Annette Sweeney won the special election tonight to replace former Senator Bill Dix, defeating Democrat Tracy Freese 56% to 44% in the heavily-Republican Senate District 25. She will be sworn into office in the near future, though it might not happen before the legislature adjourns for the year.

Despite the Republican win, it was yet another special election in which Democrats outperformed their previous margins from 2016. Donald Trump carried this district by 26 points and registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats here by a two-to-one margin. Sweeney won it tonight by just 12 points, a 14-point swing in the margin in favor of Democrats. That’s not as big of a difference as in other Iowa special elections, but it still gives Democrats one more data point as proof that their base is fired up to vote in 2018 and that the broader electorate might be moving back to the center after Trump’s win.

In the latest finance report, Republicans had spent around $50,000 to hold the seat. Freese and the Democratic Party had spent a combined $38,000 so far. Both likely spent a little more than that, which we’ll see once later reports are filed.

The election comes less than a month after Dix’s swift resignation from office after Starting Line’s report on a video showing him in a romantic relationship with a Statehouse lobbyist. The senate majority leader’s departure forced a quick special election, the time frame for which was shortened due to the legislature being in session.

Sweeney was always considered the heavy favorite to win today’s election, both thanks to the Republican lean of the district and because she once represented part of it before. She had to leave the Statehouse after redistricting placed her in the same district as Representative Pat Grassley, who Sweeney subsequently lost a primary to in 2012.

Freese had a head start in organizing for the race – she announced last summer after getting fed up with Dix’s role in the senate’s sexual harassment lawsuit and settlement. Democrats from around the state – including many Democratic senators and gubernatorial and congressional candidates – knocked doors in the snow and cold the past several weeks. She did win the Story County portion of the district, 56% to 44%, which covers the small towns surrounding Ames. Trump won that area

Republicans will now grow their number of female senators from one to two in their 29-member majority. Many political watchers had wondered if Dix would have weathered all the sexual harassment controversies had there been more female legislators than just Amy Sinclair.

Here’s how each county played out:

Annette Sweeney (Republican) Tracy Freese (Democrat) Total R % D %
Butler 531 392 923 58% 42%
Grundy 1268 774 2042 62% 38%
Hardin 1795 1120 2915 62% 38%
Story 1148 1440 2588 44% 56%
Total 4742 3726 8468 56% 44%

Sweeney and Freese will face each other again later this year in the general election. Sweeney has a Republican primary opponent for June 5, but she should easily be able to win that.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 4/10/18

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