Jim Lykam

A Democrat who’s served in the Iowa House for 14 years easily won today’s special election for a seat in the Iowa Senate.

Jim Lykam of Davenport was elected to serve out the remaining two years of the late Senator Joe Seng’s four-term. Seng, who was also a Democrat from Davenport, died in September after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

“Joe Seng and I were friends way before politics,” Lykam told Radio Iowa this evening. “…I just decided when Joe had passed away that I wanted the opportunity to carry on his legacy.”

Lykam, who celebrated his 67th birthday in mid-December, is a life-long resident of Davenport. He was an independent auto dealer in the city for 25 years. He’s won seven traditional Election Day contests to secure a seat in the Iowa House, but Lykam admitted the “special” election for this senate seat was unknown territory.

“In a normal election cycle, I can knock 8,000-10,000 doors myself in the summer,” Lykam said. “In a special like this, you don’t even know what for sure voters you’re going after with a very small turn-out and it’s very nerve wracking. I mean, you’re knocking doors and hopefully you’re hoping the doors of people who are actually going to get out and vote.”

The senate district covers western Davenport and the community of Buffalo.

“This is a blue-collar-type senate district and I just want to give the middle class a fair shot,” Lykam said.

Lykam won with 73 percent of the vote. LeClaire policeman Mike Gonzales, the Republican candidate, got 25 percent. Lykam’s victory means Democrats will hold 20 of the 50 seats in the Iowa Senate in January. Republicans will have 29 seats, giving the GOP control of the senate’s debate agenda. The other senator switched his party registration from Republican to independent this summer, saying he could not remain in the party Donald Trump represents.

Voters in Lykam’s house district now will have to choose his replacement. The 2017 legislature will start with 99 House members as a result, because Governor Branstad must give 18 days notice before setting the date for a special election. The 2017 legislative session starts in 13 days.