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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 18, 2018

Rita Hart’s selection as Hubbell’s running mate causes scramble

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad City Times | Jun 19, 2018

Fred Hubbell's pick of state Sen. Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, to be his running mate in the governor's race has sent Democrats scrambling to pick a replacement for Hart's seat, a contest that already was toward the top of the priority list for Republicans.

Democratic leaders in Clinton and Scott County said Monday there are people either interested or who would be good candidates, though they declined to identify them.

State Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, who might seem like a likely person to run for the job, steered attention elsewhere.

"It would be an honor and a privilege to serve in Senate District 49, but I believe there are some people who might be a better fit," she said Monday.

Keeping the Senate seat will be a high priority for Democrats. Republicans hold a commanding edge in the Senate, with a 29-20-1 lead over the Democrats, and holding seats like District 49 will be necessary if the party is to eat away at that advantage.

The 49th district encompasses all of Clinton County, as well as parts of northern Scott County. It includes the city of Clinton, but it also holds large swaths of rural farms and small towns. Those are the kind of areas that have been a challenge for Democrats.

Hart, a retired educator who with her husband, Paul, operates a farm in Clinton County, has performed well in the district. She won in 2012 with 53 percent of the vote. She held onto her seat in 2014 despite a Rebpulican wave.

margin of victory in 2014 was narrower, she nonetheless was able to hold on to the seat in the face of a Republican wave.

This election year, the GOP nominated Pleasant Valley School Board President Chris Cournoyer to run for the seat. Republican officials say Hart's exit will help Cournoyer's cause.

"Chris Cournoyer is one of our top recruits. She has been working extremely hard door knocking. Certainly I think the absence of Sen. Hart in the race improves Chris’s chances of winning in November," said Brian Dumas, a Davenport-based strategist with Victory Enterprises, who is working with Senate Republicans.

Democrats, though, say even without Hart, they believe they can retain the seat.

"We've done pretty well there the last 20 years," said Thom Hart, chair of the Scott County Democrats. He said somebody who fits the district, like Hart did, will have an advantage.

Hubbell and Hart also said Monday they will help out, too.

"I've told Rita both she and I should plan on spending an extra amount of time there," Hubbell said, adding they also intend to make sure the campaign is "properly funded."

The state Democratic Party is responsible for calling a special convention to fill Hart's spot on the ballot. However, parties tend to rely on local officials for input on when to call a convention.

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