Hope is Alive in House District 82

Senator Harkin Speaking at Aug. 2, 2009 Curt Hanson Fundraiser

What seems most important about last night’s Iowa House District 82 special election to replace Curt Hanson is Democrat Phil Miller won in a post-Tom Harkin era.

Iowa no longer has a Democratic U.S. Senator able to travel most counties, recount his local margin of victory to politicians and engage voters. When Harkin visited Dick Schwab’s 2012 house race in Cedar County, his presence didn’t tip the scale in our favor but gave us hope a Democratic candidate could win rural, conservative areas. A case could be made that when Harkin retired so did Democratic hopes for the state. Democrats fell apart, first by losing his U.S. Senate seat, and then by crafting a spotty effort to support Hillary Clinton for president. Given the scale of President Trump’s Iowa win, such hope is needed.

If you want election night analysis, read Bleeding Heartland’s detailed report on the numbers and potential meaning for Democrats by clicking here.

Here’s the crux: “Today’s result is proof that good Democratic candidates can still compete in Iowa’s smaller towns and rural areas where Republicans made huge gains up and down the ticket in 2016,” DesMoinesDem wrote.

It is significant that one of Iowa Republican Party chair Jeff Kaufmann’s stated goals for 2017 is to shore up support among “new Republican voters.” In a July 27 article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette he said of his “new voters,”

I’m worried about them because, in general, what they know is Republicans have control and Republicans aren’t doing what they promised, even though individual congresspeople and senators are doing what they have promised… The people that are less informed about the process, yes, I worry because it contributes to a climate that we’ve given you what you’ve asked for and we haven’t delivered.

I hope the House District 82 election results give Mr. Kaufmann something else closer to home to worry about.

The test for Democrats will be whether they can walk and chew gum at the same time in 2018. It is one thing to concentrate resources on a single race and win, quite another to turn the Iowa house, senate and governor’s office Democratic again. Democrats have done it in Iowa with mixed results. Governor Harold Hughes’ term beginning in 1964 was notable and largely successful. Governor Chet Culver’s 2006 term hangs like an albatross around neck of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Democrats can have a drink to celebrate Miller’s win thanks to Harold Hughes’ revamping Iowa’s alcohol control system and legalization of “liquor-by-the-drink.” This morning after they can hopefully develop momentum toward additional wins in 2018.

Dr. Phil Miller’s win last night provided evidence hope is alive.

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