It took over $117,000 in spending for Republican Jacob Bossman to hold a house district that Donald Trump won by 30 points, but the Chuck Grassley staffer prevailed for his party by defeating Democrat Rita DeJong 55% to 44%. Still, Democrats improved by 19 points over their 2016 margin, giving hope that a 2018 blue wave could be coming for all but the most-Republican districts.
If Republicans have to spend that much to defend a seat this favorable to them, many suburban and small-town seats could be in-play for Democratic pick-ups.
When polls opened in Sioux City this morning, the temperature was -6 degrees, and that was without the wind chill. Conditions didn’t improve much as thousands of voters turned out to vote in the special election to replace former Representative Jim Carlin, who earned a promotion to the Iowa Senate in last month’s special election. Democrats came surprisingly close in that race, which led to a bigger focus on today’s contest.
Turnout was higher in this race (20% versus in 15% in last month’s state senate contest), which seemed to benefit the Republicans. Instead of hyped-up Democrats turning out in record numbers to oppose Trump and Governor Kim Reynolds, it seems the Republican base in the district realized that, oh yeah, they do have to show up to vote to win these seats.
This was the first election in Iowa where the new voting rules implemented by the Republican-led legislature were in place. Photo ID was encouraged at the polls, but voters who didn’t have any were still allowed to sign a paper attesting that they lived in the precinct. Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill reported around mid-day that only one person didn’t have proper identification, and that all people who showed up who lived in the district were still able to vote.
Starting Line was in Sioux City all of today, roaming between polling locations in the Morningside neighborhood of town to observe what happened. By and large, no major problems presented themselves. Most voters who entered a polling place immediately produced their driver’s license to poll workers. Scanning people’s IDs did seem to speed up the check-in process.
However, turnout for today’s election during a wickedly cold day is about 20% of registered voters. Only the most-engaged voters turned out to vote, nearly all of which were well-versed on the new voting law. It will be a much different story when a much larger electorate comes out to vote during the June 5 primary and the November election. Especially at risk will be college students.
“It’s a soft roll-out, which means for those folks who forget that ID, they’ll be given the opportunity to sign an affidavit to who they are,” explained Secretary of State Paul Pate at a news conference this afternoon in Sioux City. “Our goal here is to make sure that every eligible voter gets to vote.”
Democrats also were displeased with an absentee ballot snafu that emerged during this race. At first, the county auditor interpreted the law as saying they couldn’t send out absentee ballots in an election as short as this one (when the Legislature is in session, the timeline for special elections to fill vacancies shortens considerably). Then the Secretary of State’s office intervened during the holiday season, insisted they need to, and absentee ballots were used.
Republicans had sent out a large absentee ballot request mailer to their voters before the auditor’s decision. Democrats were told absentee ballots wouldn’t be used, and by the time the decision was reversed, it was too late to send out and chase absentee mailers of their own. That led to the odd situation where Democrats – who typically dominate the early vote – lost absentees by a 657 to 372 margin. Still, a different situation likely wouldn’t have been enough to swing the outcome.
Bossman will soon be seated in the Iowa House to participate in the current legislative session.
by Pat Rynard