If you’re a Democrat who’s ever had the slightest bit of interest in running for public office, I’m telling you: 2016 is your time. With Donald Trump almost certain to be the Republican nominee, it’s entirely possible this year’s election will produce a massive wave that sweeps Republicans out of office at all levels, similar to 1964 with Barry Goldwater. Trump is viewed unfavorably by an astonishing 2/3 of the American people.
Sure, Trump has defied the odds plenty of the times in the Republican primary so nothing’s a sure bet, but there’s a growing consensus that Democrats could enjoy a blowout year in 2016. With independents and some moderate Republicans fleeing the Trump-led party, Democrats could pick up surprise wins all the way down the ballot (Read this earlier post about how Trump could switch Iowa voting demographics for more). So there’s no reason Democrats shouldn’t field a candidate in any seat that’s even remotely within the realm of winnable.
Filing for Iowa’s legislative and federal offices with the Secretary of State ended on Friday, but candidates can still be nominated by their party at special nominating conventions held after the June primary. Those meetings are organized by the county parties that make up a district with no candidate from their side. If you yourself are interested, shoot an email to the Iowa Democratic Party in case you don’t know your local party.
For the most part the Senate and House Democrats had a good year for recruiting candidates for targeted districts, but there’s always some holes in even the best years. Local Democratic leaders and activists should be working overtime between now and the summer to find and recruit candidates to fill those empty slots. Of course it’s always preferable to have a well-known, well-qualified candidate who’s going to work hard. But in a year like this, having anyone on the ballot (well, obviously not a crazy person) is much preferable to having no one at all.
The following is a list of potentially winnable State Senate and State House seats in a wave year for Democrats. But these aren’t the only ones that could switch, and local Democrats ought to be finding people for every county office that is up as well.
SD 4 – Dennis Guth (map)
While Obama only won 45% of the vote here in 2012, Guth himself is an extremely weak incumbent. In his first election in 2012 he won with only 53% of the vote against a Democratic candidate who didn’t have any time to campaign. He’s known locally as “Goofy Guth” for his peculiar personality and hard-right ideology. Tying him to Trump may sound legitimate to locals accustomed to Guth. Cruz won all of the counties in SD 4. My gut says Hancock and Wright counties go hard for Trump, but independents in Winnebago, Kossuth and especially Emmet counties could reject him outright and Republicans connected to him. Someone, anyone, really needs to get on the ballot here.
SD 14 – Amy Sinclair (map)
Obama took a better 47% of the vote in SD 14 in 2012. However, this is also southern Iowa where Trump did well in the caucus, so it might not be the best place for an upset. Still, there’s no reason not to try. Plus Sinclair can get rattled by attacks, so Democrats need to give this a shot even if the state party may not commit any financial resources to it.
SD 38 – Tim Kapucian (map)
Really no reason Democrats shouldn’t be able to find a candidate here considering three ran in a primary last time. Plus Grinnell is in the district; certainly someone wants to give this a shot. Obama actually narrowly won this district in 2012, though Kapucian succeeded with a pretty good 55%. Grinnell should turn out big in 2016 and there’s enough Cedar Rapids bedroom communities in Benton County that could turn against the Republicans.
HD 44 – Rob Taylor (map)
This one falls more into the “you never know” category, but Democrats are already fielding younger women in all the other Des Moines metro suburban districts. May as well get one more for this Dallas County seat that covers Clive, West Des Moines and Waukee. If 2016 causes a massive shift in party loyalty, it’s going to happen in suburban, traditionally Republican areas like this one. Obama only got 42.5% here in 2012, so there’s probably still enough Republicans that will stick with their down-ballot folks, but it’s worth a shot.
HD 49 – David Deyoe (map)
Nothing special here, just another one within the realm of slight possibilities. It covers rural Story County and part of Hardin. Obama got 46.5% in HD 49 in 2012.
HD 54 – Linda Upmeyer (map)
No one wants to take on Madam Speaker? Some of the more well-to-do Republicans in Clear Lake may be disgusted by Trump, though they probably all know Upmeyer personally. A good place to force the Speaker to do a little bit of campaigning back home, though.
HD 73 – Bobby Kaufmann (map)
This is the big one. I know the Kaufmanns are very well-liked locally in Cedar County, but someone needs to knock off this supposed rising star in the Republican Party. Especially in a district that includes part of Johnson County. Not to mention Obama took the district with a solid 54% in 2012. The Cedar County Democrats seem to be a decently strong group – they need to step up and convince someone to put their name on the ballot and campaign hard against Kaufmann.
HD 78 – Jarad Klein (map)
Democrats control the Senate district here with Kevin Kinney. Obama got up to 46%. I have a feeling Keokuk County could go well for Trump, though, so it’ll still be tough.
HD 88 – Tom Sands (map)
The Mississippi River counties went hard for Trump in the caucus, but this district that includes parts of Muscatine, Louisa and Des Moines counties could be a real pickup opportunity. Obama won it with nearly 51% of the vote in 2012. Most importantly, West Liberty lies within the district. It was Iowa’s first majority-Hispanic town. Record-setting turnout this year from Latino voters could give Democrats the extra boost they need in this district. Local Democrats really need to get someone for a special nominating convention here.
HD 97 – Norlin Momsen (map)
As parts of this Clinton County-based district increasingly turn into bedroom communities for the Quad Cities, there’s a real chance this could be an area where independents and moderates abandon Republicans in droves. This is another seat where Obama won in, getting over 50.6%. Hopefully local Democrats can find someone from DeWitt to give it a shot.
by Pat Rynard