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Iowa Senate Majority Leader Gronstal retains seat

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Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:45 pm | Updated: 7:49 am, Wed Nov 7, 2012.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won re-election Tuesday as his party fought to retain its narrow hold on the chamber and prevent Republicans from gaining control of most of the levers of state government.

As of early Wednesday, The Associated Press had declared Democrats winners in 9 Senate races. With 13 Democrats not up for re-election, that gives the party 22 of the 26 seats it needs to retain outright control. More than a half-dozen other races remained too close to call or appeared headed for recounts, according to AP’s vote tallies.

An aide to Gronstal said Democrats believe they will prevail in 24 races and that they were ahead in two other razor-thin contests that were still being tallied. The aide, Ron Parker, said it was too soon for either side to declare victory.

Don McDowell, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn, said the party was still evaluating the races and it was too early to know which party would control the chamber. He noted that a special election would be required next month to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Pat Ward of Clive, who died of breast cancer last month.

Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, fended off a Republican campaign to oust him from office, defeating conservative Al Ringgenberg with about 55 percent of the vote. Republicans had painted Gronstal as a roadblock to their plans in Des Moines, but he campaigned as an effective champion for the district.

In addition to Gronstal’s re-election, another bright spot for Democrats was in Muscatine, where Democrat Chris Brase unseated Republican Rep. Shawn Hamerlinck.

Republicans appeared on track to keep their majority in the Iowa House, but Democrats would likely eat into their 20-seat deficit by picking up a few seats. That means all eyes will remain on the Senate. Vote counting would continue Wednesday and possibly in the coming days if recounts are required.

The GOP had mounted an aggressive campaign to win the Senate, which would give the party control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years.

Their plans included cutting commercial property taxes, debating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, requiring voters to show identification at the polls, and cutting state workers’ health benefits. Controversial education reform plans, opposed by the state teachers’ union, would also likely be on the agenda.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky had called the prospect of a Republican takeover of state government as an “existential threat” that would hurt unions, abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights and the environment.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won re-election Tuesday as his party fought to retain its narrow hold on the chamber and prevent Republicans from gaining control of most of the levers of state government.

As of early Wednesday, The Associated Press had declared Democrats winners in 9 Senate races. With 13 Democrats not up for re-election, that gives the party 22 of the 26 seats it needs to retain outright control. More than a half-dozen other races remained too close to call or appeared headed for recounts, according to AP’s vote tallies.

An aide to Gronstal said Democrats believe they will prevail in 24 races and that they were ahead in two other razor-thin contests that were still being tallied. The aide, Ron Parker, said it was too soon for either side to declare victory.

Don McDowell, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn, said the party was still evaluating the races and it was too early to know which party would control the chamber. He noted that a special election would be required next month to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Pat Ward of Clive, who died of breast cancer last month.

Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, fended off a Republican campaign to oust him from office, defeating conservative Al Ringgenberg with about 55 percent of the vote. Republicans had painted Gronstal as a roadblock to their plans in Des Moines, but he campaigned as an effective champion for the district.

In addition to Gronstal’s re-election, another bright spot for Democrats was in Muscatine, where Democrat Chris Brase unseated Republican Rep. Shawn Hamerlinck.

Republicans appeared on track to keep their majority in the Iowa House, but Democrats would likely eat into their 20-seat deficit by picking up a few seats. That means all eyes will remain on the Senate. Vote counting would continue Wednesday and possibly in the coming days if recounts are required.

The GOP had mounted an aggressive campaign to win the Senate, which would give the party control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years.

Their plans included cutting commercial property taxes, debating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, requiring voters to show identification at the polls, and cutting state workers’ health benefits. Controversial education reform plans, opposed by the state teachers’ union, would also likely be on the agenda.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky had called the prospect of a Republican takeover of state government as an “existential threat” that would hurt unions, abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights and the environment.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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