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June 4th, 2012

Voter Guide: Iowa House Primary Elections

There are a whopping 25 Republican primary races on the ballot in Iowa House races this Tuesday. That includes 12 races where current House members are trying to hang onto a seat. Redistricting changed many of the districts around. One race, in House District 50, forced two prominent Republicans into a heated primary against each other. has been following many of these races very closely. Here is a quick breakdown of each race, including the background of the candidates and which prominent organizations or officials have endorsed them:

HD 1 – Jeff Smith (I) vs. Kevin Wolfswinkel

Representative Smith (R-Spirit Lake) is aiming for a second term. He’s a community leader in the Spirit Lake area as a banker and also served as the president of the Chamber of Commerce. Wolfswinkel is a farmer from Osceola County. He is one of the candidates being pushed by Iowa Gun Owners PAC and has the support of House members Kim Pearson and Tom Shaw, along with State Senator Kent Sorenson. Wolfswinkel is also backed by Liberty Iowa PAC and Iowa Right to Life. The NRA, Iowa Right to Life, and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry back Smith.

HD 2 – Josh Davenport vs. Megan Hess

Both candidates reside in Spencer. Davenport is a pastor. Hess is a recent law school graduate who has worked in the Iowa and Minnesota legislatures and assisted Congressman Steve King and Senator Chuck Grassley. Iowa Gun Owners and Iowa Liberty PAC support Davenport. He also has the backing of House members Kim Pearson and Tom Shaw. The NRA endorsed Hess. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 6 – Ron Jorgenson (I) vs. Matthew Ung

This is one of the most hotly contested races. Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) is aiming for a second term. He is a vice-president at Morningside College. Ung, 23, works in the health care industry. Ung accuses Jorgensen of not being strong enough on the life issue. Woodbury County GOP Chair Brian Rosener ruffled some feathers when he endorsed Ung. Iowa Liberty PAC also backs Ung. Former House Speaker Christopher Rants, who used to hold this seat, backs Jorgensen. So does the NRA. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 7 – Mark Frakes vs. Tedd Gassman

The winner of this primary in north-central Iowa faces a freshman Democrat. Frakes is a businessman from Forest City. Gassman is the former chair of the Winnebago County GOP and former president of the Thompson school board. Iowa Right to Life supports Gassman.

HD 8 – Bob Dishman vs. Henry Rayhons (I)

Rayhons (R-Garner) was first elected in 1996. He is a semi-retired farmer and still lives in the town he was born in. Bob Dishman is the pastor of a church in Goldfield. The NRA endorsed Rayhons. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 10 – Maison Bleam vs. Tom Shaw (I)

This is one of several primaries that has become very combative. Shaw (R-Laurens) represents the Pocahontas and Humboldt County portions of this district. He is seeking his second term. Shaw’s bombastic style has drawn the ire of some Republicans and the praise of others. Bleam lives in Calhoun County. He most recently served on Congressman King’s staff in Washington, D.C. and is the former student government president of the University of Iowa.

Shaw received the endorsement of Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen. He also has the backing of The Family Leader, Liberty Iowa PAC, Iowa Gun Owners and the NRA. Bleam was endorsed by House Representative David Tjepkes (R-Gowrie), who represents the Calhoun and Webster County portions of the district. Tjepkes is retiring from the legislature. Iowa Right to Life supports Bleam.

HD 22 – Clint Fichter vs. Greg Forristall (I)

Forristall (R-Macedonia) chairs the House Education committee. He joined the legislature in 2007 and comes from a farming background. Fichter has been the city manager of Avoca since 2007. The NRA and Iowa Right to Life support Forristall.

HD 23 – Raymond Chase vs. Mark Costello

There is no incumbent for this Southwest Iowa seat. Chase lives in Glenwood. Costello is a farmer from Imogene. The NRA endorsed Chase. Iowa Right to Life supports Costello.

HD 24 – Cecil Dolecheck (I) vs. Jane Jensen

Dolecheck (R-Mt. Ayr) was first elected to the Iowa House in 1996. He is prominent in the Ringgold County farming community. Jane Jensen is a restaurant owner from Clarinda. The Family Leader and the NRA endorsed Dolecheck. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 25 – Joan Acela vs. Julian Garrett (I)

These two faced off the in the 2010 GOP primary. Garrett won and triumphed in the general election. Acela is a former Madison County supervisor. Garrett (R-Indianola) is a farmer and attorney. He has the support of Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds. The NRA also endorsed Garrett. The Family Leader backs Acela. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 26 – Steve McCoy vs. Ruth Randleman

This is an open seat because Rep. Glen Massie opted not seek a second term. McCoy is an outspoken Tea Party activist from Indianola. Randleman is the mayor of Carlisle. Reportedly, McCoy engaged two Randleman supporters in a heated exchange during the Warren County GOP’s most recent meeting. Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds endorsed Randleman. Iowa Liberty PAC backs McCoy. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 27 – James Demichelis, Jr. vs. Joel Fry (I)

Fry (R-Osceola) is a small business owner and involved in ministry. He joined the House two years ago. Demichelis made an unsuccessful bid for the House in 2008 as a Democrat. The NRA and Iowa Right to Life support Joel Fry.

HD 28 – Len Gosselink vs. Greg Heartsill

This is an open seat. Heartsill is popular among social conservatives in the Pella area. He is a self-employed, homeschooling father of nine. Gosselink is a semi-retired businessman and Iowa Air National Guard veteran. The NRA endorsed Heartsill. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

HD 30 – Jim Carley vs. Carol Miller

This became an open seat when Kim Pearson decided not to run for a second term. She recruited Carley to run for the seat, but delayed her own decision to step down until months after Carley announced his intentions to run. Jim Carley is a Tea Party activist and military veteran. He is heavily involved in Polk County Republican activities. Carol Miller is a family farmer and the past president of the Polk County Farm Bureau. The Family Leader, the NRA and Iowa Right to Life support Carley.

HD 34 – Patti Branco vs. Dave Leach

Branco and her husband settled in Des Moines from Illinois two years ago. She is experienced in the financial services industry. Leach is an outspoken anti-abortion activist making his seventh run for the Iowa Legislature. He has lost each time and has shown very few signs of running an actual campaign this year. Iowa Right to Life supports Branco.

HD 36 – Jeff Ibbotson vs. Tony Seliquini vs. Larry Steele

Ibbotson was born and raised in Des Moines and is very experienced in financial services. Seliquini is an Army veteran with experience in various fields. Steele works at Wal-Mart. Iowa Liberty PAC supports Seliquini. State Senator Brad Zaun endorsed Ibbotson.

HD 37 – Matt DeVries vs. John Landon vs. Jacob Mason vs. Jim Robidoux vs. Stacey Rogers vs. Jeffery Wright

This six-way primary in Ankeny is the most likely to be decided by a special convention. If no candidate exceeds 35 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the winner will be chosen by the Polk County GOP central committee. Iowa Liberty PAC endorsed DeVries. Iowa Right to Life supports DeVries, Landon, Robidoux and Wright.

HD 38 – Kevin Koester (I) vs. Brett Nelson

Koester (R-Ankeny) is seeking his third term in the Iowa House. He was the longtime Director of Community Education for Ankeny schools. Brett Nelson is an insurance advisor. He has shown few signs of an actual campaign apparatus. The Family Leader, the NRA and Iowa Right to Life support Koester.

HD 39 – Erik Helland (I) vs. Jake Highfill

Helland (R-Grimes) is seeking his third term in the Iowa House. He is currently the House Republican Whip. Highfill is a college student. He is supported by Iowa Liberty PAC and Iowa Gun Owners PAC. Iowa Right to Life and the NRA support Helland.

Highfill is trying to run to the right of Helland as a “traditional values” candidate. However, in January Highfill gave an interview where he declared that he is a libertarian, supports gay marriage and does not care much about the social issues. Highfill claims the article is inaccurate, but refuses to elaborate.

HD 50 – Pat Grassley (I) vs. Annette Sweeney (I)

This is far and away the biggest primary showdown, as two well-liked representatives go head-to-head. Things have gotten a little ugly in the last few weeks with a third-party group running a negative ad against Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford). He counteracted by running an ad accusing Annette Sweeney (R-Alden) of hiding behind a “shadowy” group.

Each candidate boasts very high profile backer. Longtime U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is assisting his grandson’s campaign and that has resulted in a lot of out-of-state money pouring in. Wealthy Republican donor Bruce Rastetter is helping Sweeney’s campaign. Grassley also has the support of House Speaker Pro-Tem Jeff Kaufmann (R-Wilton). State senators Sandy Greiner (R-Keota) and Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), along with House rep Stew Iverson (R-Clarion) back Sweeney. The NRA endorsed Grassley. Iowa Right to Life supports both candidates.

No matter who wins this race, Republicans lose a solid member of the legislature. Also, the party infighting has been detrimental.

HD 55 – Michael Klimesh vs. Marshall Nessa vs. Dustin Noble

Three Republicans vie to take out Democrat Roger Thomas in November in this northeast Iowa district. Klimesh is the mayor of Spillville. Nessa is a pastor from West Union. Noble is a recent college graduate who clerked at the Statehouse last session for Rep. Josh Byrnes. Iowa Right to Life supports Nessa.

HD 59 – James Kenyon vs. Howard Lyon

Kenyon is a veterinarian and longtime Cedar Falls school board member. Lyon is a Vietnam veteran. He works at Ace Hardware. Iowa Right to Life supports Lyon.

HD 76 – David Maxwell vs. Larry Wilson

This is an open seat, covering Poweshiek and Iowa Counties. Maxwell is an Army veteran and business owner. Wilson is a Poweshiek County supervisor. The NRA endorsed Maxwell. Iowa Right to Life supports Wilson.

HD 78 – Jarad Klein (I) vs. Priscilla Marlar

Klein (R-Keota) seeks his second term in the Iowa House. He is a farmer. Marlar works at First Methodist in Mt. Pleasant. The Family Leader and the NRA support Klein. Iowa Gun Owners PAC backs Marlar.

HD 81 – Rick McClure vs. Blake Smith

The winner faces longtime Democrat incumbent Mary Gaskill. McClure identifies himself as an independent and credits Ron Paul for giving him the inspiration to run. Smith, 23, is a recent college graduate. Iowa Right to Life and the NRA support Smith.

About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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