The path to winning back the Iowa Senate – now or in the next election cycle – got more complicated today for Democrats with Senator Chaz Allen’s announcement that he will not seek reelection this year. Allen withdrew his nomination for Senate District 15 in order to take a new job opportunity out of state.
It would have been Allen’s first reelection to the Senate after his initial win in 2014 and prior service as the mayor of Newton. The district covers most of Jasper County and the eastern, mostly rural side of Polk County and Altoona.
Allen, who was a very popular mayor that helped take the town through the post-Maytag era, was seen as a shoe-in for reelection this year even though it’s a politically swing district. The current Republican candidate, Tim Shay, a Navy veteran and retired AT&T worker, hasn’t raised any money and doesn’t seem to have much of a visible campaign online.
While Jasper County used to be a mostly-reliable Democratic area, Allen’s district voted for Donald Trump 53% to 39% over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Democrat Wes Breckenridge represents the Jasper County half while Republican Zach Nunn represents the Polk County side of the district in the Iowa House.
Given that there’s not much activity from the Republican nominee, this should still be a seat Democrats can win in November as long as the overall political winds head in their direction. But it’ll take time and money for the party to find a new candidate and properly fund them enough to introduce them to voters.
It has not been an easy cycle for the Senate Democrats, who have now lost two of their strongest incumbents in swing districts carried by Trump. Today’s news comes on the heels of Senator Rita Hart’s pick as Fred Hubbell’s running mate. That opened up a swing district in the Clinton-based seat where Republicans have a strong candidate in Chris Cournoyer. Democrats nominated Patti Robinson for that seat last week. And Nate Boulton’s decision to return to the Senate adds an additional headache for Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, who had called on him to resign.
Meanwhile, Republican Majority Leader Jack Whitver put up a solid fundraising report yesterday of $186,575 raised for the latest reporting period.
The Iowa Senate currently has 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one independent. Republicans are assured a pick-up in Northwest Iowa’s Senate District 1 where the independent David Johnson chose not to seek reelection. Democrats would have to win back six seats this year on a map with limited options to retake the majority. However, if they’re to have any chance of recapturing it in 2020, they need to at least win two or three this year and not lose any Democratic-held seats.
by Pat Rynard