The biggest fundraising report of the year for Iowa legislative races dropped yesterday, revealing important information on where each party sees their best pick-up opportunities. The mid-October report covers everything from mid-July to now, the timeframe where major amounts of money get spent in the down-ballot races.

Democrats are essentially playing entirely on defense in the Iowa Senate, with only one Republican-held seat where they’re putting a nominal amount of funds into. House Democrats are on offense in eight districts, so there’s zero margin for error if they want to retake the majority. Overall, an influx of Republican money is giving GOP candidates a 2-to-1 advantage or more in many key districts, including important Democratic incumbent seats in the Senate.

However, readers should take some of these spending numbers with a grain of salt, as parties may not have reported their full TV spending buys for the final stretch.

Starting Line spent most of yesterday compiling the numbers from the swing legislative districts to give readers a sense of where the fight for control of the Statehouse stands. The most important figure to look at in each race is the “in-kind” amount. Both state parties do the bulk of the buying for targeted candidates’ TV ads, direct mail and radio, which is classified as an in-kind donation (see an example here). So even if a candidate doesn’t raise much money or have much cash-on-hand, if the state party is spending $200,000 in their race, you know it’s competitive.

You can take a look at the entire file I’ve been working out of if you want to mess around with the numbers yourself. The individual reports are at the Iowa Ethics website. My eyes glaze over when I look at thousands of pages of reports, so please email if you find anything in error, or if there’s another race that has something interesting.

Let’s start by looking at the State Senate races. Here’s how much money each party has spent in-kind for the key matchups:

District Candidate Party In-Kind
SD 08 Dan Dawson R  $319,445
SD 08 Mike Gronstal D  $247,428
SD 26 Waylon Brown R  $297,232
SD 26 Mary Jo Wilhelm D  $141,853
SD 28 Michael Breitbach R  $128,544
SD 28 Jan Heikes D  $65,776
SD 30 Jeff Danielson* D  $15,645
SD 30 Bonnie Sadler R  $58,989
SD 32 Craig Johnson R  $314,024
SD 32 Brian Schoenjahn D  $192,772
SD 34 Rene Gadelha R  $242,282
SD 34 Liz Mathis* D  $44,206
SD 36 Jeff Edler R  $283,012
SD 36 Steve Sodders D  $116,610
SD 42 Danny Graber R  $-
SD 42 Rich Taylor D  $51,456
SD 44 Tom Greene R  $10,362
SD 44 Tom Courtney D  $34,000
SD 46 Chris Brase D  $236,886
SD 46 Mark Lofgren R  $258,785
SD 48 Scott Peterson D  $-
SD 48 Dan Zumbach R  $104,830

The senators with asterisks, Liz Mathis and Jeff Danielson, have spent more on their own. Danielson runs his race outside of the party funding structure, and Mathis paid for much of her own TV advertising. I’ll have a district-by-district post later today that better explains those races.

As you can see, Republicans are outspending Democrats in many of the key districts. Dan Dawson has gotten more help in his bid to unseat Majority Leader Mike Gronstal than Gronstal has spent himself to defend his seat. Republicans are also putting big money into the campaigns of Waylon Brown, Jeff Edler, Craig Johnson, Mark Lofgren and Rene Gadelha. They’ve put a respectable amount into Bonnie Sadler’s race, but not enough to make it truly competitive. Overall, Republicans are on offense with all-out campaigns in six races.

Democrats are on full offense in none. They’ve spent a decent amount for Jan Heikes’ race, but likely need much more to pull off the victory. Republicans have put just $128,000 into defending Michael Breitbach, so it’s likely their polls don’t show him at major risk of losing. Interestingly, Republicans have put just over $100,000 into Dan Zumbach’s seat, while Scott Peterson hasn’t gotten any assistance. Senate Democrats had a full four years to prepare in recruiting someone they really liked in this district, but seem to have failed to do so. This inexplicably comes two years after Senate Democrats failed to recruit strong candidates in their two best potential pick-up districts in 2014. It’s a total failure in one of their most important jobs.

The bright spot is in Rich Taylor’s district, where Trump’s presence could have moved Keokuk closer to Republicans. However, the Republican candidate Danny Graber must be exceptionally weak and has gotten no support. Meanwhile, Democrats spent “just-to-be-safe” amounts in Tom Courtney’s Burlington district.

Let’s resort each party’s priority list so it’s easier to understand. Here’s the Republicans:

SD 08 Dan Dawson R  $319,445
SD 32 Craig Johnson R  $314,024
SD 26 Waylon Brown R  $297,232
SD 36 Jeff Edler R  $283,012
SD 46 Mark Lofgren R  $258,785
SD 34 Rene Gadelha R  $242,282
SD 28 Michael Breitbach R  $128,544
SD 48 Dan Zumbach R  $104,830
SD 30 Bonnie Sadler R  $58,989

And here’s the Democrats:

SD 08 Mike Gronstal D  $247,428
SD 46 Chris Brase D  $236,886
SD 32 Brian Schoenjahn D  $192,772
SD 26 Mary Jo Wilhelm D  $141,853
SD 36 Steve Sodders D  $116,610
SD 28 Jan Heikes D  $65,776
SD 42 Rich Taylor D  $51,456
SD 34 Liz Mathis* D  $44,206
SD 44 Tom Courtney D  $34,000
SD 30 Jeff Danielson* D  $15,645

We’ll take a closer district-by-district look for the Senate in our next post, but first let’s look at the big picture in the House.

Here’s how much in-kind money each party has put into the key districts:

District Candidate Party In-Kind
HD 15 Charlie McConkey D  $11,350
HD 15 Bill Riley R  $-
HD 26 Scott Ourth D  $-
HD 26 Rebel Snodgrass R  $6,378
HD 29 Wes Breckenridge D  $425
HD 29 Patrick Payton R  $2,819
HD 30 Joe Riding D  $-
HD 30 Zach Nunn R  $20,899
HD 38 Heather Matson D  $34,720
HD 38 Kevin Koester R  $15,469
HD 40 John Forbes D  $-
HD 40 Scott Reed R  $12,190
HD 42 Claire Celsi D  $10
HD 42 Peter Cownie R  $107,645
HD 43 Jennifer Konfrst D  $29,338
HD 43 Chris Hagenow R  $312,758
HD 51 Tim Hejhal D  $14,514
HD 51 Jane Bloomingdale R  $15,042
HD 55 Pat Ritter D  $50,691
HD 55 Michael Bergan R  $103,910
HD 56 Patti Ruff D  $61,396
HD 56 Kristi Hager R  $55,077
HD 57 Tom Stetcher D  $52,766
HD 57 Shannon Lundgren R  $93,968
HD 58 Jessica Kean D  $53,238
HD 58 Andy McKean R  $59,113
HD 60 Gary Kroeger D  $-
HD 60 Walt Rogers R  $57,070
HD 64 Bruce Bearinger D  $-
HD 67 Mark Seidl D  $175
HD 67 Ashley Hinson R  $16,211
HD 68 Molly Donahue D  $58,727
HD 68 Ken Rizer R  $152,968
HD 72 Nathan Wrage D  $-
HD 72 Dean Fisher R  $18
HD 88 Ryan Drew D  $6,270
HD 88 David Kerr R  $15,057
HD 91 Phil Wiese D  $42,935
HD 91 Gary Carlson R  $15,849
HD 92 Ken Krumwiede D  $20,747
HD 92 Ross Paustian R  $164,147
HD 95 Richard Whitehead D  $52,827
HD 95 Louie Zumbach R  $670

That gives you a good sense of how the one-on-one match-ups look, but again, let’s sort it by each party to see where their priorities are. First, Democrats:

District Candidate Party In-Kind
HD 56 Patti Ruff D  $61,396
HD 68 Molly Donahue D  $58,727
HD 58 Jessica Kean D  $53,238
HD 95 Richard Whitehead D  $52,827
HD 57 Tom Stetcher D  $52,766
HD 55 Pat Ritter D  $50,691
HD 91 Phil Wiese D  $42,935
HD 38 Heather Matson D  $34,720
HD 43 Jennifer Konfrst D  $29,338
HD 92 Ken Krumwiede D  $20,747
HD 51 Tim Hejhal D  $14,514
HD 15 Charlie McConkey D  $11,350
HD 88 Ryan Drew D  $6,270
HD 29 Wes Breckenridge D  $425
HD 67 Mark Seidl D  $175
HD 42 Claire Celsi D  $10
HD 26 Scott Ourth D  $-
HD 30 Joe Riding D  $-
HD 40 John Forbes D  $-
HD 60 Gary Kroeger D  $-
HD 64 Bruce Bearinger D  $-
HD 72 Nathan Wrage D  $-

Democrats are on offense in eight districts, but to varying degrees. The biggest pushes are being made for Molly Donahue, Jessica Kean, Dick Whitehead and Pat Ritter with in-kinds of $50,000 or more. A decent amount of money is also going toward Phil Wiese, Heather Matson, Jennifer Konfrst and Ken Krumwiede. It’s hard to tell what’s going on in Josh Byrnes’ open seat, where both parties have spent just enough for a handful of mailers. Tim Hejhal got just under $15,000 from Democrats.

But Democrats are also putting up a lot of money to defend two seats: Patti Ruff in Northeast Iowa and Nancy Dunkel’s open seat with Tom Stetcher in rural Dubuque County, pumping a combined $100,000 into those. Some “just-to-be-safe” money is headed to Charlie McConkey.

Several races that looked promising early on appear to be off the table at this point, Nathan Wrage chief among them. Ryan Drew isn’t getting much from the party, but the labor unions have essentially adopted that race and are providing enough resources for him to be very competitive. But Democrats also must feel secure about Scott Ourth, Wes Breckenridge, Bruce Bearinger and John Forbes, where they haven’t spent anything.

Now let’s take a look at the Republican spending. You can easily see their candidates are split into three tiers of $100,000+, $50,000 and $15,000-level races.

HD 43 Chris Hagenow R  $312,758
HD 92 Ross Paustian R  $164,147
HD 68 Ken Rizer R  $152,968
HD 42 Peter Cownie R  $107,645
HD 55 Michael Bergan R  $103,910
HD 57 Shannon Lundgren R  $93,968
HD 58 Andy McKean R  $59,113
HD 60 Walt Rogers R  $57,070
HD 56 Kristi Hager R  $55,077
HD 30 Zach Nunn R  $20,899
HD 67 Ashley Hinson R  $16,211
HD 91 Gary Carlson R  $15,849
HD 38 Kevin Koester R  $15,469
HD 88 David Kerr R  $15,057
HD 51 Jane Bloomingdale R  $15,042
HD 40 Scott Reed R  $12,190
HD 26 Rebel Snodgrass R  $6,378
HD 29 Patrick Payton R  $2,819
HD 95 Louie Zumbach R  $670
HD 72 Dean Fisher R  $18
HD 15 Bill Riley R  $-

Republicans are spending heavily to defend seven seats: Chris Hagenow, Ross Paustian, Ken Rizer, Peter Cownie, Michael Bergan, Andy McKean and Walt Rogers. They are playing offense in only two: Shannon Lundgren and Kristi Hager.

Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s spending is eye-popping, nearly twice as much as the next person down the list. Republicans are clearly very worried about him, Paustian, Rizer and the Decorah seat with Bergan. Cownie’s high spending is a bit of a surprise.

Win or lose their races, both Claire Celsi and Gary Kroeger have done a great service to their fellow Democrats by forcing Republicans to devote so many resources to their races. Just over $100,000 is going to defend Peter Cownie’s seat and $57,000 is boosting Walt Rogers. The Republicans must have had some frightening polling in Cownie’s race.

There’s three races that are confusing. It’s unclear what’s happening in Louie Zumbach’s race, a very important open defend seat for Republicans. Either they’re so confident they’ll win that race in a landslide (unlikely given the strong candidate Democrats have), or they really don’t like Zumbach and are refusing to help him (Update: he has been running TV, he apparently just didn’t report it. Expect an ethics complaint). So too in the Byrnes seat – with neither party spending much money, both must be seeing something in the polling that shows either Hejhal or Bloomingdale has it easy. Which one is it? And Republicans must be much more confident about Kevin Koester’s chances in the Ankney district that Democrats have been optimistic about all year.

Republicans have sprinkled just enough into the races for Scott Reed and Rebel Snodgrass to give them hope in case of a Republican wave in Iowa. And they seem confident about Ashley Hinson, Dean Fisher, David Kerr and Gary Carlson. Those last two are interesting, as Democrats are spending heavily in Carlson’s district for Wiese (indeed, many thought Krumweide had the better chance than Wiese, but Wiese is getting more funding).

One potential race left off the table seems to Bill Riley’s challenge to Council Bluffs’ Charlie McConkey.

Starting Line will do a follow-up post this afternoon looking at each individual race and what interesting numbers are in each candidate’s filing.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 10/20/16

3 thoughts on “Where The Parties Are Spending Big In State Legislative Races

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