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Ignoring repeated GOP wins across the fruited plain (Michael Barone)


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Jewish World Review

Michael Barone

Oct. 22, 2021

State legislative special elections provide an interesting index of partisan sentiment these days. That wasn't so in the late 20th century, when clever local candidates and notables often got voters to cross party lines.

But in this century of increasing partisan polarization and straight-ticket voting, local special elections are a proxy for opinion on national issues.

In that light, consider the results of the two special legislative elections that have resulted in a change of parties so far this year.


The other party flip happened this month in the demographically dissimilar Iowa 29th state House district, which includes most of Jasper County and industrial Newton, the former longtime home of Maytag. It's an area with many blue-collar workers and union members and was long a safe Democratic district. Democrat Wesley Breckenridge won it twice by double digits — 51% to 38% in 2016 and 59% to 41% in 2018 — but by only 52% to 48% in 2020. After he resigned in 2021, Republican Jon Dunwell won on Oct. 12 by a 60% to 40% margin.


One more note on redistricting. The supposedly nonpartisan redistricting commissions enacted in some states and lavishly praised by liberal commentators aren't working out so well. Inevitably, they've become partisan slugfests, for who other than partisans would want to spend their time drawing district lines on maps?

Political science professors? More than 95% are Democrats. Think tankers? All committed to one side or the other. Journalists? You've got to be kidding.

The plain though perhaps unpalatable fact is that there always will be politics in politics, especially in times of close partisan competition — even, or especially, in special elections to state legislatures.

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