When Wes Breckenridge chatted with supporters Tuesday evening during a gathering, he looked happy — but he also looked relieved.
After a grueling primary campaign that included several twists and turns, Breckenridge defeated three-term incumbent Dan Kelley for the Democratic nomination for the Iowa House District 29 seat. Breckenridge, who received 1,585 votes, outpaced Kelley by about a 2-to-1 margin; Kelley finished with 841 votes. There were only two write-in votes.
Breckenridge moves on to face Republican Patrick Payton in the November general election.
Payton was unopposed in the Republican primary.
“This has been a very emotional, passionate election for Democrats,” Breckenridge said. “It shows a lot of people care, and want to solve problems. Now that the primary is over, it’s time to bring that passion and energy together.”
Kelley narrowly won a hotly contested special convention nomination for the seat in 2010 after the sudden death of Paul Bell in 2010. He went on to win the District 29 general election in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“I’d really like to thank all my volunteers and supporters,” Kelley said. “They’re very hard-working. Of course, I respect the voters’ decision.”
More than 1,200 Jasper County voters took advantage of the early voting process. Breckenridge received 500 more absentee votes than Kelley — 834 to 384 — and had an edge of more than 300 votes in election-day voting.
Kelley said he wants to take some time to consider both his short-term and long-term goals. He declined to say whether he will run as an independent.
“I don’t want to get into those goals at this time,” Kelley said. “I think my record shows that I’m a progressive. I never got into this for titles. I just want to take some time to have good discussions with family and friends about the future, and where I go from here.”
Breckenridge strongly encouraged his volunteers and supporters to vote early through the absentee process. This, along with two contested county board of supervisors primaries, helped Jasper County lead the state, at one point, in absentee ballot totals.
Breckenridge, a Newton Police lieutenant, said the strong absentee total speaks loudly about how much Jasper County voters want significant and immediate change in the way state government conducts business.
“It shows that we are a force to be reckoned with (on a statewide basis), and Republicans will have to be concerned that we have such a strong base to bring in that many absentee ballots,” he said.
Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org