The Iowa House Democrats have hired Emily Waggoner as their new caucus director for the 2020 campaign cycle. She’ll be tasked with running the political operation to pick up at least five House seats to retake the majority for Democrats.
“We’re excited to ramp up our team to regain the majority in the Iowa House,” said Iowa House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard. “Iowa Democrats are dedicated to fighting Republican attacks on our healthcare and local schools. It’s time to improve the lives of everyday Iowans again.”
Waggoner most recently served as the executive director for the Missouri Democratic Party. Before that, she worked on competitive state legislative races in that state.
She’ll have one of the most important jobs in the state for the 2020 cycle. The only realistic way to break Republicans’ full control of the Iowa Statehouse next year is through flipping enough House seats. Democrats improved on their 41-seat minority in the 2018 election, picking up seven Republican-held districts, while losing two held by Democrats. The current Iowa House makeup is 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats.
“After picking up five seats last cycle, I’m excited to help lead House Democrats back to the majority in 2020. We’re going to hold GOP politicians accountable at the State Capitol and on the campaign trail at every turn,” said Waggoner in a press release.
The top priority for Democrats will likely be winning back the Fairfield-based HD 82 where Republican Jeff Shipley won a surprise upset by a few dozen votes. He has since cast a series of politically damaging votes, including being the sole vote in the House against a school transportation funding bill (Shipley represents several rural school districts).
The party may also try to recapture Fort Dodge’s HD 9, where Republican Ann Meyer won by less than 400 votes.
If Kayla Koether makes another run at Decorah’s HD 55, she’d probably be the other top target for Democrats. Statehouse Republicans blocked an effort to count every legally-cast ballot cast in Koether’s extremely close race.
House Democrats’ wins in 2018 came in the state’s suburban districts, flipping five Republican seats in the Des Moines metro, one in Cedar Falls, and another in Marion. Three winnable suburban seats remain in Bettendorf (HD 94), Ankeny (HD 37), and Marion/Hiawatha (67). The blue-trending HD 16 in Council Bluffs could be another opportunity.
After that, Democrats will have to look to some working-class districts in places like Muscatine (HD 91) and parts of Davenport and rural Scott County (HD 92), as well as some rural areas like Linn County’s HD 95. Those places, however, have been very favorable to Republicans during Donald Trump’s time in politics, and it’s not yet clear if they’ve moved back to their traditional swing-seat status.
by Pat Rynard