Absentee ballots are proving crucial in some key legislative races around the state. Recounts are expected in perhaps three races where the victor won by a razor-thin margin. In the Iowa House, Democrats appear to have secured 54 seats, compared to 44 for the Republicans.
Two races in the Sioux City area still are undecided because of uncounted "early" votes. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says, "We have a number of races that are exceedingly close." One of those Sioux City-area races had just a six-vote margin of victory.
In the Algona area, longtime State Representative Dolores Mertz, a Democrat, leads Republican challenger Steve Richards by just 42 votes. Overall, it appears Democrats have won 31 seats in the Iowa Senate and Republicans have won 19. The other senate race — in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area — had election-night results showing Republican challenger Walt Rogers beat incumbent Democratic state senator Jeff Danielson by 90 votes.
A handful of incumbent legislators lost Tuesday, including Republican Mark Zieman, a state senator from Postville who says some voters thought he was too sympathetic to the owners of the Postville meatpacking plant that was raided to immigration agents in May.
"I do know some people who have said that there were people who would not vote for me because they thought I was too close to the Jewish community," Zieman says. "I think when the price of their house drops in half if this plant closes that they may find out that I was doing something for the greater good." The owners of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville have filed for bankruptcy.
"My big concern is this plant hires a number of people and there’s a lot of ancillary businesses here and if the plant itself closes, the ramifications of this to northeast Iowa are going to be quite devastating," Zieman says. Zieman was beaten Tuesday by Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm. Zieman’s father, Lyle, started serving in the Iowa Senate in 1993 and the younger Zieman was elected to succeed him in 2000.