Two short months ago, there were seven candidates running in the Democratic primary for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. Only three remain set to appear on the ballot as of today, though Theresa Greenfield is vowing to push on after coming up just short in her last-ditch effort to collect new petition signatures in one day. There may be some legal options, though those are unclear at the moment, or she may just end up running a write-in campaign for the primary.
The Secretary of State’s office confirmed that Greenfield’s second submission of petitions contained 1,592, just 198 under the 1,790 required signatures for 3rd District candidates. Greenfield scrambled last Friday to re-do her entire petitions after her campaign manager admitted Thursday evening that he had forged a number of the signatures.
But in a press release this afternoon, Greenfield indicated she was not giving up in her campaign to win the Democratic nomination to take on David Young.
“What happened on Friday afternoon was electrifying to me and all who support my campaign regardless of the final count today,” Greenfield said of the effort that was joined by many other Democratic campaigns. “Our campaign was tested and showed its strength. We are organized and mobilized. People are starving for someone who will do the right thing in today’s cynical political environment, and they are willing to fight for that kind of representation in Washington. They want a candidate that can beat David Young in November, and they aren’t willing to give up no matter the odds.”
“Over the next few days, I will be talking to all of those incredible people who support my candidacy and gauge their support for a path forward,” Greenfield continued. “I’ll carefully weigh what’s good for Iowa, the country and for Democrats. But no matter where the chips fall, I’ll work harder, be stronger and never give up for the people of the 3rd District.”
If the decision holds and there’s no legal workaround for Greenfield, it would mean a drastic shake-up in the dynamics of the 3rd District primary. She could certainly run a write-in campaign, but those obviously come with their own challenges. Greenfield does have enough funds to get on TV. Still, today’s developments make things difficult.
Let’s assume for a moment that either Greenfield doesn’t continue or a write-in campaign turns out to be particularly troublesome. The exits of Austin Frerick and Paul Knupp late last week had an impact on the primary, as well.
With only three candidates now on the ballot – Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro and Eddie Mauro – the chances of a contested convention are practically nonexistent. Nearly everyone in Iowa politics expected the seven-person race to be decided at convention, but it would take an even 33 – 33 – 33 split for any candidate to not hit the 35% required to win outright.
D’Alessandro had reportedly been working the convention route angle in his campaign, and his support from former Bernie Sanders activists who often attend such conventions could have given him a leg up there. Axne had also been picking off key party activists left and right in her organizing efforts, and may also have had a lot of delegate support.
It’s easy to see how Axne could be considered the clear front-runner in the race now, though the reality probably isn’t that simple. As the only woman in a Democratic primary, she’ll certainly benefit from female voters who prefer to send more women to Congress. While she wasn’t the top fundraiser in the race, she had brought in more than enough to put together a fully competitive campaign. Since the end of last year, Axne had raised $261,280, compared to Greenfield’s $328,025, Mauro’s $376,066 and D’Alessandro’s $84,806.
Her campaign will certainly be working overtime to win over Greenfield supporters and donors who aren’t sure what to do with the new developments. Some perceived them to be running in mostly the same lane for the primary (rightly or wrongly) as Democratic women who were both small business owners.
Axne could make a pitch to EMILY’s List if there’s now only one female candidate on the ballot. Other major national donors and organizations will probably now be more interested in the 3rd District primary.
Just because the convention route is less of an option for D’Alessandro, though, doesn’t mean he comes out from this week’s events in a worse position. With fewer candidates, he should get more visibility even if he doesn’t raise as much money as the others. He can also more clearly make the ideological argument that he’s the most progressive candidate in the race. Austin Frerick, who dropped out of the race on Friday, had been running in the left lane of the party, as well.
Sanders has already endorsed D’Alessandro and held a rally for him in Des Moines, and the national progressive organization network is expected to bring in small dollar donations and publicity for him.
Mauro may end up benefitting from a smaller field, too, as it also gives voters more of a chance to examine his life story and record, which includes more work on local progressive issues than some realize. And he’s the only candidate who can self-fund, which he has already to the tune of $200,000. While Axne and D’Alessandro reassess the field, Mauro could quickly inject more funds into his race and outpace the others on TV advertisements.
And Mauro still retains one of the bigger ground-level advantages in the race – massive expected turnout on the South Side of Des Moines due to the county supervisor race between Johnny Mauro and Matt McCoy.
But all that assumes a potential Greenfield legal strategy or write-in campaign doesn’t pan out. Iowa hasn’t had a well-funded write-in candidate in these very unique circumstances before, so who knows how that develops. Regardless, the 3rd District race looks significantly different than it did just a month ago, and local and national political actors will be re-thinking how they approach the primary.
The primary election is on June 5.
by Pat Rynard