MARTENSDALE-The race to fill the vacant Senate District 13 seat will feature a current Iowa House representative against a former one. Democrats quickly selected Mark Davitt as their nominee during a convention on Monday. He was the only person nominated and the entire meeting lasted less than seven minutes.
Rep. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) won a four-way nomination battle during the Republicans’ convention last week. Garrett picked up more than 2/3 of the vote on the first ballot. His campaign has already hit the ground running.
“We’re geared up and ready to go,” Garrett told convention delegates last week. “We’ve got organization in place. We’ve got sign locations. We’re all set to go.”
The candidates were chosen by members of the respective Warren County and Madison County central committees. They are competing for the seat formerly held by Republican Kent Sorenson, who resigned amid an ethics scandal.
Both parties are likely to invest significant resources into the special election, which will be held on November 19. Democrats currently hold a 26-23 advantage in the Iowa Senate. Republicans hope to return the margin to 26-24, as it was before Sorenson’s resignation.
This special election could hold ramifications on the 2014 races. The winner of the special election will have to compete for the seat again next year. The advantage generally goes to the incumbent.
Iowa Republicans top goal for the 2014 elections, aside from the U.S. Senate race, is gaining a majority in the Iowa Senate. Senate District 13 will be one of the key battlegrounds in the state.
The democrats spent massive amounts of money in 2010, but their incumbent state Senator Staci Appel lost in a landslide to Sorenson.
Republicans maintain a voter registration edge in Senate District 13, 15,013-13,293. However, special elections are based largely upon the campaigns’ ground games. Garrett will benefit from the efforts of Stan Gustafson, Iowa Republicans’ top volunteer doorknocker. He has provided a huge boost to Congressman Latham and many other Iowa candidates, and Gustafson lives in Madison County.
Following Monday’s convention in Martensdale, democrats closed their meeting to the media and strategized on how to win the special election. If the ugly 2010 race was any indication, there could be significant mudslinging in the works.
The two sides could attempt the “guilty by association” game. Democrats might try to tie Julian Garrett to Kent Sorenson, which is quite a stretch. However, Republicans can easily tie Mark Davitt to the failed policies of Chet Culver, since Davitt served in the Iowa House and held a majority that voted in unison with the former governor.
Julian Garrett can also campaign on his strong constituent services. He has been very accessible during his three years in the Iowa House.
“I send out newsletters every week to the newspapers and to a lot of you that I have emails for,” Garrett said. “I’ve held townhall meetings all around the district, listening to people and answering their questions about what’s going on in the legislature. I’m going to continue to do that.”
Garrett noted that he is a fiscal and social conservative and he is running for the senate because he is tired of seeing good bills passed by the Iowa House die in the Iowa Senate without even being brought to the floor. He hopes Republicans in both Warren and Madison counties, as well as the neighboring area, will pitch in to help in this important race.
“I’ve said many times, running for office is not a one person job. It’s a team effort,” Garrett said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have an excellent team to work with in District 25 and I’m ready to do that same kind of thing in Senate District 13.”
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