If Republican House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen is successful in helping Stephen Burgmeier win the special election in House District 90, it will mark the third time in recent years that House Republicans have picked up seats in an off year. State Representatives Doug Struyk and Dawn Pettengill were originally elected as Democrats but changed their affiliation to Republican after having disagreements with Statehouse Democrats. Struyk moved across the aisle in 2004, and Pettengill did the same in 2007.
This time, the opportunity to pick up a seat is created by a vacancy, not because a conservative Democrat got fed up with his or her political party. State Representative John Whitaker, a Democrat from Hillsboro, announced his resignation after being appointed to serve as the executive state director of the Farm Service Agency by the Obama administration. The special election for House District 90 will be held on September 1, 2009.
House District 90 is located in southeast Iowa and includes all of Van Buren County and parts of Wapello and Jefferson counties. The district leans Democrat but is winnable for a Republican. The Republican candidate is Stephen Burgmeier, a three-time elected county supervisor from Jefferson County. Burgmeier is a great fit for the district, and county supervisors tend to make great legislative candidates. Burgmeier has also been involved with his state and local pork producers, as well as the Farm Bureau.
“Anyone who knows Stephen Burgmeier understands how hard he works for the people of Jefferson County. I know he will continue that commitment as the state representative for the people of Wapello, Jefferson and Van Buren Counties,” said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen. “The House Republican caucus looks forward to a successful election and welcoming him to our ranks in September.”
Burgmeier’s opponent is Curt Hanson, a retired driver’s education teacher from Fairfield. Not much is known about Hanson’s political views, but his website states that he has been a long-time Democratic activist. It is also telling that two days before Rep. John Whitaker resigned, the liberal group Democracy in Action, registered the domain name www.CurtHanson.org, Hanson’s campaign website.
Democracy in Action is funded by none other than George Soros, a billionaire financier who has contributed millions of dollars to groups like MoveOn.org. Hanson’s close ties to these ultra-liberal groups makes it likely that he will be a rubber stamp for Governor Culver and Speaker Murphy’s union agenda and out-of-control budgets regardless of what his website says.
Iowa Republicans have a lot riding on the special election in HD 90. Now that the Democratic tidal waves of 2006 and 2008 have receded, Republicans are able to operate in a much friendlier political environment. If Rep. Paulsen and those organizations (Iowans for Tax Relief and the Republican Party of Iowa) who are intimately involved in the race are able to post an off-year victory, they will create some much needed momentum leading up to next year’s campaigns. If they are unable to win the special election in HD 90, it could make Rep. Paulsen’s main responsibility of raising money to fund the Republican House effort that much more difficult.
Additionally, it will be interesting to see if Iowa Republicans will continue to ignore the importance and impact of early voting. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, legislative Republicans had to contend with a significant vote deficit before Election Day even started. Some candidates, like Rep. Chris Hagenow and Renee Schulte, were able to overcome the early vote margins of their opponents, but many did not.
The special election in HD 90 will give us the first glimpse of Rep. Kraig Paulsen’s ability to manage a legislative campaign and raise the necessary funds to win on the Democrats’ turf. The race in HD 90 will also allow us to see what type of new involvement the Republican Party of Iowa under Chairman Matt Strawn is able to bring to the legislative effort. Likewise, Iowans for Tax Relief is once again calling most of the shots in Burgmeier’s campaign, meaning a victory is also important for them.
A victory in HD 90 would be a huge accomplishment for Iowa Republicans, but a loss, no matter how close, could be devastating. We will know whether or not Iowa Republicans have learned from their past difficulties on the evening of September 1st.
Burgmeier’s Campaign Site: http://www.stephenburgmeier.org/
Donate to HD 90 Race: Click Here
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