Republicans expand political power


Iowa’s U.S. Senate Results

By Michael Cummings

Thousands of political races across the country were decided Tuesday night, ranging from President of the United States to County Sheriff. While most eyes on campus were turned towards Donald Trump’s unexpected win, a number of races in Iowa may have lasting effects on the lives of Grinnellians and people all over the state.

In Poweshiek County, rural voters ensured a Republican sweep. Trump won the county 51 percent to Clinton’s 44 percent, and the county overwhelmingly voted red in the U.S. Senate and House races, sending Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Rod Blum back to Washington.

At the local level, State Senator Tim Kapucian won his district, which includes Poweshiek and two other counties, with 60 percent of the vote. Democrat Dennis Mathahs claimed 34 percent of voters, and Libertarian John George claimed a paltry 6 percent. In State House District 76, which includes Poweshiek County and half of neighboring Iowa County, incumbent Republican Dave Maxwell handily defeated Democrat Jacob Tornholm.

There was little competition for county-wide offices, as Democratic County Auditor Diana Dawley won her bid to join the Poweshiek Board of Supervisors, Republican Missy Eilander won her race to replace Dawley as Auditor and Democratic Sheriff Thomas Kriegel won reelection, each without facing an opponent.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley was seeking reelection to the Senate seat which he has held since 1981. His opponent, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, was recruited by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to run against him because many thought that the staple of Iowa politics, Chuck Grassley, might have more vulnerabilities this election.

Iowa's U.S. Senate Results
Iowa’s U.S. Senate Results

These predictions turned out to be false, however, as Grassley easily defeated Judge 60 percent to 36 percent. Grassley handily won all of Iowa’s 99 counties but one — Johnson County, which is home to the far-left leaning Iowa City.

Iowa’s four Congressional districts were also up for grabs this election, with incumbent Representatives Rod Blum (R, IA-01), Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02), David Young (R, IA-03) and Steve King (R, IA-04) fending off challengers.

In the First District, which includes northeast Iowa as well as Grinnell, Democrats saw an opportunity to defeat Blum, who at one point had been rated the House’s most vulnerable Republican. Unfortunately, former Cedar Rapids Councilwoman and 2014 nominee for Lieutenant Governor Monica Vernon was unable to instigate an upset. Blum won 54 percent of the vote, likely helped along by the immense popularity of Trump in the state.

In the Second District, Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress, former political science professor, Dave Loebsack faced off against the Rand Paul-endorsed Dr. Christopher Peters. Unlike the majority of his party, Peters appealed to younger voters, a tactic which gave Loebsack one of his toughest races since he was first elected in 2006. Loebsack prevailed in the end, however, winning 54 percent of voters in his southeast Iowa district.

Iowa’s Third District, home to Des Moines, was seen by some as another opportunity for a Democratic pick-up. Freshman Rep. Young was not seen as a particularly popular candidate, and his race against Iraq veteran Jim Mowrer was originally rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. However, Mowrer ended up only winning one county as Young swept the southwest Iowa district.

Finally, the Fourth District in northwest Iowa was perhaps the most unsurprising outcome of the four House races. Ultra-popular conservative Steve King easily defeated his opponent, Kim Weaver, 62 percent to 39 percent.

While all five incumbents won reelection in Iowa’s Senate and House races, much bigger change occurred in state legislative races down ballot. Prior to the election, Democrats had a slim majority of 25 seats to the Republicans’ 23, with one seat held by an independent and one seat left vacant after the recent death of State Senator Joe Seng (D-Davenport). In the State House prior to Election Day Republicans had a 57-43 lead over Democrats.

In the State House, where all 100 seats were up on ballots across the state, Republicans claimed victory by managing to unseat two Democrats, expanding their lead to 59-41. But the most damage to Democrats came in the State Senate, where Republicans managed to pick up 6 seats, defeating Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) as well as Senators Chris Brase (D-Muscatine), Mary Jo Wilhelm (D-Creston), Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington), Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and Tom Courtney (D-Burlington).

Republicans now control both houses of the State Legislature as well as the Governor’s mansion, giving them total control over statewide policy.