2012 elections preview: Iowa voters to select winners in congressional, state legislative primaries

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June 4, 2012

By Jennifer Springer and Greg Janetka

The fast-moving primary season of May and June continues tomorrow with elections in Iowa. Tomorrow is Super Tuesday for congressional and state legislative primaries, with six states holding primaries -- the most of any Tuesday in the 2012 election season.

Here's what to watch for in Iowa, where polling places will be open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm Central time.[1]

Contested Primaries in Iowa -- June 5, 2012
U.S. House
(4 seats)
State Legislature
(126 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 1 (25%) 10 (7.94%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 2 (50%) 36 (28.57%)


United States House of Representatives elections in Iowa, 2012

Iowa has a total of 4 seats on the ballot in 2012. A total of 11 candidates have filed to run, made up of 2 Democratic challengers, 5 Republican challengers, and 5 incumbents. A total of 190 U.S. House seats have held primaries. Thus far, 61.58% of possible primaries have been contested. Iowa's contested figure of 37.50% (3 of 8 possible party primaries) is less competitive than the national average.

In the 4 congressional districts, there is only 1 Democratic race contested, with two or more candidates running, and 2 Republican contested races. The Democratic race with a single candidate running unopposed include incumbents Bruce Braley in the 1st district and Leonard Boswell in the 3rd district, as well as candidate and former first lady of Iowa Christie Vilsack in the 4th district.

Republican races with only a single candidate include incumbents Steve King of the now defunct 5th district running in the 4th district and Tom Latham, previously representing the 4th district running for re-election in Iowa's 3rd district.

The 2nd district is the district with primary battles on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack faces a challenge from Iowa State Senate member Joe Seng. On the Republican ticket, candidates John Archer and Dan Dolan are battling for the nomination.

In Iowa's 3rd district, incumbents Leonard Boswell and Tom Latham are both running unopposed in their respective Democratic and Republican primaries, but will face off for the district seat in the general election. Latham moved to Clive to take on Bowell in the 3rd district after his previous home in Ames was drawn into the same district as Steve King during redistricting when King's 5th district became obsolete.[2]

Even though Steve King and Christie Vilsack will also be running unopposed in their respective primaries tomorrow, the race between the incumbent and former state first lady has already started to heat up. As of May 2012, King reportedly had more than $1 million on hand in the 4th district race, while Vilsack reportedly had more than $900,000 on hand at the end the March.[3]

Members of the U.S. House from Iowa -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 3 2
     Republican Party 2 2
Total 5 4

State legislature

Iowa State Senate elections, 2012 and Iowa House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 126 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 26 Senate seats and 100 House seats.

There are 10 (7.94%) contested Democratic primaries and 36 (28.57%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there will be 46 races tomorrow with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 18.25% figure of total contested primaries in Iowa is lower than the current national contested average of 22.84% for states that have had filing deadlines.


Democrats currently hold a tenuous 26-24 majority in the Senate. A total of 8 seats are open as four Republicans and four Democrats declined to seek re-election. Only 3 incumbents are facing a primary challenge. They are as follows:

Republican Party District 22: Pat Ward, who currently represents District 30, will face Jeff Mullen in the Republican primary. In the heated race, Mullen, who is Pastor of Waukee Point of Grace Church, ran a controversial radio ad claiming Ward “is endorsed by the left-wing Iowa State Bar Association, the people who gave us a radical Supreme Court and gay marriage.” In response the president of the ISBA asked WHO Radio to remove the ad or face legal action, while Mullen has continued to defend the statements.[4]
Republican Party District 46: It's an incumbent versus incumbent battle for District 46 where current District 40 incumbent Jim Hahn faces current District 42 incumbent Shawn Hamerlinck for the Republican nomination. Hahn is a 21 year veteran of the legislature, while Hamerlinck was elected in 2008. Both men acknowledge that their ideology is the same but Hamerlinck paints himself as a more pro-active lawmaker, stating, “We may have the same ideology and vote the exact same way most of the time. But before the vote ever happens on the Senate floor, someone has to write the bill. That’s what I do.”[5]


Republicans hold a solid 60-40 majority in the House. A total of 18 seats are open as five Democrats and 13 Republicans declined to seek re-election. Thirteen incumbents, all Republicans, are facing a primary challenge. The most notable race is in District 50 where Incumbent Pat Grassley faces fellow incumbent Annette Sweeney. No Democrats filed for the seat, and so the primary winner will be unopposed in the general election. Grassley, the grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R), was first elected to District 17 in 2006. Sweeney was first elected to District 44 in 2008.[6]

The rest are as follows:

Republican Party District 1: Incumbent Jeff Smith faces a challenge from Kevin Wolfswinkel
Republican Party District 6: Incumbent Ron Jorgensen faces challenger Matthew A. Ung
Republican Party District 8: Incumbent Henry V. Rayhons faces challenger Bob Dishman
Republican Party District 10: Incumbent Tom W. Shaw faces challenger Maison Bleam
Republican Party District 22: Incumbent Greg Forristall faces challenger Clint Fichter
Republican Party District 24: Incumbent Cecil Dolecheck faces challenger Jane C. Jensen
Republican Party District 25: Incumbent Julian B. Garrett faces challenger Joan Acela
Republican Party District 27: Incumbent Joel Fry faces challenger James Demichelis, Jr.
Republican Party District 38: Incumbent Kevin Koester faces challenger Brett H. Nelson
Republican Party District 39: Incumbent Erik Helland faces challenger Jake Highfill
Republican Party District 78: Incumbent Jarad Klein faces challenger Priscilla Marlar

Iowa State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election'
     Democratic Party 26 26
     Republican Party 24 23
     Vacancy 1
Total 50 50

Iowa House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 40 47
     Republican Party 59 53
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 100 100

See also

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