Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has set a special election for Dec. 27 to fill the state Senate seat left open by the death of Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport.
Meanwhile, two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Jim Lykam and Cindy Winckler, said Wednesday that they plan to seek the party's nomination for the seat.
Seng, who was not on the ballot this year, died Friday after a two-year battle with brain cancer. His funeral will be Saturday.
The governor's office said Wednesday that he preferred to have the special election the same day as the Nov. 8 general election in order to ensure higher voter turnout and save money. Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz objected, however.
Roland Caldwell, operations manager for the auditor's office, said that ballots for the general election already have been printed, and a special election on the same date would have forced the office to miss the deadline to mail overseas ballots for the 20 precincts within the 45th Senate District. He also said a Nov. 8 date would have given those voters less time to cast absentee ballots.
Early and absentee voting for the general election begins Sept. 29, and Caldwell estimated the new ballots wouldn't be ready until mid-October.
"We didn't think that was fair," he said.
He also said there were questions about what the nomination deadlines would be.
Branstad's office said that because of a six-week blackout period around the general election, the earliest a special election it could be held was December. The 27th, a spokesman for the governor, Ben Hammes said, would allow maximum time for the auditor to prepare and distribute ballots.
The 45th Senate District is heavily Democratic, and it isn't clear whom Republicans might field as a candidate. Scott County Republican Party chair Judy Davidson said Wednesday the party is working on it and would likely have somebody on the ballot.
The state Senate is nearly evenly divided. Before Seng's death, the Democrats held a 26-23 seat edge.
The Dec. 27 special election date also will allow Lykam and Winckler to seek the Senate seat without any affect on their ability to run for re-election for their House seats on Nov. 8.
Had the special election been set for Nov. 8, they could not have appeared on both ballots, according to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
Lykam and Winckler are both running unopposed for their House seats in the general election.
Now, it will be up to the central committee members within each party in the Senate district to choose their respective nominees. It's not clear yet when that will happen.
The 45th Senate District includes much of west Davenport, along with the town of Buffalo. Seng represented the area since 2003.