Democrats boosted their number of state senators to 20 for the upcoming legislative session tonight, thanks to State Representative Jim Lykam’s victory in the Davenport special election tonight. Lykam defeated Republican Michael Gonzales, thanks in part to an exceptionally strong absentee ballot effort. The Democrat won 73% to 25%, or 3,788 to 1,130, with all precincts reporting.
As they often do in special elections, Democrats racked up a huge early vote lead. The early vote broke for Lykam over Gonzales by 2,148 to 407, or 84% to 16%.
Senate District 45 came open after Senator Joe Seng passed away from a battle with cancer in mid-September. It was too close to the election to put the district on the ballot. Governor Terry Branstad attempted to mess with Democrats’ efforts to hold the heavily-Democratic seat by scheduling the special election two days after Christmas despite a number of other options.
The victory is a nice morale boost for Iowa Democrats and for incoming Minority Leader Rob Hogg, even if it was in a favorable district to begin with. After the 2016 election showed huge swings in voting trends, especially in Eastern Iowa, Democrats made sure to take the Davenport race very seriously. The party and Lykam spent over $80,000. Activists from around the state pitched in, hosting phone banks across Iowa and even sending a bus of volunteers out from Des Moines to help.
— Andy McGuire (@DrAndyMc) December 28, 2016
Republicans hinted early on that they would try to make a serious play for the district – helped by the holiday election date – but that effort apparently went nowhere and no serious amount of money was spent.
The Iowa Senate will now be comprised of 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one Independent (Senator David Johnson abandoned the Republican Party over Donald Trump earlier this year and now caucuses with neither party).
With Lykam moving up to the Iowa Senate after tonight’s win, Davenport will see another special election to fill Lykam’s Iowa House seat. That should happen sometime early this year, possibly within the next two months, depending on when Branstad sets the special election date.
Starting Line hears that Democrats are set to nominate Monica Kurth as their candidate for Lykam’s House District 89. Kurth is a professor at Scott Community College. She originally considered running for the open state senate seat, but declined to do so at the nominating convention in favor of Lykam.
House District 89 is the slightly less-Democratic seat that makes up Senate District 45. Democrats outnumber Republicans 7,508 to 4,797 there (with No Party voters the majority at 8,474), not quite as good as their advantage in House District 90, where Democrats have 8,101 registered voters and Republicans have 3,052. So it’s a little bit more of a possibility for Republicans, but still awfully difficult. Some speculated that Gonzales would use the senate run to set up another run in the somewhat easier house special. However, given tonight’s results, it looks very difficult regardless.
by Pat Rynard