The Iowa caucuses may have come and gone nearly two months ago, but the battleground state will see plenty more action this year, both in the June 7 congressional primaries and in November, when Democrats intend to take advantage of prime pickup opportunities in their quests for the Senate majority and to at least cut deeply into Republicans’ advantage in the House. With Iowa’s candidate filing deadline passing on March 18, the fields are set for a few House races to watch and the last Senate race to enter the competitive radar.
— Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, known for visiting every county in Iowa every year, will soon have one of the 25 longest Senate tenures. Democrats appeared resigned to the idea that Grassley would cruise to a seventh term, but with the Judiciary Committee chairman in the middle of a partisan skirmish over President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination — and with Donald Trump topping the ticket — Democratic former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge entered the race in early March with the hope that Grassley is now vulnerable. If victorious, this would undoubtedly be a majority-expanding seat, not a deciding one.
— Democrats are also targeting two House seats the party failed to win when they were open last year. In the Des Moines-based 3rd District, Jim Mowrer, an Iraq war veteran who lost to Rep. Steve King in the 4th District last year, provides a legitimate challenge to Rep. David Young, a former Grassley chief of staff who briefly ran for Senate in 2014.
— The 1st District looks even more promising for Democrats, with House Freedom Caucus member Rod Blum among the most vulnerable members of Congress. After a 2-point win in a strong Republican year, he’s been left off the NRCC’s Patriot Program — which aids the party’s most vulnerable — and was outraised in the fourth fundraising quarter by Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, who is running in a Democratic primary rematch against 2014 nominee Pat Murphy.
Those three races will provide plenty of drama in November, but one other contest likely to be decided in June is worth keeping an eye on. King, who was a vocal supporter of Ted Cruz in the presidential caucuses, faces a primary challenge in his bid for an eighth term from state Sen. Rick Bertrand, who if successful, according to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog, would be the first congressional primary challenger to defeat an incumbent since 1948.
— Kyle Trygstad
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