Iowa Senate 18 race could have statewide implications - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Senate 18 race could have statewide implications

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DES MOINES (KWWL) -

A special election will determine who will represent District 18 in the Iowa Senate.  The district covers communities in Linn County, but all of Iowa will be watching.

The post is being vacated by Democrat Swati Dandekar, who will now be serving on the Iowa Utilities Board.  Already, three Republicans and one Democrat want to fill the vacancy.  And there's still time for more candidates to join the race.

Right now, Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Iowa Senate, while Republicans maintain control over the Iowa House and the governor's office.  So if Dandekar's seat would be won by a Republican, power in the House would be evenly split between the two parties.  And that means the tone in Des Moines, and the agenda before the legislature, could radically change.

The Iowa legislature went into overtime this year as Democrats and Republicans fought tooth and nail to balance the state's budget.  And that battle happened with split legislative chambers.  If Republicans move a step closer to total control before the next session…

"It will certainly tip things of a favor of the Republicans," said political analyst Jeff Stein.

If that shift in power occurs, the entire legislative agenda could be swayed.

"With the Democrats in control of the Senate this past session, they were able to effectively block or certainly impede a number of things that the Governor and Republicans in the House wanted to do," Stein said.

When it comes to budgetary issues, the power shift could help Governor Terry Branstad achieve things like commercial property tax reform, which was not approved by the legislature this year.  And some controversial social issues could also come back to the table.

"There will be a great temptation, if Republicans have control of all branches of Iowa government, to bring up the gay marriage issue, recall of judges, etcetera," Stein said.

The challenge for legislators will be answering to the demands of their constituents, many of whom are now more focused on seeing bills passed that might help improve the economy and create jobs.

And there's another reason folks across the state should care about the Senate District 18 race.  Iowa's legislative districts have been redrawn this year.  So in coming elections, which party has representation in specific areas will also be changing, further shifting how state-level politics play out. 

Linn County Republicans are set to nominate their candidate to compete in this race Thursday night.  The Democrats plan to pick a nominee next week.

If Republicans are able to gain a seat in the Iowa House, experts say the state's GOP will really be put under the microscope as national political attention will also be centered on Republicans ahead of the Iowa caucus next year.

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