Iowa Republicans (Again) Using Crime To Scare Voters

Screenshot from Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign ad.

In the final days and weeks before the election, Republicans have pivoted to an old but effective tactic: Bringing up crime rates and blaming Democrats and their policies for the rise.

“The chickens have come home to roost for the anti-law enforcement movement. Anti-police rhetoric, de-policing, progressive prosecution policies and out-of-whack bail reforms are the driving factors in this public safety crisis,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement after new national crime data was released.

Those accusations aren’t true. It’s also untrue to paint violent crime as a uniquely Democratic problem, or that it’s tied to Democratic policies.

For one thing, the common accusation that Democrats either push for defunding police, or that they actually do it, is false.

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In September, the Democratic House passed four police-funding bills which overall provide nearly $2 billion in grant programs for small law enforcement agencies, community violence initiatives for communities that see a lot of violence, mental health professionals as first responders, and support for technology to help local investigators solve cold cases.

Republicans, including Iowa’s three Republican representatives, largely opposed the community violence grants and grants for mental health professionals. Reps. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra all voted “no” on those two bills while Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne was Iowa’s only “yes” vote on the measure.

Vote on the Mental Health Justice Act of 2022


Vote on the Break The Cycle of Violence Act

The bills did not move in the Senate.

It’s also significant that no Democratic politician is currently running on defunding police. In fact, Democratic-run major cities spend 38% more on policing per capita than Republican-run cities; 80% of the largest cities have increased policing funding since 2022.

The Congressional Leadership Fund took out an ad attacking State Sen. Liz Mathis, who’s running against Hinson to represent Iowa’s 2nd District. It claims she supports a group that calls to defund the police.

Mathis marched with the Cedar Rapids Indivisible group in 2017, three years before the group supported defunding the police. And the event wasn’t about policing at all. Mathis has also said on record she doesn’t support defunding the police.

Crime data for this year and last isn’t complete yet, but data from 2020 does show an increase and early evidence shows an increase in 2021 as well. But many of those increases happened in Republican-controlled states.

Center-left think tank Third Way collected data on murder rates for all 50 states in 2019 and 2020. Researchers found that eight of the top 10 states with the worst murder rates went to former President Donald Trump in 2020.

Murder rates in Trump-won states are also higher than those that went to President Joe Biden.

Mississippi had the worst with 20.50 murders per 100,000 residents, followed by Louisiana with 15.79 murders per 100,000 residents.

In comparison, New York and California had lower rates with 4.11 murders per 100,000 residents and 5.59 murders per 100,000 residents, respectively. Those are also below the national average.

The prevalence of guns has also been shown to fuel most of these violent crimes, especially in states with weak gun laws.

Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization, found that states with “F” grades for gun safety laws had 61% higher homicide rates than states with “A” or “B” grades. In 2020, eight of every 10 homicides were committed with a gun, and gun homicides rose by 35% from 2019 to 2020.

Early data shows gun homicides increased by 7% from 2020 to 2021. The research was published in June 2022.

“Here’s the thing about using crime as a political talking point: You don’t actually want to go through the nuances of crime,” Leah Wright Rigueur, a history professor at Brandeis University, told ABC News.

“You say, ‘Do you feel safe walking home at night? Do you feel safe in your neighborhood?’ These are things that you can use even in spaces that have disproportionately high safety ratings, even in spaces that have very low crime, because then you’re not just talking about crime, right? You’re also talking about the threat of it,” she continued.

It’s fearmongering, and it’s a decades-old Republican strategy.

While Republicans may be spending money on ads about crime and tweeting more about it, they aren’t proposing solutions. In many ways, their policies are making the problem worse.


Nikoel Hytrek


Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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4 Comments on "Iowa Republicans (Again) Using Crime To Scare Voters"

  • Those Dems who drank the woke and Defund The Police kool-aid are responsible for this. We had a summer of BLM riots(over $1 Billion property damage) and our party become the anti-law & order party. Too much coddling of criminals and Soros spent big in St Louis, Chicago and other cities to elect “woke” DAs. Our party used to stand for a strong defense, enforcing our borders, law and order, and be buds with the police union. Day of reckoning for the far-left wing of our party is in seven days. There will be plenty of finger pointing to go around.

  • Spare us all about the woke Democrats. The January 6 2021 insurrection led by the former twice impeached President who led it on with lies and still does to this day 2 years later along with every elected Republican in this state means you do not have a leg to stand on. Unless you mean all police are protected except the 140 Capitol police officers who were injured that day and the ones who lost their lives. Accountability not right-wing hypocrisy. Have a blessed day.

  • r.Larson – I’m no fan of the “bad orange man” and the 1/6 insurrection. it was shameful. Have zero tolerance for “election deniers.” Midterms will be brutal for our party as endless focus on the “January 6th insurrection” and “abortion.” Hard working Iowans are more concerned with bread and butter issues of the economy- putting food on their table and paying the energy bills. Heck I used to complain about Reagan being old and he could run circles around senile Biden.

  • Our veterans from the many wars the United States of America have fought and died for might feel that fighting for our Democracy warrant’s sacrifices. Reminder that there was a world wide pandemic followed by world wide inflation –these are simple facts.

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