Yesterday, Rob Gettemy announced that he would be a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. The first obstacle he must overcome is getting his name of the ballot for the June primary. Republican candidates for Congress must each collect 1,224 signatures to be placed on the ballot. His next hurdle will be raising money and building name ID across the district. Unlike his primary opponents, Gettemy is the only 2nd CD candidate who has not been on the ballot before, and a name like his isn’t necessarily easy to remember.
Gettemy’s entrance to the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary could have a major impact on the race. There are now three candidates from Linn County, and the other candidate, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, has essentially taken up residency there. In the 2008 primary, Linn County made up 37% of the Republican primary vote.
In that election, Peter Teahen garnered almost 68% of the vote out of Linn County. The 4,133 votes that he received in Linn County represented 57% of his vote total. While Linn County is critical to winning the 2nd Congressional District in the general election, Miller-Meeks proved in 2008 that a candidate can overcome a huge deficit and still win the primary if you dominate in the other parts of the district.
Miller-Meeks lost Linn County by over 2500 votes and also lost three other counties to Teahen as well. However, she was able to overcome the thumping she took in Linn by winning the other eleven counties in the district by significant margins. She was able to win with huge margins in Wapello, Appanoose, Muscatine, and Jefferson counties.
This time around, Miller-Meeks is focused on building inroads in Johnson and Linn counties. Yet, putting too much of a focus on those two counties could leave her vulnerable in the rural part of the district. With four candidates splitting the vote in Linn County, the race could ultimately be decided in the rural areas of the district.
With Gettemy now in the race, let’s see how it affects the other candidates.
Steve Rathje: Rathje surprised a lot of people by setting the early fundraising pace. Rathje raised $60,000 in 2009, double what Reed and Miller-Meeks raised combined. Rathje’s $60,000 haul looked outstanding compared to what his primary opponents raised, but a candidate like Miller-Meeks or possibly Gettemy could easily eliminate his fundraising advantage with a strong fundraising quarter.
Gettemy’s entrance to the race hurts Rathje’s chance of winning the primary. Rathje beat Reed in Linn County by almost 1800 votes for the US Senate primary. For Rathje to have a shot at the 2nd District nomination, he has to build a sizable margin in Linn. That was a tall task with Reed and Miller-Meeks in the race, and now it’s going to be even more difficult with another Linn County candidate running.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks: Regardless of Miller-Meeks’ campaign plan, it might be difficult for her to match or recreate the huge margins she garnered in eleven counties in the 2008 primary. That primary was ultimately a two person race, and her main opponent didn’t put up much of a fight anywhere outside of the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor. That will not be the case in 2010. Not only are there more candidates, but the quality of candidates running against her is much better.
As long as Miller-Meeks is still able to turn out the rural vote across the district, the impact Gettemy has on her should be minimal. Still, as a candidate who is desperately trying to build a Linn County organization, another candidate from the most populous county in the district was the last thing she wanted to see. On the other hand, perhaps another Linn County candidate further splitting that vote could create a scenario where a relatively equally divided Linn County means the race is decided by rural voters, who came out in droves for Miller-Meeks in 2008.
Chris Reed: Like in his 2008 US Senate race, Reed has struggled to raise money for his campaign. If any candidate is affected by Gettemy’s entrance to the race, it’s Reed. Reed is a strong social conservative who also appeals to members of the Tea Party movement. Gettemy is similar in those regards, but he seems to be a better connected, more polished and articulate candidate than Reed.
Reed does have a strong grassroots following and a very loyal volunteer base, but to be victorious in the primary on June 8th, he will have to do better in the district than he did in the 2008 US Senate primary. It may be difficult for him to win Linn County, so that means he needs to carve out a stronghold in another part of the district.
Rod Gettemy: The new guy in the race has his work cut out for him. Getting enough petitions signed to get his name on the ballot will be difficult enough, but he also needs to show that he has the ability to raise the necessary money to be competitive. If he is able to come out of the gate quickly, he could do very well and surprise a lot of people.
With four active candidates in the race, there is a reasonable chance that nobody will reach the 35% threshold in the primary. That means the nominee would be selected at a nominating committee. The 2nd District has a history of having contentious conventions, so a nominating convention would make for great political theater and probably produce a lot of hard feelings.
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