2012 Elections preview: Iowa House, Senate both see incumbents facing off

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March 29, 2012


By Greg Janetka

Des Moines, Iowa: Primary races for the Iowa State Legislature have been in full swing across the state for nearly two weeks now following the passage of the deadline to file on March 16. Half of the Senate's 50 seats will be up for re-election, while all 100 will be up in the House. The primary takes place on June 5 with the general election on November 6.

Going in to the elections, Democrats are looking to hold on to their slim majority in the Senate, while Republicans seek to retain their strong majority in the House.


There will be 16 competitive primaries in the Senate - 10 for Republicans and 6 for Democrats. A total of seven incumbents - 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats - did not seek re-election.[1]

Democrats currently hold a two seat majority in the Senate.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 26
     Republican Party 24
Total 50

Notable races include:

District 26

Incumbent Republican Steve Kettering did not file for re-election. While neither party will see a competitive primary, the general election will come down to a battle between incumbents Mary Jo Wilhelm (D) and Merlin Bartz (R).

Bartz first served in the Senate from 1992-2002 and has represented District 6 since 2009. He said his focus continues to be on creating an environment that leads to good paying jobs for all communities. “We can do that by keeping property taxes down, removing bureaucratic red tape and reining in government spending,” he said.[2]

Wilhelm was first elected to Senate District 8 in 2008. She narrowly defeated Republican Mark Zieman by just over 1,000 votes to take the seat.

District 46

Incumbent Gene Fraise (D) did not seek re-election. Democratic candidate Chris Brase will get a free pass through the primary, waiting to see the outcome of the Republican incumbent vs. incumbent battle. Jim Hahn, who has represented District 40 since 2004, will face off against Shawn Hamerlinck, the District 42 incumbent since 2008.[3]


There will be 26 competitive primaries in the House. A total of 18 incumbents - 4 Democrats and 14 Republicans - did not seek re-election.[1]

Republicans currently hold a 20 seat majority in the House.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 43
     Republican Party 57
Total 100

Notable races include:

District 13

Due to redistricting, Democratic incumbent Sharon Steckman is running for re-election in District 53. Since neither party will see a primary challenge, that opens the way for a long incumbent vs. incumbent race to November. Chris Hall will be up for Democrats against the Republican's Jeremy Taylor. Both men are freshman, elected in 2010.[4]

District 50

With no Democrats filing to run, the District 50 race will be determined in the primary where Republican incumbents Pat Grassley and Annette Sweeney will face off. Sweeney said she respects Grassley and both understand this is simply the outcome of redistricting.[5]

Grassley echoed those statements, saying, "I never even thought about moving. I said from the first day, I have no interest in moving. The plan was to run for House District 50. I feel like I have a lot of roots in each part of this district, so I don't feel like I was thrown off into another part of Iowa where I never spent any time."[6]

See also

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