By the time the 10 o’clock news airs tonight, Iowa Republicans hope they will have gained another seat in the Iowa House of Representatives. If they are successful in winning the special election in House District 90 with Stephen Burgmeier, the Iowa House will have 45 Republicans and 55 Democrats when it reconvenes next January.
To some, gaining one legislative seat might seems insignificant, but a Republican victory tonight will enable the GOP to continue to push back against a series of labor-backed bills that were derailed by the narrowest of margins during the last legislative session. A Burgmeier victory tonight would also create a lot of momentum for Republicans as they enter into an election year. That momentum could entice better candidates to run in districts that lean Democrat like Burgmeier’s does. It could also lead to a boost in fundraising.
However, for Republicans to be successful tonight, they must be able to overcome the Democrats’ huge lead in absentee ballots. As of yesterday morning, 3469 absentee ballots have been requested. Of that number, 2119 were requested by Democrats, 878 were requested by Republicans, 469 by no-party voters, and 3 from other sources.
Of the 3469 absentee ballots that were requested, 2820 have been turned back in, or about 81%. Again, as of yesterday morning, 1731 Democrats have turned in their absentee ballots compared to 747 Republicans, 340 no-party voters, and 2 from other sources.
The issues of early voting and absentee numbers are always a hot topic within many Republican circles. While some Iowa Republicans want to see a greater focus on collecting early votes, others discount the value in racking up early votes because a vote is a vote, and it doesn’t matter when it was cast. These people often point out that the Democrats are simply getting likely voters to vote, and all that really matters is the total turnout.
No matter what side of that argument you fall on, the turn-out number for this special election will be critical. In the 2008 general election, 12,383 votes were cast in HD 90. By comparison, just under 10,000 votes were cast in 2006, a non-presidential year. Turnout for today’s special election will be even smaller. Many expect turnout to be somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 voters. If the turnout estimate is correct, that means Iowa Democrats were able to secure their candidate 25% of the vote before the polls even open. Republicans, on the other hand, were only able to garner 10% of the vote for Burgmeier.
Being down significantly in early voting doesn’t make it impossible for Republicans to win. It just means that Republicans have to get more people to the polls today than the Democrats. If you believe that 7000 people will vote in the special election, then Republicans will need to find 2753 people to vote today, while Democrats only need to find 1769 voters. Republicans likely want to see a high voter turnout, which would reduce the impact of the Democrats lead in absentees. If voter turnout tomorrow is low, Republicans might be in trouble.
Today’s special election in HD 90 is critical for Rep. Kraig Paulsen, who is the leader of the House Republicans. This is Paulsen’s first time with his hand on the rudder. Paulsen was able to wrestle away control of the Republican caucus from Chris Rants this past January by just one vote. Under Paulsen’s guidance, Iowans for Tax Relief has played a massive role in the race. Not only is this group one of Burgmeier’s top donors having run television ads in the district on his behalf, but they have also physically ran the day-to-day campaign operation since this campaign started.
While Democrats outnumber Republicans by 770 in the district, Republicans are optimistic about today’s special election. HD 90 is a seat that Republicans must control if they are to going to be a majority party again. Winning today would show activists and donors that Iowa Republicans are not only able to compete in districts like these, but they are able to win.
A victory tonight will be a huge win for Stephen Burgmeier, but also for Rep. Kraig Paulsen, Iowans for Tax Relief, and the Republican Party of Iowa.
It is never too late to help out. Volunteers are needed all day to help get the vote out. Please contact the following people if you are available.
Katie Koberg, firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-971-4571
Mary Earnhardt, email@example.com, 515-778-5229
Mark Doland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 641-295-0135
TheIowaRepublican.com will have election results as they come in. The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
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