Upsets And Big Wins In Key Iowa Down-Ballot Races

Left: Bohannon. Right: Trone Garriott

While the Federal races got most of the attention in the June 2 primary, there were also many important down-ballot primaries that will shape the general election in November.

The most noteworthy primary on the Iowa Senate side was in Senate District 22, the western suburbs of Des Moines. This seat is currently held by Republican Charles Schneider, the President of the Senate, who is retiring at the end of the session. This will be one of the most heavily contested Senate seats in November, as the district is represented by two Democrats in the Iowa House.

Sarah Trone Garriott, a Lutheran minister, won out over Tricia Gavin and Michael Libbie in the Democratic primary, and will face Republican Scott Cirksena in November. Garriott received 48% to Gavin’s 39% and Libbie’s 13%.

“The last several weeks of this campaign has been nothing like anyone has ever experienced,” Garriott said in a Facebook video after her victory. “The global pandemic meant that we had to immediately and dramatically change how we had to reach out to voters, and we found a way to make it work. And in the past few days, with the hurt and anger of injustice breaking open, we’re now here under a curfew in Des Moines … Let’s get to work and win this general election.”

Gavin’s concession statement was posted on her Facebook page shortly after the results were called.

“When I look back at the past year, I think about everything that our community has achieved. In the midst of a global pandemic, I couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of my volunteers from all walks of life that came together to make a difference,” she said. “The Republican turnout in this race was just a fraction of the Democratic turnout. Voices are finally being heard.”

In the House of Representatives, the biggest legislative upset of the night was the Democratic primary between incumbent Rep. Vicki Lensing and challenger Christina Bohannon. A University of Iowa law professor, Bohannon upended Lensing by a strong margin — 66% to 34% — and will likely run unopposed in the November general election for this heavily-Democratic district.

“Excited to announce that Christina has won the primary in Iowa HD85 with 66% of the vote. Thank you for your support. I will do everything I can do to right by this district!” said a post on Bohannon’s official Facebook page after her win.

Incumbents losing in primaries is rare in Iowa, especially by such a large margin, but many local Johnson County leaders had lined up behind Bohannon during the primary.

In House District 72, Christina Blackcloud defeated John Anderson in the Democratic primary by a substantial margin, and she will face Republican Representative Dean Fisher.

“Here we go!! I want to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to all! I know we desperately need change and I am ready to step up and serve as your Representative for House District 72 … Let’s flip this seat BLUE!” Blackcloud wrote on Facebook after her win.

In Waukee, Dave Lorenzen defeated Paul Knupp for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Kenan Judge in House District 44. If the name Paul Knupp sounds familiar, it’s because he campaigned as a Democrat for the third congressional district nomination in 2018, but when he failed to meet the filing deadline, ran as the Green Party candidate.

Like House District 44, House District 42 in West Des Moines was one of the most contested races in 2018, and Kristin Sunde won the previously Republican seat. Sunde will now face Republican Aaron Sewell, who defeated Jacqueline Riekena in the Republican primary.

In one of the closer races of the evening, Garret Gobble narrowly defeated perennial also-ran candidate Brett Nelson by 35 votes in the Republican primary in House District 38. Gobble will face Rep. Heather Matson, who won the traditionally Republican seat in 2018. 

There were also two highly-watched local races in two of Iowa’s biggest counties. In Polk County, Republican incumbent Steve Van Oort emerged victorious from a three-way primary for supervisor in the third ward against Sara Kurovski and Wes Enos. Van Oort will face Democrat Nick Barton, who is the first Democrat to contest for the seat that was drawn in 2010.

After taking the nomination, Nick Barton said in a press release, “I want to thank all of the voters in my district for showing up, whether in person or through the mail, to make your voices heard in the primary election. While I did not have a challenger, I am nonetheless humbled to officially be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 3rd District, and I am looking forward to earning your vote again in November.”

Wes Enos made a statement on Facebook shortly after his loss.

“Tonight did not go as we had hoped. Primary voters chose to stick with the incumbent. I do not consider tonight to be a defeat, however. We joined the race almost 10 months after our competitors and started with a 7-to-1 money disadvantage … We were gaining on the leaders at the end,” he said.

Kurovski also made a concession statement on Facebook after her loss. “Thank you, everyone, for your incredible support … While I did not win the primary – all eyes are now on this office and what happens next,” she said.

Also of interest is the Linn County Auditor’s Democratic Primary. Joel Miller defeated Linda Langston in that race and will likely run unopposed in November.


by Adam Henderson and Isabella Murray
Posted 6/3/20

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