While election deniers were rejected in high-profile races around the country last week, Iowa will see several 2020 conspiracy theorists arrive (or return) in the state legislature this coming January. In local races that saw less scrutiny than statewide contests in key states, Iowa deniers won some expected red-leaning districts, lost in expected blue-leaning ones, but came very close to victory in a swing seat and one where Democrats have a voter registration advantage.
By our count, seven candidates for the Iowa Legislature had espoused (or at least agreed with) the Big Lie denying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Here’s how they each fared as of Tuesday:
The winners (3)
In House District 46, which encompasses Urbandale, Grimes, and northeastern Dallas County, closeted election denier (he liked lots of tweets) Dan Gehlbach bested Urbandale City Council member and public school advocate opponent Bridget Carberry Montgomery, garnering 55.6% of the vote.
In House District 91, which includes Iowa County and northwest Johnson County, Brad Sherman—who said he thinks Biden’s win in 2020 “was the result of massive fraud and cheating” and that it “need(s) to be addressed in Iowa”—decisively won his race over Democrat Elle Wyant with nearly 58.5% of the vote.
The largest win of the election deniers was Rep. Sandy Salmon, who has traveled to Mike Lindell conferences and has repeatedly espoused election deniers’ views. She moved up to the Iowa Senate in District 29, which covers Waverly, Charles City, New Hampton, and surrounding areas, easily dispatching disability rights advocate Jenn Wolff with 65.4% of the vote.
Republicans hold sizable voter registration advantages over Democrats in each of those districts.
The losers (2)
It’s probably no surprise that the two who lost did so in blowouts in very blue districts in Linn County.
In House District 78, encompassing southeast Cedar Rapids, Anne Fairchild—who thinks the US “hasn’t had a free or fair election for decades”—was easily bested by Sami Scheetz, who will become Iowa’s first Arab-American legislator, with more than 67% of the vote.
In Senate District 39, which includes Cedar Rapids and southern Linn County, election-denier-who-is-just-asking-questions Bernie Hayes was similarly trounced by State Rep. Liz Bennett, who moves up to the Iowa Senate after getting nearly 65% of the vote.
The close races (2)
File these under “we keep telling you every vote counts.”
In House District 20, which encompasses Council Bluffs and Carter Lake, Democrat and Paralympic basketball gold medalist Josh Turek had a nine-vote lead on Tuesday night that has since slimmed up even more.
As of Tuesday afternoon, before the official election canvass, just seven votes separate him and Republican election denier Sarah Abdouch, who said she planned to “definitely” request a recount after the official canvass.
Democratic and Republican registration totals are nearly tied in that district, and Democratic Rep. Charlie McConkey had represented the area previously before retiring this year.
In elections as close as theirs, Iowa law stipulates the candidates will not have to pay for the recount.
In House District 81, which includes northwest Davenport, election denier Luana Stoltenberg (who went with her prayer group to the Capitol on Jan. 6) holds a lead of just 24 votes (slimmed up from 29 last week) over Democrat and former journalist Craig Lynn Cooper.
However, Scott County is holding an administrative recount today after it appears they missed counting nearly 500 absentee ballots on election night, which clearly could have an impact in this race (it’s not clear how those uncounted votes are distributed in the county). The Scott County Auditor’s office says they hope to have it finished by late Tuesday afternoon.
Democrats hold a voter registration advantage of 6,528 to 4,931 over Republicans in HD 81.
by Amie Rivers
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