Who’s ready for yet another special election? The Iowa Legislature will see its sixth race to fill an open seat since the 2016 election in January, this one in Sioux City for House District 6. Voters will choose Republican Representative Jim Carlin’s replacement – he just won a promotion to the Iowa Senate in last week’s special election to fill resigning Senator Bill Anderson’s district. Governor Kim Reynolds set the election date for January 16 after Carlin made his resignation from the Iowa House official today (special elections are required to be held in a shorter time frame if they occur during the legislative session).
The house district covers the Morningside part of Sioux City (the southern third of town), Sergeant Bluff and a couple rural townships in southwestern Woodbury County. It’s traditionally been a rather deep-red district, once home to Republican Speaker of the House Chris Rants, but results from the senate special election surprised many and have some hoping this could turn into an unexpectedly close race.
Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in House District 6 by 7,787 to 5,004, and Donald Trump won the seat 62% to 33%. However, Democratic candidate Todd Wendt actually narrowly won the Woodbury County side of the senate district on December 12, beating Carlin in the precincts that Carlin represented.
Democrats will hold a special nominating convention this Saturday – it appears that Rita DeJong, a former Sioux City teacher and principal, will be their nominee. She was once named Iowa Principal of the Year and has been deeply involved in many Siouxland community service organizations. Her website is up here. Woodbury County Democrats were particularly energized and active in the senate special election and have already started mobilizing for this next one.
Republicans appear set to put up Jacob Bossman, a Chuck Grassley staffer of 12 years and a graduate of Morningside College. He ran in 2016 against Carlin when Representative Ron Jorgensen retired, getting endorsed by Sioux City Senators Rick Bertrand and Bill Anderson. Bossman came up just 57 votes behind Carlin in the Republican primary.
Bossman also goes by the Twitter handle @IowaBossMan and seems like a real fine fellow from his profile picture.
Even with Wendt’s impressive performance last week, the house special election will still be another uphill battle for Democrats. Republicans didn’t spend much in the senate race, but will probably engage more fully in this one. Democrats can sometimes sneak by in low-profile races in Republican-leaning districts, but when both parties fully engage the Republicans can often rile up their base on partisan issues.
It would be a difficult seat to hold anyway in the full general election next year (Republicans currently have a 58 – 41 majority in the Iowa House), but local Democrats will go all-out again to see if they can’t pull off a surprise victory. Democrats have been outperforming the Trump/Clinton margin of 2016 in special elections this past year by 31 to 34 points. It would take a swing of 29 points in Democrats’ favor to win this seat.
This will also be the first election using the new early vote and absentee ballot rules put in place by this past legislative session. Voters are now required to put more personal information on their absentee ballot request forms, which might make collecting a lot for a special election a little more difficult than usual.
Whoever wins will take office a couple weeks into the 2018 legislative session.
by Pat Rynard