has the endorsements of Sen. Grassley, Ben Lange, and Jerry Behn.

As for the contest against Sodders, you may have already seen the commercials in this race as both candidates are up on TV in the Des Moines media market.  Beyond being an incumbent, Sodders is also the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate which would make this a great pick-up for Republicans.

Both Parties are spending big in this race, which proves that Democrats are taking Jech seriously even though she has lost two prior bids to join the Iowa House.  Sodders has raised $92,000 on his own and has received $137,000 in in-kind contributions largely from the Democrat Senate Majority Fund.  Jech had raised $62,000 and has had the GOP kick in $32,000.

Jech is clearly a Tea Party candidate, which as long as she is able to win is a great thing for Republicans.  The flip side of this is that if she is not able to prevail she will join the list of candidates self-identified as Tea Party or Libertarian that cost the Republican Party influence over our state in the next two years.  This list essentially includes Senate District 34, and quite possibly could include Jake Highfill in HD 39.  If these races cost Republicans seats, expect the battle raging between the factions inside the Republican Party to escalate in the coming months.

I am currently not taking sides in this battle, and I operate on the George Will maxim of supporting “the most Conservative candidate that can win”.  This cycle, the results for Jech in SD 36, Ryan Flood in SD 34, and Jake Highfill in HD 39 will go a long way in determining how conservative candidates in Iowa can be and still win.  I am certainly pulling for all of them—but if they are unable to deliver I will advocate in the future for candidates with a better chance of actually obtaining the seats that will allow Republicans to implement reform in Iowa.

Further Information

Steve Sodders— Senate.Iowa.Gov/Sodders/

Jane Jech—

The 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Profile of SD 48

The 5 Senate Races Crucial For Control: Profile of SD 48

The Candidates

Dan Zumbach (R)  vs.  Nate Willems (D)

Democrat Nate Willems has spent the last 3 ½ years in the Iowa House and is an attorney who graduated from the U of I law School and now specializes in worker’s rights cases.  Dan Zumbach is a farmer who has also served on the West Delaware School Board and is heavily involved in coaching youth sports and leading 4-H groups.

The District

Northeastern Iowa is home to Senate District 48, which consists of all of Delaware, most of Linn, and small portions of Jones and Buchanan Counties.  Republicans hold a slight advantage in registered voters, the numbers shake out like this—(R-12,949) (D-12,355) (NP-18,082) (R+594).

The Race

Like in most political races this one will come down to two things—the candidates and the money they have to spend.  In both areas there couldn’t be much more separation between the two camps.

Dealing first with the money, Willems raised an amazing $180,000 on his own.  A fairly high number is to be expected from a 3+ year member of the Iowa House, but still this is a lot of money.  On top of that the Democrat party tipped their hand that losing this race would be disastrous by throwing in an amazing $237,000.  Zumbach did very well for a first time candidate by raising $90,000 on his own, while the GOP chipped in $23,000.

It is worth noting that the numbers for both are slightly inflated because both gave big chunks of the money they raised back to the Parties who then spent it for the candidates, largely on advertising.  After these transactions are factored in the Democrats spent $97,000 of their own money on Willems, while Zumbach actually gave the GOP $2,000.  The bottom line is that Willems has well beyond a 2:1 money advantage which has allowed him to encompass all media platforms and go very heavy on mailers.

The other thing that jumps out is how very different these two men are.  Willems is the young up and coming Democrat/ lawyer while Zumbach is the community anchored, rugged farmer.  Much of the result here will come down to which type of voter comes out in larger numbers on Tuesday.  Though Willems has clearly proven he has support by being elected multiple times in this general area, both the House districts that make up this Senate District contain more Republicans than Democrats and this Senate District doesn’t resemble his old House District as much as one would expect.  On paper it would seem the obvious advantage would go to the “incumbent”, who also happens to hold a huge money advantage.

The reason I’m not willing to say this race necessarily goes to the winner on paper is that Willems, though a current House member, is running in a largely new district and for a different seat.  Though some of it is because the Democrat Party see Willems as a future big player, I have a feeling the huge amount of cash they injected in this race has something to do with Zumbach running strong and resonating with the voters in District 48.

I will be closely watching for this race as the returns come in Tuesday—if this seat goes Republican not only was this race a bad investment for Democrats…they are in for a bad night.

Further Information

Dan Zumbach –

Nate Willems –


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