Incumbents scramble as Reynolds signs redistricting plan into law
DES MOINES — Let the political musical chairs begin now that the lines have been drawn to demarcate Iowa’s new congressional and legislative districts for the next decade beginning with the 2022 elections.
Gov. Kim Reynolds made it official by signing into law the voluminous bill that lawmakers approved last week in special session on a bipartisan basis under Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process that is considered a model for the nation.
“I am confident in how the process played out — just as the law intended, and I believe these new districts will fairly and accurately represent the citizens of Iowa for the next decade,’ Reynolds said after signing Senate File 621 Thursday evening.
The new political boundaries place two congressional incumbents — both Reps. Cindy Axne, D-West Des Moines, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa — in Iowa’s reconfigured 3rd Congressional District. Neither incumbent has announced future plans after large parts of the 2nd District Miller-Meeks currently represents are now located in the redrawn 1st and 3rd districts. Likewise, there are numerous state legislators who now reside in future election districts shared by other incumbents from the same or opposite political parties.
Thousands of Iowans will have different lawmakers representing their interests at the Statehouse in Des Moines and the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, who represents House District 50, quickly announced he will be seeking re-election in the newly formed House District 57, which includes all of Butler County and the western part of Bremer County.
“The newly formed House District 57, coincidentally looks quite similar to the first district I ever represented back from 2006 to 2012,” noted Grassley, who currently is serving his eighth term. “I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the people of Butler and western Bremer Counties as I run for re-election in the new House District 57.”
Even before the governor signed the plan, lawmakers were reacting to the new configuration of legislative districts, although in a number of cases legislators said their decisions would have to wait until after the harvest is in.
Among those first to react were lawmakers who found themselves drawn into districts with another incumbent. In some cases, especially for those paired with a fellow party member, primary contests have been avoided by a legislator retiring or finding an open district in which to run.
For example, in Linn County, Rep. Molly Donahue, who represents a district that stretches from northeast Cedar Rapids and Marion to Ely, now is in a district with fellow Democratic Rep. Eric Gjerde. She has announced plans to run in Senate 37, where there is no incumbent.
Rep. Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids previously announced plans to run for a seat held by fellow Democratic Sen. Rob Hogg, who is not seeking re-election in the new Senate 39. But Democrats Sami Scheetz and Peggy Stover are both running to succeed Bennett in the new southeast Cedar Rapids House 78.
The new map also put Democratic Sens. Todd Taylor and Liz Mathis in Senate 40. However, Mathis is challenging Linn County Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson in the new northeast Iowa U.S. House 2nd District.
First-term state Rep. Charlie McClintock, R-Alburnett, will seek to move across the Capitol rotunda by running in Senate 42, which covers rural Linn County and Benton County. There is no incumbent in the new district.
New Senate 46, which covers rural Johnson County and Washington and Iowa counties, has two incumbents — Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, and Sen. Dawn Driscoll, R-Williamsburg. Driscoll was first elected in 2020 by a 28 percentage point margin in a district that former President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst carried by more than 10 points.
“President Biden’s approval in Iowa is in the low 30s, so I’m very confident in my ability to retain this seat,” Driscoll said.
Kinney said he’s looking forward to running for re-election
Both Republican Reps. Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton, the House State Government Committee chair, and Ross Paustian of Walcott are now in House 82 that covers Cedar County as well as parts of Scott and Muscatine counties. Kaufmann is running. Paustian, the Agriculture Committee chair, is “trying to finish up harvest” before making a decision.
Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced he’ll run for reelection in House 66, saying that “I’ve worked hard to deliver meaningful change for rural Iowa. But there’s more to do.” Under the new maps, he’s paired with freshman Rep. Steve Bradley, R-Cascade, in House 66. It covers Jones and much of Jackson counties. Bradley said he’s running for re-election, too
Two-term Sen. Craig Johnson, R-Independence, has announced he’ll run in House 67 rather than butt heads with Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, in Senate 34 that includes Delaware and Buchanan counties, and parts of Dubuque, Fayette and Black Hawk counties. House 67 is the eastern half of that Senate district.
Republican Reps. Chad Ingels of Randalia and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Sandy Salmon of Janesville were paired in the same district, House 68, which covers parts of Fayette, Buchanan and Black Hawk counties. Ingels will run for a second term there while Salmon plans to run instead in Senate 29, where there is no incumbent. It covers Bremer, Butler, Chickasaw and Floyd counties.
In House 87, Republican Reps. Jeff Shipley of Birmingham and Joe Mitchell of Mount Pleasant are having conversations on their options. The new district covers Van Buren County and parts of Henry and Jefferson counties.
The once-a-decade task of reshaping Iowa’s four congressional, 50 Iowa Senate and I00 House districts to reflect population shifts was addressed in special session after the release of 2020 census data was delayed due to COVID-19, which slowed the required national population count.
The first reapportionment plan drafted by the Legislative Services Agency was rejected by the Iowa Senate due to its concerns over compactness and other irregularities in the first maps. But, during their second special session Oct. 28, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the second plan that was based on “ideal” population targets of 797,592 Iowans per congressional district, 63,807 per state Senate district and 31,904 per House district.
Due to the delays, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order Sept. 14 allowing lawmakers to go beyond the constitutional deadline, providing that a new redistricting plan was approved by Dec. 1. On Friday, the court concluded that SF 621 met the statutory provisions.
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