James Carlin

A Republican has retained a state senate seat in northwest Iowa for his party. State Representative James Carlin of Sioux City won today’s special election in Woodbury and Plymouth Counties and will be sworn in soon as a member of the Iowa Senate.

“It’s been a very intense stretch that was a lot of adrenalin and a lot of work,” Carlin said during an interview with Radio Iowa this evening. “I am so thankful for having so many good people who volunteered and worked with me on this. They made all the difference.”

Carlin, who is an attorney, will replace former State Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson. Anderson resigned this fall to take a full-time job leading Cherokee County economic development efforts. Carlin described the three-week special election campaign as a “sprint” and it ended with him defeating Democratic challenger Todd Wendt by about 600 votes.

“You have to be creative about getting your message out as quickly as you can,” Carlin said. “…We just had some very enthusiastic people in Plymouth County and Woodbury County that really did as much as they possibly could. We actually had 5000 phone calls placed in three days by volunteers, so that was pretty amazing.”

There are more than twice as many registered Republican as Democratic voters in the district and Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the district by 41 percentage points in 2016. Carlin won by 10 points.

“I don’t know that I would read that much into this because it was a special election,” Carlin said. “You know, I expected it to be closer because it was a special election.”

Wendt, the Democratic candidate, recently retired after serving as superintendent of schools in Le Mars. Wendt won the Woodbury County side of the district by 56 votes, but Carlin carried Plymouth County by 659 votes.

With this result, there will be 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one independent in the Iowa Senate when the legislature convenes in January.