2 Weeks Out: Latest Developments In Iowa Federal Primaries

By Elizabeth Meyer

May 19, 2020

Two weeks from today Iowans will find out which Democratic and Republican candidates have made it out of their primary contests to earn a spot on the November general election ballot.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Paul Pate is encouraging Iowans to vote by mail and polling locations across the state will be consolidated June 2 to minimize crowds. Friday is the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail. Absentee ballots also can be cast in-person through June 1.

Last week, Starting Line broke down new developments in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. Since then, a couple new ads have gone up and the first televised debate was held.

In this article we also take a closer look at the four races for U.S. House, though given the lack of in-person campaigning and the vast amount of pandemic-related work our members of Congress have taken on, there haven’t been as many developments in those races, particularly in the 1st and 3rd districts where the incumbent Democrats face no challengers in the primary.

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U.S. Senate

Today, Theresa Greenfield’s first TV ad “Knock” debuts.

In the 30-second ad, Greenfield talks about losing her first husband to an on-the-job accident and how “Social Security survivor benefits helped save our family.”

Eddie Mauro also is out Tuesday with a new TV ad contrasting himself with Greenfield.

“Eddie Mauro was a different kind of leader,” the narrator says, after criticizing Greenfield’s business record and 2018 congressional campaign. “He provided paid sick leave, hired women in leadership and cut his own pay to avoid layoffs.”

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Though Kimberly Graham’s campaign has not placed TV ads, she put out a new three-minute video Monday called “Put People Over Profits.”

“As someone who’s been a single mom since my son was 7 years old, and trying to pay everything on my own; as someone still in debt from my education, who has put off going to the doctor, I understand better than the other candidates running for this office what it is like to try to make it financially in 2020 as a working person to not ever be able to get substantially ahead,” Graham says.

The video touts Graham’s belief in universal health care and child care, ridding politics of corporate money and the need to work toward reversing the effects of climate change.

Mauro also has had “Choose Wisely” and “Breaking Free” on TV and Michael Franken had “Ready,” centered on his endorsement from the Des Moines Register.

The first debates of the primary are held this week. Iowa PBS went first on Monday and KCCI is up next tonight at 7 p.m. At 4 p.m. Thursday, WHO will host the candidates for its televised debate.

In endorsement news, on Monday former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren put her support behind Greenfield.

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Iowa House District 1

The Republican primary in Eastern Iowa is a two-way contest between Marion state Rep. Ashley Hinson and Thomas Hansen, a farmer and businessman from Decorah, though Hinson is expected to win handily.

On May 6, Hinson was endorsed by Americans for Prosperity Action, the campaign arm of the Koch brothers’ conservative political advocacy group.

Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer has no challenger in the Democratic primary. Though Finkenauer was able to wrest the 1st District seat from Republican Rod Blum in 2018, the district is not a lock for Democrats. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates it a “Toss Up,” a rating the news outlet also gives the 2nd and 3rd District contests.

Iowa House District 2

Five Republican candidates are vying to represent Southeast Iowa in the race for a congressional seat left open by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack’s impending retirement.

State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa and former Illinois congressman Bobby Schilling have garnered the most attention in this race.

The unearthing of a 2018 video from Miller-Meeks’ state Senate run gave Schilling another opportunity to accuse his opponent of wavering on whether she supports making abortion illegal.

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Two years ago during a primary debate, Miller-Meeks described herself as “pro-choice” when responding to a question about her position on abortion. Her congressional campaign has said she misspoke.

Since the video was released Schilling has called on Miller-Meeks to voice her support for the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill or drop out of the race. Miller-Meeks has leveled attacks of her own, creating a two-minute video for social media about Schilling’s time as a congressman in Illinois and an accusation of “[throwing] President Trump under the bus.”

The winner of the Republican primary will face Rita Hart, a former state senator, educator and farmer. Hart faces no challenger in the Democratic primary.

Iowa House District 3

Former congressman David Young is making another run at the seat he held from 2015 until 2019 when he was replaced by Congresswoman Cindy Axne. Bill Schafer, a retired Army colonel, is running in the Republican primary against Young. The Iowa Federation of College Republicans recently endorsed Schafer in this race over the two-term former congressman.

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Iowa House District 4

Democrat J.D. Scholten is taking another run at the Western Iowa seat after running a competitive race against Republican Congressman Steve King in 2018. He faces no challenger in the primary.

King faces four opponents in the upcoming primary, a fact he blames on the New York Times.

“They’re all here because they believe the New York Times,” King said at a recent forum, referencing a 2019 article in which King was quoted asking why “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” were offensive terms. “They can’t have anything else going on or they wouldn’t be here, they would have defended me instead.”

Also during the Clay County forum, King claimed he had “reached an agreement” with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to reinstate his committee assignments next year. He was not placed on any House committees in 2019 or 2020 due to the racist language he used in the Times’ article. King insists he was misquoted.

In a statement to Starting Line, a spokesperson for McCarthy said, “Committee assignments are determined by the steering committee and [King] will have the opportunity to make his case.” A Republican member of the committee, and several others, responded to King’s claim stating they do not support reinstating his committee assignments.

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During a news conference on Friday, McCarthy told reporters, “Congressman King’s comments cannot be exonerated and I never said that.

Based on his name recognition in the district, fundraising and endorsements, state Sen. Randy Feenstra poses the greatest challenge to King. He recently was endorsed by the National Right to Life and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 5/19/20

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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