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September 22nd, 2011

Republicans Set to Select Their SD 18 Candidate Tonight – Anything Can Happen

By the end of the night, Republicans will have selected their candidate in State Senate District 18, which could alter control of the Iowa Senate.  The short time period between the seat being vacated by Sen. Swati Dandakar and the nominating convention has made it nearly impossible to know where the three Republican candidates stand on various issues.  Instead of figuring out what the candidates believe in why, the contest has largely been about who’s advocating for whom.

The good news for Republicans is that they have three solid candidates to choose from.  It also seems likely that Republicans will be able to rally around whoever wins the nomination tonight.  That’s good news because awaiting the Republican nominee is Liz Mathis, a well-know former local TV newscaster who has a vast network, high name ID, and virtually no record.

Below are what I believe are the strengths and weaknesses of the three announced candidates.  Information about the delegates and the process is also included. will cover the nominating convention live from Marion tonight at 7 p.m.

Cindy Golding

Strengths:  From all accounts was able to gather, Golding is the most natural speaker of the three candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Senate District 18.  In a contest that is determined by a small pool of electors, being able to articulate one’s vision and life story is critical.

Golding’s other advantage is being the Co-Chair of the Linn County Republican Party.  While county GOP leadership elections are not typically competitive contests, Golding’s position with the county party shouldn’t be over looked.  It means that the most ardent activists know her or know of her.  That’s not necessarily the case with the other candidates, and county activists tend to favor one of their own over someone they don’t know.

Weaknesses:  Golding’s small contribution to Ed Fallon’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign has made some people uneasy, but the $50 contribution is not as big of a deal as the fact that she will not live in the district when the new lines are applied for the 2012 elections.  If Golding would win the nomination and go on to win Senate District 18 seat, she would either only serve one term, or she would have to move in order to remain in the district.  Moving will not be easy since Golding lives in a very expensive home.  Republicans are likely looking for a candidate to hold the seat, not fill it temporarily.

Mary Rathje

Strengths: What makes Rathje an attractive candidate is her deep roots in the Marion community.  That is as true in nominating convention as it will be in the November 8th matchup with the Democrat nominee.  Of the 38 precincts that make up Senate District 18, ten of the largest precincts are in Marion.  With each delegate’s vote being weighted to reflect how many people voted for the Republican candidate for Senate District 18 in 2008, those ten precincts represent almost 50 percent of the total possible vote.  If the Marion delegates support Rathje, she’s going to be difficult to defeat.

Weaknesses:  We must remember that the nominating convention is made up of county activists not regular primary voters.  That means it may be difficult for any candidate to benefit from the home field advantage they may appear to have.  It is also understood that Rathje is the preferred candidate of Governor Branstad and Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen.  While outsiders might thing that should be an advantage for Rathje, it’s actually a weakness because people, especially activists, don’t like to be told who to support.

Being the sister-in-law of Steve Rathje, a perennial Republican candidate that has not found success on the campaign trail, is also something Rathje will have to overcome.

Matt Dummermuth

Strengths:  On paper, the other candidates don’t hold a candle to Dummermuth.  The Harvard law grad and former U.S. Attorney is undoubtedly qualified for a seat in the Iowa State Senate.  For social conservatives looking for a candidate who is rock solid on their issues, Dummermuth is the only one of the three who has made his positions known.  His interview in front of judicial nominating commission showed that he differed with the Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act, which is probably the reason his name wasn’t forwarded to the Governor for consideration.

Weaknesses:  Dummermuth sailed through the U.S. Attorney appointment process at the highest possible level.  That is a benefit of having a high caliber résumé like he possesses.  While his résumé does not hurt him, it takes more than that to be successful in politics.  Dummermuth lacks the outgoing, gregarious nature that most candidates require to be successful.  The ability to connect to electors is even more important in small elections like the one tonight.  The candidates will only have a few minutes to speak to the delegates before they vote, so being able to sell your candidacy is critical.

The Process:

There are 67 possible delegates for tonight’s nominating convention.  The delegates are the elected central committee members in each precinct that make up Senate District 18.  There are two central committee positions for each precinct.  The total number of delegates, 67, is an odd number because of vacancies.  While each delegate will be allowed to vote, not everyone’s vote will carry the same weight.  The delegates who represent precincts that had low Republican voter turnout in the last general election in which this Senate seat was up for grabs will not have the same sway as those who represent precincts that had high GOP turnout in that election.

For example, the two possible votes from Spring Grove Township will represent 1.16 percent of the vote, compared to Marion Ward 2, Precinct 3, whose two delegates will represent 6.01 percent of the total vote.  That’s because 1043 people voted for the Republican candidate in the Marion Ward, while only 202 people voted for the Republican candidate in Spring Grove Township.

To win, a candidate needs a simple majority of the total weighted vote, not necessarily of the people in attendance.

Potential Outcomes

Anything can happen tonight.  While Golding and Rathje appear to have the most support, Dummermuth is not in a bad position.  If neither Golding nor Rathje are able to win on the first ballot, Dummermuth could become a factor because it is more likely that supporters of the other two view him as their second choice.  For that to work in Dummermuth’s favor, he needs to come in at least second place on the first ballot.  Otherwise, Golding or Rathje supporters can wait for Dummermuth’s name to be dropped off of the ballot, and his supporters may be able to sway who wins the nomination.


Not even going to try. 🙂

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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