Current Date

The Conservative Reader:

How the Iowa Senate Was Lost: Part 1 of 2

How the Iowa Senate Was Lost: Part 1 of 2

The way TCR: Iowa set the table for the Iowa Senate’s 22 contested races was as follows: 9 races we predicted heavily favored one Party or the other, 8 races we predicted as leaning one way or the other, and 5 were deemed toss-ups.

The reason I was personally so bullish on a Senate takeover by Republicans was that if these predictions held Democrats would have had to run the table of the 5 toss-up races to keep control of the chamber.  In the end, and impressively I might add, this is pretty much what they did.  While most of my prognosticating here was accurate, they won victories in 4 of the 5 I deemed toss-ups and managed to flip one seat I had leaning Republican, the end result was not.

Looking For Answers

The best way to fix the problem the GOP had on Tuesday is to dissect what happened.  We will have much more on this next week, when I will post a data chart, but for now let’s take the birds-eye view of the facts in the 4 toss-up contests Republicans lost and the one race where a “lean” Republican incumbent was upset.

The spending numbers below represent the cumulative amounts of money that were spent in each race by each side in the last 3 ½ months of the campaigns (July 19 to November 2nd).  This includes the money the candidate raised and spent added to the number the Party spent for each ‘in-kind”.  Since it is common practice for both sides to have the candidate donate large portions of their funds to their Parties, to spend both on their individual behalf and on other candidates the leadership feels could use it, I have gone through all the reports to subtract out this number. The result gives an accurate view of the actual dollars spent on the race (trust me it wasn’t a barrel of fun).  Looking at the dollar amounts and the timing of ad buys for each side is very telling and we will break this down further later this week.  For now here is the general overview.

SD 49— Naeve (R) defeated by Hart (D)

This race was an open seat due to no incumbent residing in the newly drawn district.  It was a very tough district for Republicans but they had a great candidate who ran strong and should be commended.

Bottom Line= Naeve (R) was outspent by $84,000, faced a (D+3,721) registration deficit, and lost by 2,907 votes.  Despite being outspent he cut into the registration advantage by 800—he was the only Republican in this list to beat the numbers.

SD 46— Hamerlinck (R) defeated by Chris Brase (D)

This was an incumbent Republican seat that I wrongly had projected to lean Republican.  Republican Hamerlinck’s final report was not filed for some reason, but in the first filing he showed spending $30,000 on his own while the Party spent $30,000 for him.  On the other side Brase (D) spent $330,000 on the effort.  Very telling here is that of this total $259,000 in assistance came directly from the Democrat Party.

Bottom Line= It’s hard to say much on the Republican side without the last report filed, but on the Democrat side the story is a lot of money poured in to facilitate this upset.  Between July 19th and October 19th Democrats spent $167,000 before throwing in an additional $157,000 in the final few weeks.  The result in ballots cast ended up being a D+409 advantage turned into a 1,954 Democratic victory.  Something tells me this ends up being a story of an incumbent hugely outspent and not being backed up with enough dollars from the Party.

SD 36— Jech (R) defeated by Sodders (D)

This was an uphill fight from the jump for Republicans, which many say started when Jech defeated former Senator Larry McKibben in the primary.  The conventional wisdom was the Tea Party candidate Jech, who had already lost two runs at a House seat, was a far less formidable candidate than the Branstad backed McKibben.  In the final 3 ½ months Jech impressively raised over a $100,000, but the GOP only threw in $46,000 total, including a miniscule $14,000 for the final push.  Conversely, Democrats did not take Jech lightly, giving Sodders $358,000 in the final months.

Bottom Line= In the end Jech was outspent by $206,000 in an R+121 district, and she lost by 2,263 votes.  There is a ton of interesting stuff going on here.  At first glance you could explain away the GOP only giving Jech $46,000 by assuming she was polling poorly.  The only problem with that is if she was there’s no way Democrats pump $224,000 to Sodders in the final two weeks.  Clearly one Party had a bad read on this race, and it’s likely it was the Democrats.  Since Sodders won by 2,263 votes it’s hard to believe he needed the near quarter-million dollars at the end.  I tend to agree with the establishment that this race became too heavy of a lift with Jech as a candidate—even though she was badly outspent, it is still pretty amazing to have a 121 voter registration advantage going in and lose the election by well over 2000 votes.

Part 2 Upcoming

Later this week we will look at the other two painful Senate loses (SD 30 and SD 26), document some trends occurring in these five races, and then, finally, make some judgements on what could have been done differently   The ultimate goal here is not to call any particular person or organization out—the goal here is to identify the shortcomings so they can be corrected.  Ironically it appears that two years from now Senate Republicans will be in the exact same spot of needing to flip two seats for control.

If a better effort and strategy are not employed—the brutal result will surely be the same.

((To Go Straight To Part 2 Click Here))



Iowa Senate Races: A Closer look At The Last Leaner (SD46)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer look At The Last Leaner (SD46)

(( Click for TCR: Iowa’s complete overview of the Iowa Senate races ))

The Candidates

Shawn Hamerlinck (R)  vs.  Chris Brase (D)

Shawn Hamerlinck is the incumbent here.  He is a faculty member of the Eastern Iowa Community College District and is seeking his second term after first being elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008.  Chris Brase is a longtime Muscatine firefighter running for office for the first time.

The District

Senate District 46 is on the Eastern border of Iowa, essentially curling around the north and east sides of the city of Davenport.  By registered voter numbers this is the true definition of a swing district—(R-11,644) (D-11,197) (NP-15,741) (R+447).  Having said that, the fact that both the House seats in this district (91 and 92) are held by Republicans, and the incumbent Senator is also a Republican, suggests the GOP has a stronger history of getting out the vote in this area.  The two counties in play are Muscatine and the Southwestern territory of Scott County.

The Race

Surprising most Iowa political watchers, Hamerlinck faced a primary challenge from fellow incumbent and friend Jim Hahn.  Though he won handily on primary day he was forced to spend a good deal of money along the way—and as such was way down in cash on hand to Brase as of the last filing period.  With Brase having nearly $30,000 in the bank, it remains to be seen if Republicans will double-donate to Hamerlinck—if they don’t I fully expect the Party to step in with resources.  The GOP certainly doesn’t want to spend in defense of a popular incumbent, however, the thought of losing an up and coming future star in the Party will be a much less appealing reality.

Despite being only his first term, Hamerlinck has been very active in writing, sponsoring, and co-sponsoring legislation.  The areas in which he focused his legislative contributions were in cutting regulations (SF 2116 & SR 7), protecting the 2nd Amendment (SF’s 162, 263, 264, and 372), and creating an online database for citizens to track government spending (SF 139).

Chris Brase is running hard on being able to be bi-partisan, saying he will, “work with anyone who has a good idea—Republican or Democrat—and stand up to partisan politics on behalf of Iowa’s families.”  He says he is in favor of cutting taxes on middle class families and helping local businesses—partially by pushing for more low-interest loans for such enterprises.

As mentioned above his $30,000 on hand for this race proves he is able to raise the funds necessary to unseat an incumbent Senator.  Beyond providing invaluable advertising, fundraising numbers in non-statewide elections are an important barometer for lesser known candidates because it points to their overall persuasive abilities.  This not only translates to cash in the bank but suggests the candidate will do very well on the doorstep of undecided voters.

Though I have this seat leaning Republican there are several factors that make this a possible pick-up for Democrats.  On top of the fact Brase has no large registered voter advantage to overcome, has plenty of money, and that local Democrats are likely hungry to finally have representation in this area—Senate 46 falls inside Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.  This is the match-up between Dave Loebsack (D) and John Archer (R), and as of now Archer is not running as strong as the other Republican Congressional hopefuls.

If on election night Loebsack is able to defeat Archer, and do it by close to double-digits, Hamerlinck is in jeopardy of being taken out as well.  Though being defeated is certainly possible, I still see Shawn Hamerlinck returning to the Iowa Senate in 2013.

Further Information

Shawn Hamerlinck –

Chris Brase -

TCR Report Preview For January 12

TCR Report Preview For January 12

TCR Report PromoTomorrow is Governor Culver’s big Condition of the State speech (or “State of the State” speach, which some have dubbed an “SOS”).  We will be at the Statehouse watching the speech, providing commentary here at The Conservative Reader: Iowa, at The Des Moines Register’s web site and on The Conservative Reader Report ( in the afternoon at 3:00 PM.

On the show I will have Iowa House Member Erik Helland from Polk County, and Senator Shawn Hamerlinck from Senate District 42 (parts of Scott and Clinton Counties), along with Kim Lehman, President of Iowa Right to Life and Iowa’s Committee Woman to the Republican National Committee (RNC).

During the first hour we’ll be talking about the Condition of the State speech, along with thoughts about the session’s agenda with all three of our guests.  During the second hour, we’ll be discussing the RNC Resolutions currently under consideration with Kim Lehman.

Your calls are welcome at 515-327-1007 or 888-327-1007.

Plus the current hot political news, and of course, the Smart and Dumb politicians of the week!  All of this only on The Conservative Reader Report.

    Log in