District of the Day: Senate District 8, House District 15 and 16
Senate District 8
Registration: D 11,461, R 9,589, N 11,141, total 32,225, D + 1872
Incumbent: Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs
Nobody, nobody, nobody hates this map more than the Pottawattamie County Republicans. They're drawn out of Steve King's district, the two Council Bluffs GOP House members get paired, and the empty district is solidly Democratic.
But worst of all, their nemesis, Senator Mike Gronstal, the only man standing in the way of Total Republican Trifecta Dominance in Iowa, gets the least changed district in the state. Barring some minor annexation that doesn't show at the scale of the maps, it looks to be exactly, yes, EXACTLY the same. The rules say to keep cities together when you can, and Council Bluffs plus Carter Lake just happens to be the right size and just happened to grow at the right pace.
Republicans would love to have connected Mike's house to the vast angry mobs of nearby Republicans. Gronstal lives in the new House District 16 half of his Senate turf, the generally southern part of town which has a very slim Republican registration edge.
"Even using these squeaky clean Iowa districts, it's easy to see how you could screw Gronstal," said redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering. "You just switch the House districts around."
"All I gotta do is take a little piece of Lewis Township south of Council Bluffs to use for connective tissue," said Mandering, a wicked gleam in his eye as he said "connective tissue."
"That ain't even nuthin' creative like a median strip or a piece of Nebraska. Then I connect Mikey up with House 23 into Fremont, Mills and Montgomery," said Mandering. "And bada-BING! That puts him with that new Republican gal Joni Ernst who took over for Kim Reynolds, and gives him 5224 more R's than D's. It's nuthin' personal, Mikey, it's strictly business."
"Then I take the north side of Council Bluffs and put it with House 22 in eastern Pottawattamie," said Mandering. "That only gives you 2149 more Republicans than Democrats, but ole Hubert Houser can handle that. Then I take the leftovers in House 21 and 24 and I got an empty seat with a 9000 vote Republican edge. Maybe I'd move some stuff around to make Ernst happy or make things better for Hubert, but there's nuthin' but Republicans to move around."
"But instead House 16 gets put with House 15, which has 2000 more Democrats than Republicans. Every freakin' Democrat in ten counties is in Gronstal's district. You couldn't get him better turf if you were trying."
Mandering paused, considering the implications of his words.
"Guess that makes me kind of useless, huh."
That it does, Jerry. But whatever the lines, Gronstal is GOP Target One.
UPDATE May 25: Reg reports one possible GOP candidate is retired Air Force general Al Ringgenberg, who lives “a few hundred yards” outside the district for now.
House District 15
Registration: D 6175, R 4075, N 5725, total 15991, D+ 2100
House District 16
Registration: D 5286, R 5514, N 5416, total 16234, R+ 228
Incumbents: Mark Brandenburg and Mary Ann Hanusa, both R-Council Bluffs
UPDATE July 20: Hanusa staying in 16...
As in Sioux City, we have two freshmen in one district and one district empty. The difference is here, both are Republicans. Hanusa, the last second replacement nominee for secretary of state in 2006, beat Democrat Kurt Hubler in old House 99 to hold a relatively even open seat for the Republicans. (Her predecessor, Doug Struyk, is infamous for his party change from D to R right at the 2004 filing deadline; he's now in the Matt Schultz administration.) Brandenburg, a former school board member coming off a 58-42 loss to Gronstal in 2008, knocked off Democrat Paul Shomshor in Democratic leaning old 100. He's had health problems his first session.
Hanusa and Brandenburg were both unhappy enough to vote no on the map, though they said it was because of the congressional lines.
The new line across Council Bluffs puts all of the city's best Democratic precincts into 15, on the northern and western part of town and including that wonderful geographic quirk Carter Lake. New 16 leans slightly Republican, and sees higher turnout in the GOP precincts, but is definitely winnable in the right year. (That task is harder as Pottawattamie is historically one of the lowest percentage turnout parts of the state.) The logical move here would be for someone to take on Gronstal. But Pottawattamie Republicans would probably like to run a strong candidate like an incumbent in the tougher district.
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