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Politics as Usual?

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Legislative sessions held in election years are always tricky.  Legislators are very aware of the votes they are taking, and how those votes may be used by their opponents.  But the atmosphere at the State Capitol in 2014 may go beyond politics as usual as several legislators look to move into highter office.  So many current and former legislators are running, you may need a scorecard to keep track.  Here is a quick rundown:

CONGRESS (US SENATE):  Iowa has two of the country's most senior members of the US Senate - US Senator Tom Harkin is the 7th longest serving member of the US Senate, and US Senator Charles Grassley is the 6th longest serving member.  Senator Harkin announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in 2014, opening up a US Senate seat in Iowa for the first time since 1985.  US Representative Bruce Braley (a Democrat) has announced he will run for US Senate (thus openning up his Congressional seat).  State Senator Joni Ernst is among several Republicans who want the job as well; she has announced she too will run for US Senate.  Former State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll (who is currently the Director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals) is also rumored to be exploring a run for the seat. 

CONGRESS (US HOUSE):  State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo and State Representative Pat Murphy of Dubuque (both Democrats) have announced they are running for Congress (Braley's seat).  Among others running is former State Senator and current Iowa Utilities Board member Swati Dandekar of Cedar Rapids.  State Representative Mark Lofgren of Muscatine has announced he will run against current US Representative Dave Loebsack.  Also rumored to be considering a run for Loebsack's seat is Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the current head of the Iowa Department of Public Health who has run against Congressman Loebsack twice before.  Former State Senator Staci Appel (a Democrat) is also running for Congress, against US Representative Tom Latham.  No current or former state legislators have said they will run against Iowa's final US Representative Steve King (perhaps because there are very few Democratic legislators from that area of the state).

GOVERNOR: State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines and State Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids will face each other in a primary to become the Democratic candidate against current Governor Terry Branstad.  Governor Branstad was Iowa's youngest Governor when first elected and would become the nation's longest-serving Governor if re-elected in 2014. 

LEGISLATURE: Brian Meyer became the newest member of the Iowa House of Representatives when he won the special election to replace House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who resigned to take a job in the Iowa Attorney General's Office.  Rep. Brian Meyer was McCarthy's chief of staff and was a member of the Des Moines City Council.  He now represents the southeast side of Des Moines (House District 33).   Rep. Meyers' win means the House power balance will remain at 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. But wait...

Earlier this month, State Senator Kent Sorenson announced his immediate resignation, in the midst of allegations of ethics violations.  A special election for his Iowa Senate seat will be held on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.  Current State Representative Julian Garrett (Republican) will face former State Representative Mark Davitt (Democrat) in this election to represent Senate District 13.  Senate District 13 includes Madison County and Warren County, including the cities of Indianola, Bevington, Milo and Norwalk and the townships of Jackson, Otter, Squaw, Virginia, White Oak townships, Allen, Liberty, Lincoln, Palmyra, Richland, Union, White Breast; and parts of the townships of Linn, Belmont, Greenfield and Jefferson.

Currently, Democrats have the narrowest of controls in the Iowa Senate (26 Democrats, 24 Republicans).  If the Republican (Garrett) wins the special election, that balance will remain unchanged in the Senate.  However, because he is a current State Representative, a win for Garrett means yet another (third) special election to fill his House seat.  That gives Democrats another chance to narrow the Republican majority in the House.  If Rep. Garrett loses, he simply goes back to being a State Representative in the Iowa House, and Democrats in the Senate gain an extra (27th) vote with Davitt.

This game of political musical chairs has only begun.  There are several current State Representatives that are rumored to be looking at a run for State Senate, but they have until mid-March to decide.  Until that candidate filing deadline, legislators will be careful with their votes, and after that deadline, they'll want to get out on the campaign trail.