The Democratic field may still expand in the race to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst, but influential parts of national party leadership is quickly coalescing around one candidate.
Theresa Greenfield, a small business owner from Des Moines, joined two other candidates in the race June 3 with an announcement video.
By last Wednesday, she already had secured 18 endorsements from current and former legislators, local elected officials and activists.
And last Thursday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List endorsed her, as did presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand.
“Theresa’s proven she’s not afraid of a challenge, whether it was starting over to support her young sons or leading a business, Iowans can count on Theresa to stand up for them, and we’re proud to support her,” said Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, chair of the DSCC.
EMILY’s List, a prominent national fundraiser for Democratic female candidates, described Greenfield’s “strong work ethic and grit” as characteristics that would make her an “excellent” Iowa senator.
“She knows firsthand how important benefits like Social Security and affordable health care are for expanding economic opportunities for working families because she’s made use of them herself,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List.
Eddie Mauro, a Des Moines businessman who launched his candidacy on May 20, was disappointed to see the DSCC line up behind a specific candidate so early in the race.
“Democrats in Iowa want a spirited primary about the issues that affect their healthcare, jobs, their children’s education and the climate chaos that imperils our farms and communities,” said Mauro, in a statement. “This must not be a primary influenced by D.C. insiders and the D.C. establishment.”
A Lake Research Partners poll of likely 2020 general election voters taken in late April showed Ernst with a double-digit lead over Mauro and Greenfield. There wasn’t much difference in how the two candidates stacked up against the Republican; Ernst led Mauro 58% to 33% and topped Greenfield 56% to 34%.
Commissioned by Mauro, the poll concluded that while early indications are favorable for Ernst, “Mauro can make this a competitive race if he has the financial support to run an assertive, contrastive message.” After poll-takers were given an array of messaging points on both Ernst and Mauro, the race narrowed to a 49% to 44% advantage for Ernst.
According to their research, a generic ballot test showed a Republican candidate leads the Democratic candidate by four points (45% to 41%), leaving “a path for Mauro to be a strong competitor.”
Greenfield and Mauro competed against each other in the 2018 Democratic primary for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, prior to her withdrawal from the race. Mauro finished second in the primary behind Cindy Axne, who went on to win the general election against Republican David Young.
Kimberly Graham, the first to publicly jump into the race, has labeled herself the “progressive” in the field. Her message and policy priorities are similar to that of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, pledging to take no PAC money, support Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage and the Green New Deal.
“Until we get a critical mass of people just like me in Congress, we’re never going to have the kind of change that we need to have,” said Graham, in a video about her candidacy. “The middle class is disappearing. People are getting poorer and people are getting wealthier and the middle is getting hollowed out.”
Graham, an attorney from Indianola, is a first-time candidate.
In a statement Monday, Graham said she “would have been pleased to have received the support of the DSCC, but they did not return my calls, email or meet with me when I was the only announced candidate — before they endorsed — so that didn’t happen.”
“This is not any candidate’s fault,” she said, “it’s the fault of a broken system of electing candidates which relies on massive amounts of money most Iowans don’t have and don’t have access to. Regardless of any endorsements, I’m happy to have already received so much support for our campaign from voters.”
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported last month that Stacey Walker, a Linn County supervisor, was mulling a run. And Sioux City’s J.D. Scholten has yet to announce whether he will run for Congress in the 4th District, Ernst’s Senate seat or sit out 2020 entirely.
Scholten came within three percentage points of defeating Republican Rep. Steve King in 2018, sparking support for a rematch or a new challenge in the Senate.
“The DSCC’s decision is a variable in the equation of what’s next for me but it’s not a deterrent,” Scholten told Starting Line. “I’ve got a lot of support here in Iowa and nationally regardless if I run for the House or the Senate. Ultimately, I’m going to make a decision that best fits me and hopefully Iowa.”
Last week, Scholten said he had joined the governing board of One Country, “dedicated to reopening the dialogue with rural communities, rebuilding trust and respect, and advancing an opportunity agenda for rural Americans.”
Whether Scholten is involved in the 2020 election cycle as a candidate or activist, he said “there’s a good chance that I will have plenty of more nights at Walmart parking lots and RV parks in Sioux City Sue while out there earning votes.”
by Elizabeth Meyer