Some of Iowa's marquee statehouse races will be fought in Polk and Dallas county this fall

Many of Iowa's fiercest statehouse races will be fought in the Des Moines metro area this fall, as Democrats try to regain ground from Republicans.

The booming metro region will see increased representation in the Iowa Legislature next year after last year's redistricting process, which redrew Iowa House and Senate seats to account for population growth over the last decade.

Some seats in Des Moines have no Republican on the ballot and will be safe for Democrats in the November general election. But both parties will be waging a fierce battle in several Polk and Dallas County suburban districts that have swung back and forth in recent years.

Republicans currently have a 60-40 advantage in the House and expect to maintain their majority this fall. But the margin was much narrower in 2020, when Democrats held 47 seats thanks in large part to suburban districts that swung their way in the 2018 midterm elections.

Those suburban races will be key for Democrats hoping to claw back seats. The party has not held a majority in the Iowa House since 2010.

Election results: See Polk County election results as vote counts come in

Top Senate Republicans face competitive reelection races

Several top lawmakers — including both of the Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate — will face contested races this fall.

Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, will compete with Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-West Des Moines, in Senate District 14, which was redrawn in last year's redistricting process to include parts of each of their old Senate districts. The district encompasses Van Meter, Adel, Waukee, and parts of Clive and West Des Moines.

And Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, the top Republican in the Senate, faces a challenge from Democrat Matt Pries in Senate District 23, which includes parts of rural Polk and Dallas counties as well as parts of Urbandale, Grimes, Granger, Alleman, Polk City, Elkhart and Runnells.

Democrats have made clear that the two Republican leaders will be among their top targeted Iowa Senate seats this fall. Republicans currently hold a 32-18 majority in the Iowa Senate.

Other seats will be competitive as well, like Senate District 21 in Ankeny. There, Rep. Mike Bousselot, R-Ankeny, faces Democrat Todd Brady. Ankeny has proven highly competitive in recent years, and Bousselot narrowly won an expensive special election for the Iowa House last fall.

Andy Suchorski, executive director of the Democrats' Senate Majority Fund, which works to elect Democrats, said the Democratic candidates on the ballot have a track record of serving their communities. Trone Garriott is a pastor, Pries is a teacher and coach and Brady is a software engineer who has created websites to help Iowans find COVID-19 vaccines and infant formula.

"That’s going to be the choice this election between service-oriented Democrats who are problem solvers versus pretty far-right Republicans who are just career politicians there to climb the ladder," he said. 

In a statement, Whitver said Democrats will be dragged down this fall by President Joe Biden, who polling shows is unpopular in Iowa, and he's confident Iowans will maintain Republicans' Senate majority.

"For years now, Republicans have run on tax relief for Iowa families, providing common-solutions to the challenges facing our state, getting rid of burdensome regulations and controlling government spending," he said. "And we kept those promises."

High-profile metro races will determine Iowa House makeup in November

In the House, Democrats have several opportunities in Ankeny, Waukee, Altoona and other Dallas County areas to chip away at Republicans' majority, said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights.

"These are seats that would be pickups for us that are critical to our path to the majority, and we know that they’re seats that we can win," she said. "And so we feel confident that we have the best candidates for those seats, and that we are in a good position to draw a real contrast."

In one of the highest-profile legislative races this year, former U.S. Rep. David Young, a Republican, will take on Democrat Sonya Heitshusen, a former WHO-TV anchor, in House District 28, which includes Adel, Van Meter and parts of West Des Moines.

In Ankeny, Republican Rep. Garrett Gobble faces a rematch for Iowa House District 42 with Democratic former Rep. Heather Matson, who Gobble narrowly defeated in 2020. Meanwhile, Democrat Molly Buck and Republican Marvis Landon are competing House District 41, an open seat covering the northern part of Ankeny.

Election results: See Iowa primary election results across the state

Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, will face Democrat Suresh Reddy, a Johnston City Council member, in House District 43, which includes Johnston.

Lexi Ardis, executive director for the House Majority Fund, which works to elect Republicans, said voters in the metro "just want a return to common sense."

"They want tax relief in the face of record-high inflation and gas prices," Ardis said in a statement. "They want their communities to remain safe. They want their kids learning math and science at school, not drag and sexuality. Our strong slate of Republican candidates in the Des Moines metro hear them loud and clear and are ready to deliver."

In House District 46, which includes Grimes and parts of Urbandale, Republicans will pick a candidate at a special nominating convention later this summer after no one received at least 35% of the vote this week from a contested five-way primary race. The winner will face Democrat Bridget Carberry Montgomery in November.

In House District 40, an Altoona-based seat, Democrat MacKenzie Bills will face Republican Bill Gustoff and Libertarian Jeni Kadel in the fall.

And Rep. Kenan Judge, D-Waukee, will face Republican Kristen Stiffler in House District 27, encompassing Waukee and part of Clive.

Several Des Moines seats are uncontested or safe for Democrats

Democrats can feel at ease about several other legislative races in the Des Moines area that are either unlikely to be competitive or feature no Republican candidates at all.

Many of those seats are open after a round of retirements by House Democrats following the redistricting process.

"We’re going to have a lot of new fresh faces and a lot of people who have new ideas and new energy to bring to the table," Konfrst said. "And so I’m excited to welcome a lot of new members to our caucus."

Des Moines doctor Austin Baeth won the Democratic nomination for House District 36 in Des Moines and will almost certainly go on to serve in the House next year as no Republican has filed for the ballot.

Several incumbent House Democrats are also unopposed for the general election, as is first-time candidate Sean Bagniewski in House District 35. Bagniewski is chair of the Polk County Democrats.

Megan Srinivas won the Democratic nomination for House District 30 on Des Moines' heavily Democratic south side. She will face Republican Jerry Cheevers, who previously ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2018 and 2020.

In Senate District 17, an open seat including downtown Des Moines, Democrat Izaah Knox will face Libertarian ToyA Johnson and no party candidate Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz in what is a heavily Democratic district.

Less than one percentage point separated Republicans Shad Clayton and Bradley Price as of Thursday afternoon. The two are seeking to challenge Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, in Senate District 16, which includes parts of Clive, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at irichardson@registermedia.com, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.