IA-Sen: Latest Developments In Fast-Approaching Dem Primary

A recent Senate primary forum

By Elizabeth Meyer

May 12, 2020

Three weeks from today, Iowans will know the fate of their favored candidates in local, state and federal races.

As of Tuesday morning, 198,523 Democrats and 157,792 Republicans requested absentee ballots for a total of 356,315, far surpassing the total number of votes cast in the 2018 and 2016 primaries. Mail-in voting will play a greater role in this year’s primary due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic voters in Iowa’s four congressional districts have little say in the nominee as two incumbents and two candidates run uncontested. The Senate primary, however, presents four distinct options for Iowans looking to unseat first-term senator Joni Ernst.

Here is a roundup of the latest news in the Senate primary as we close in on the June 2 election.

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TV Ads

Eddie Mauro is up on TV in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids media markets with a 30-second ad called “Choose Wisely,” knocking Theresa Greenfield’s business record during the Great Recession.

Greenfield’s campaign has responded to the ad, calling it a “false political attack.”

“Like many workers and businesses at the time, Theresa has been very open about how one company she worked for fell victim to the Great Recession caused by Wall Street’s corporate greed,” said Sam Newton, Greenfield’s communications director.

Michael Franken’s 30-second ad focuses on the Des Moines Register’s recent endorsement.

“I’m running for the U.S. Senate because today, the Republicans are afraid to ever stand up to Donald Trump, to confront the climate crisis, the health care industry and Wall Street,” Franken says.

Medium Buying reports that Theresa Greenfield will launch her first TV ad May 19.

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Last week the Des Moines Register endorsed Franken after remotely interviewing the five candidates. (Cal Woods, a Des Moines contractor, dropped out of the race May 4 and endorsed Franken.)

“The retired three-star admiral is the candidate who is most qualified, experienced and ready to hit the ground running,” the editorial board wrote in its May 7 endorsement. “As the nation faces unprecedented health and economic crises, he has come back to Iowa just as the times demand someone like him.”

Waterloo Rep. Ras Smith endorsed Mauro on Monday, citing his “ability to engage all communities and relentless support of Iowa workers during this COVID-19 crisis” as “a great example of the leadership that we need in the U.S. Senate.”

Greenfield also rolled out a new endorsement at the top of the week, this time coming from UA Plumbers Local 16, her 21st local labor endorsement of the cycle. She also was endorsed today by United Steelworkers.

“Theresa understands the risks and challenges that hardworking Iowans face on the job,” said Jeff Shudak, political director for UA Plumbers Local 16. “She’ll always stand in solidarity with workers, leading the fight to protect our rights and making sure every Iowan can do their job safely and with the dignity they deserve.”

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On Monday, Iowa PBS will host an hour-long debate beginning at 8 p.m. The forum also will be live-streamed on iowapbs.org, YouTube and Facebook. Franken, Mauro, Greenfield and Kimberly Graham will participate.

On May 21, a televised debate will air at 4 p.m. on WHO-TV in Des Moines, WHBF in the Quad Cities and KCAU in Sioux City. So far, Franken, Mauro and Graham have confirmed their attendance, according to WHO’s Dave Price.

KCCI also is organizing a debate to air in Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Council Bluffs and Southeast Iowa. All four candidates are participating in it, and it will be taped on Saturday with an air date of Tuesday, May 19 at 7 p.m.

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The Horse Race

The Daily Kos, a left-leaning news site, on Monday moved its analysis of the Senate race from “Likely to Lean Republican,” a move the nonpartisan Cook Political Report made in March.

Last week Public Policy Polling released a new survey showing Ernst leading Greenfield by 1 percentage point in a general election matchup. The poll of 1,222 Iowans found only 37% of voters approve of Ernst compared to 43% who disapprove.

Back in March, the Des Moines Register polled Iowans on how they viewed Ernst and her Democratic challengers. Though the Democrats were unknown to a majority of respondents, Graham narrowly inched out Franken for the highest favorability rating, earning 19% support compared to his 17%.

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Just For Fun

A quiz was created on Buzzfeed Community to determine “Which Iowa Senate Candidate Are You” with questions on health care, how to pass the time in quarantine and a Day 1 policy initiative.

Iowa politics nerds also have some new reading to look forward to this month. On May 26, Ernst’s first book, “Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country That Raised Me” will be released.


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 5/12/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.



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