To use a sports phrase, Republican Mike Gonzales has more upside than his opponent in Tuesday's special election for Iowa's 89th House District.
The LeClaire police officer was less than precise when we first met with him during his recent bid for an Iowa Senate seat. But the falling dominoes from that loss to now-Sen. Jim Lykam has cleared the field.
Put simply, Gonzales would be in a significantly better place to get things done in Des Moines than Democrat Monica Kurth.
Make no mistake, Gonzales has a lot to learn. Both candidates are political neophytes. His answers to our questions prior to last month's Senate election were vague and without nuance. He learned from that experience. While still unpolished, Gonzales' can now grapple with the most pressing issues facing the Quad-Cities -- mental health and inequitable education funding.
Gonzales has grown. In him, we see the same potential identified by Scott County and Iowa GOP bosses. Running Gonzales in a basically doomed Senate race provided both name recognition and a teaching moment.
If elected, he'd be in the House majority, no small thing. And, with that immediate influence within the ruling caucus, Gonzales could demand meaningful attention for Scott County's needs, particularly the incessant mental health crisis.
Gonzales faces fellow political newcomer Monica Kurth in that it's her first-time seeking office. Kurth has spent three decades knocking on doors and championing Democratic causes. Disparities in Iowa's school funding model, she said, were a prime concern. Yet, Kurth hadn't even read Rep. Cindy Winckler's bill pertaining to disproportionate school funding.
It's incredibly easy to stand for equal school funding in Davenport right now. That's thanks to Davenport Community School District Superintendent Art Tate, who has put his career on the line to make a point. But Kurth's failure to even read the legislation dealing with the problem, drafted by a fellow Davenport Democrat, was almost shocking.
Her answers to questions about mental health funding were equally little more than partisan talking points. Blaming years of corporate tax breaks for Iowa's budgetary ills isn't without truth, but, in the next sentence, she lauded the economic development spurred by those hand-outs. It was cognitive dissonance.
Put simply, Kurth -- a long-time counselor and math lecturer at Scott Community College -- is an activist. And that role would not serve constituents in Iowa's 89th well, particularly as a member of the House minority. Effective members of any legislative minority must be consensus builders. We just don't see it here.
Gonzales' platform isn't without concern, either. We admire his deep religious conviction. But we caution against becoming a lawmaker who deals primarily in statement bills and social issues. Such legislation serves the grandstanding lawmaker more than it does his or her constituency.
The race for Iowa's 89th House seat is yet another example of the relative weakness of Scott County's Democratic Party. By all objective measures, Kurth should win on Tuesday. But, in recent local and state elections, we've consistently found the Republican candidates superior due, in no small part, to that local party's efforts at identifying and grooming talent.
Iowa's GOP is playing the long-game, here. Gov. Terry Branstad has spoken at length about focusing on local races and legislative seats. It's working. Republicans now own Iowa government outright.
Democrats would be foolish to rest on their past laurels. It would be incredibly shortsighted to consider any district safe. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
But Monica Kurth's candidacy is yet another display of a county Democratic Party adrift, set against a GOP that knows precisely where it's headed.
We urge voters on Tuesday to support Mike Gonzales for Iowa's 89th District House seat.