District of the Day: Senate District 20, House District 39 and 40
Senate District 20
Registration: D 12,185, R 15,553, N 11,554, total 39,344, R+ 3368
Incumbent: Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale
Poor Brad Zaun. He could be sitting in Congress right now: a top tier Republican candidate, who won a tough primary, against a vulnerable, aging Democrat in a great GOP year. But he had to go and drunk-dial his old girlfriend years ago. There were other personal issues, too, but that was the one that was easy to understand, and Leonard Boswell is never shy about letting voters know about his opponent's shortcomings.
So Zaun is back in Des Moines while Tom Latham swoops in from the north to block his Congressional ambitions. The only good news for Zaun is that at least he gets a better Senate seat. He loses a Democratic corner of Des Moines and instead adds Johnston and Grimes to his Urbandale base. It's a combination that makes more sense than the old hybrid urban-suburban seat, and it turns his 2,568 Republican registration deficit into a 3368 voter GOP edge, making this area a much, much better district for Zaun or whatever Republican may follow.
House District 39
Registration: D 5520, R 7903, N 6001, total 19451, R+ 2383
Incumbent: Erik Helland, R-Grimes
Republican Walt Tomenga got squeezed out of this seat in 2008 for being insufficiently conservative. Helland, seen as the conservative choice, stomped Tomenga's choice, Al Lorenzen, in the hot open seat primary. Helland won 61% in the general, which scared off 2010 rivals. He's had an interesting couple of years: off-mike comments that were in fact on mike, and a fellow Tim Pawlenty staffer roommate who got caught in some highly embarrassing drunken antics.
As Johnston doubles in population and becomes bigger than half a district, the turf shrinks radically. Helland used to have the whole northern half of the county except Ankeny. He loses everything east of the river and the Saylorville Reservoir - Alleman, Elkhart, Polk City - as the district becomes basically Johnston and Grimes. It also has Jefferson Township to the north and a small bit of Urbandale. The Republican registration edge drops by 1000 but the district is still strongly Republican.
House District 40
Registration: D 6665, R 7650, N 5553, total 19893, R+ 985
Incumbent: Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale
Raecker, 49, was first elected in 1998. In 2000 Urbandale got put into one district rather than being split. Raecker got paired with fellow Republican Janet Metcalf, but she retired. Raecker won with 61% in 2008 and 65% in 2010. He's seen as a relative social moderate by Iowa Republican standards, but that tends to mean just voting for the right-wing bills and not co-sponsoring them.
The district loses a weird panhandle of Webster Township north of the Des Moines city limits, which my friend Jerry Mandering loved. It shrinks all the way into the Polk County part of Urbandale, which is now so big it has to be split between districts. The line changes cost Raecker about 200 registered Republicans but he still has an edge of nearly 1000.
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