Democratic candidates have filed in 90 of the 100 House Districts for the upcoming 2008 elections.  House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque said he was optimistic about the opportunity to expand the Democrat’s majority based on the strong slate of candidates.

Murphy also said House Democrats have the edge in message, organization and fundraising. Here are a few highlights:

  • Iowans know they can trust Democrats to keep their promises.  They have already accomplished 15 of the 16 items in their Plan for Prosperity from 2006, which included renewable energy, good-paying jobs, education and affordable health care.
  • There are 49 Democratic incumbents running for re-election and 38 Republican incumbents running for re-election, which leaves 13 open seats.
  • Democrats have filed in 90 house districts this year, which is the most since 1984 for either party. Republicans have filed in only 81 districts.
  • As a result of the Iowa Caucuses, Iowa Secretary of State Mike Mauro announced last week that Democrats gained 60,000 registered voters, while Republicans gained only 7,600.
  • At the end of 2007, House Democrats held a $400,000 cash on-hand advantage over House Republicans.

More from the AP’s Mike Glover:

Democrats garner more candidates for primary election
By MIKE GLOVER, AP Political Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democrats appear poised to maintain control of the Legislature, as Friday’s deadline for entering the June 3 primary passed with Republicans lacking a candidate in 19 races.

Democrats, already holding an advantage in both chambers, failed to find a candidate in only 10 districts and have more people running than Republicans.

“We feel very good about where we are,” said House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque. “We expect to have the most candidates we’ve had in 24 years.”

Murphy said his optimism is fueled in part by the heavy turnout for the state’s leadoff precinct caucuses last January. State election officials say the record turnout added 63,000 new registered Democrats, while the GOP picked up only 7,600.

In addition, Democrats have outperformed Republicans in raising money, a place where the GOP usually has an edge. Murphy said Democrats have raised $1.1 million for legislative campaigns, compared to $725,000 for Republicans.

Despite the obstacles, GOP leaders said they hope to make a good showing in the elections.

Overall, 25 of the Senate’s 50 seats are up for election, while all 100 House districts are on the ballot. The two parties can still nominate candidates for these races during their conventions next summer. However, those candidates usually fare poorly because they are behind in raising money and building an organization.

House Minority Leader Chris Rants said he hopes the GOP makes a stand in at least the House, where the Democrats hold a 53-47 margin.

“For Republicans, the House is the battleground,” said Rants, R-Sioux City. “When we lost the House of Representatives (last election) we lost in a handful of seats by very narrow margins.”

The numbers don’t look good for the GOP so far. Forty-nine incumbent Democrats are seeking re-election, compared to 38 incumbent Republicans. That’s significant because incumbents are traditionally tough to beat because of their higher visibility and better access to campaign money.

The Senate is an even more daunting task for Republicans, given the Democrats’ lopsided 30-20 margin. Republicans are defending 14 of those, while Democrats are defending 11. All but one incumbent Democratic senator is running again, with the sole retirement being Sen. Michael Connolly, D-Dubuque.

Connolly’s district is an overwhelmingly Democratic part of Dubuque, and Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, is running for the seat as the heavy favorite.

The news gets worse for Republicans in examining the 14 seats they are defending, because six of those incumbents are not running.

Those numbers have Democratic leaders optimistic they can increase their 30 Senate seats.

“That’s the most in the history of the state, and we feel we have a pretty good chance of making a new record,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.

Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, said it isn’t realistic to expect Republicans to make up such a large deficit in a single election cycle, arguing it could take up to three election cycles before Republicans are competitive in the Senate.

There are some potentially nasty local squabbles set up in the primary.

Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, faces a GOP primary scramble, while Democratic Reps. Geri Huser, Deborah Berry and Wayne Ford all face primary opposition.

There were few surprises at the top of the ticket. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin has no primary opposition in his bid for a fifth term, and little-known contenders Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids, Christopher Reed of Marion, and George Eichhorn of Stratford are seeking the GOP nomination. He starts as a heavy favorite against whoever the GOP nominates.

First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in eastern Iowa’s 1st District will have opposition as state Sen. Dave Hartsuch, R-Bettendorf, filed to seek the GOP nomination. Hartsuch’s seat in the Legislature is not up this year.

First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack drew interest in the 2nd District, with three Republicans lining up for a chance to run against him. In central Iowa, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell faces a primary challenge from former legislator Ed Fallon in the 3rd District.

Incumbent Republican Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham face opposition from Democrats, with four Democrats lining up to run against Latham and one challenging King.