Longtime Democrat State Senator Dennis Black announced his retirement on Monday. The decision not to run for reelection opens an opportunity for Iowa Republicans to flip a long-held Democrat seat and take a major step toward regaining the majority in the Iowa Senate. Democrats maintain a narrow, two-seat margin, 26-24.
Black steps down after five terms as a state senator. That was preceded by six terms in the Iowa House.
Senate District 15 covers eastern Polk County and most of Jasper County. Democrats hold a voter registration edge of slightly more than 2,000 in the district. However, it is a seat Republicans can win with the right candidate, especially in a non-presidential election year.
There are two Republicans vying for the seat. Kum & Go human resources executive Crystal Bruntz has already filed for the seat. Mitchellville Mayor Jeremy Filbert also plans to compete for the GOP nomination. Both candidates spoke at the Polk County Republican convention on Saturday.
Filbert is a U.S. Navy veteran. He said three of his main focuses in the senate would be on jobs, education and renewable energy.
“The unemployment rate may be going down, but it’s going down because people are just tired of looking for a job,” Filbert told the delegates. “We need to get jobs here that people can go out and have a career, people can go out and actually afford to buy a house, afford to buy a car, afford to have a family.”
Filbert also pointed out the huge costs of college and the crushing debt on student loans. He also said there is way to fix Iowa’s roads and infrastructure without raising taxes. Filbert added that he is pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.
Crystal Bruntz told Polk County delegates she is passionate about taxes, regulation and education.
“Those are the top three, but I can get on fire about a lot of other things as well,” Bruntz said.
She pointed out that in an article about her running for the seat, someone commented that she shouldn’t either bother to run because one person does not make a difference.
“One person does make a difference,” Bruntz said. “All of you guys are here making a difference today. I’ve put myself forward in this to make a difference.”
Bruntz then noted the importance of the Senate District 15 race in determining the majority of the Iowa Senate.
“This one seat, if we can flip this one, it could be the deciding seat this fall,” Bruntz said to big applause from the delegates.
Unfortunately for Republicans, the Democrats recruited a very strong candidate to replace Dennis Black. Shortly after Black announced his retirement, former Newton Mayor Chaz Allen proclaimed he was running for the seat.
Initially, some Republicans might have thought Chaz Allen was entering the GOP primary. He was a big supporter of Terry Branstad’s campaign in 2010, opposing incumbent Chet Culver. However, Allen says he is running as a Democrat.
Chaz Allen served almost a decade as Newton’s mayor before stepping down in 2012 to lead the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation. He is very well known is Jasper County, so Republicans will have a difficult time flipping this seat.
However, 2014 is shaping up as a good year for the GOP. A strong candidate combined with a team effort could help Republicans take a crucial step toward regaining the majority in the Iowa Senate.
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