Redistricting every ten years can cause plenty of headaches. It can pit two incumbents against each other like in House District 50 with Annette Sweeney and Pat Grassley, or it can entice a challenger to emerge to an incumbent who didn’t live in the new district, which was the case in Senate District 22 with Sen. Pat Ward and challenger Jeff Mullen.
Redistricting can also create opportunities like it did in Senate District 10, a solid Republican district that contained no incumbent. The same thing happened in House District 37, which was the result of tremendous growth in the Ankeny area. The new district gives the Republican candidate a 3000 plus registered voter registration advantage. Registered Republicans number 8,788, while only 5720 registered Democrats live in the district.
With the favorable registration numbers and no incumbent with which to contend, six candidates have emerged to run for the Republican nomination. With so many candidates actively perusing the nomination, the chances that the winner will break the 35 percent threshold to avoid a special nominating convention is slim.
The chances that the House District 37 race will be decided at convention are high because there appears to be four candidates who are running solid campaigns. The candidates putting forth the most effort are John Landon, Jeff Wright, Matt DeVries, and Jim Robidioux. The other two candidates, Stacey Rodgers and Jacob Mason, don’t have much of a presence.
Below is a snapshot of the six candidates seeing the Republican nomination in House District 37.
DeVries got his first taste of being a candidate when he sought the Republican nomination for a state senate seat that was vacated when Larry Noble stepped down to become the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. DeVries did well in the special nominating convention, but eventually lost out to Jack Whitver, who now serves in the Iowa Senate. DeVries is an electrical engineer, small businessman, and father of five girls.
DeVries has been endorsed by the Liberty Iowa PAC, and he was a supporter of Ron Paul at the caucuses. Out of all the candidates in the race, DeVries has been the most frequent in mailing Republican voters in the district. His mailings are in the form of letters that also solicit funds. Each mailing is followed up by an automated phone call from Devries. As for the sign war, DeVries doesn’t have as large of a presence as Landon, Wright, and Robidioux. He also doesn’t have any large barn signs like the other candidates are using.
DeVries is running a solid campaign and his connections to Ron Paul should not be overlooked. Paul’s supporters have done exceptionally well at caucuses and conventions. If the race is to be settled at a special nominating convention, Paul’s caucus to convention strategy in Iowa may pay huge dividends to DeVries.
Landon began campaigning for the District 37 nomination as soon as the new redistricting map was approved. A small businessman who specializes in farm management and agricultural land real estate, Landon offers a strong agricultural background that is balanced by being a long-time resident of one of the fastest growing communities in the state.
While Ankeny is a rapidly growing community with lots of new people, having deep roots in the community shouldn’t be overlooked. Landon has run a very balanced campaign. He has been door knocking the district, he has the best sign presence of all the candidates, and he has sent a mailer to Republican voters. While DeVries has mailed letters, Landon mailed a full-page biographical piece that people are more likely to read.
Landon seems to be running the most well rounded campaign. If there is a word to describe his campaign, it would be solid. With all of the candidates operating small budget primary campaigns, Landon’s fundamentally sound campaign is probably the one to beat.
Mason is probably the least known candidate in the race. I have yet to see any signs of support for his candidacy. He has no yards signs, I’ve not received any mail from him, and while I’ve heard that he’s been door knocking the district, he has yet to make it to my door. In a congested primary field, it is unwise to write anyone off, but Mason is a long shot to win the nomination.
Having a last name that ends with an “x” isn’t common in Iowa, even in a community as large as Ankeny. While his name might not be common, Robidoux might be one of the better-connected candidates running for the Republican nomination. Having taught Spanish, English, and drivers education in the Ankeny School system, Robidoux is well known. He also operates a dog kennel and is a member of the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce and Ankeny Taxpayers for Responsible Government.
In addition to teaching, Robidoux has also been heavily involved in school board politics. In 2010, he managed the school board campaign for Brad Huss, the second highest vote getter. Robidoux serves on the Ankeny Schools Finance Committee, which is working to reduce the Ankeny school tax rate.
As a supporter of term limits, Robidoux has pledged to only serve eight years if elected. He also doesn’t accept contributions from lobbyists of political action committees. He’s been an avid doorknocker and has a good sign presence around town. His campaign has not sent any mailers. It’s hard to gauge the strength of Robidoux campaign, but with his strong ties to the school district, he should not be over looked.
Rogers is no stranger to Tea Party activists in Iowa. In August of last year, Rogers and her friend, Tea Party organizer Ryan Rhodes, made national news when they confronted President Obama during an event that was part of his three-day bus tour of the Midwest. Before joining the law firm of Block, Lamberti & Gocke, Rogers worked in the Iowa Senate as the clerk for Ottumwa State Senator, Mark Chelgren.
Until recently, Roger’s campaign has been invisible. I’ve heard no reports of her door knocking the district and only recently have a handful of barn and yard signs popped up. Without a strong connection to the district, it appears that Rogers has struggled to get her campaign off the ground. Yet, her Tea Party ties may help her if the race is decided at a special nominating convention.
Wright is another attorney seeking the Republican nomination in House District 37. His campaign has been surprisingly strong. He’s door knocked the district, has a large sign presence, and his fund raising report shows that he has developed a good donor file in the community. While none of the candidates have a big enough fundraising advantage over the rest of the field, Wright’s campaign disclosure caught my eye because of the numerous donations from people in the community.
Unfortunately, Wright knocked on my door while we had company and my dogs went crazy with the sound of the doorbell. Otherwise I would have appreciated the opportunity to get to know him better.
Here is how I’d rank the race through my vantage point.
Since none of the candidates have been able to raise or spend a significant amount of money, the race is going to be decided on the candidates’ ability to organize and turn out their supporters. It seems likely that the top fur candidates on my list will garner the most of the votes that will be cast on June 5th, but the big question is whether or not one of them has done enough to surpass the 35 percent threshold.
With no other primary of significance on the ballot, it seems that turnout is going to be on the low side. In fact, the 2011 school board election seemed to garner more attention than the primary for House District 37 has generated. If that is indeed the case, anything can happen.