How Two Ankeny Democrats Found Success In Their House Races

Democrats Heather Matson and Molly Buck will now represent Ankeny in the Iowa House after flipping two Republican-held seats. They both chalked up their victories to knocking on people’s doors no matter their party affiliation, the organization efforts of Ankeny Area Democrats, and pushing early voting.

Matson previously represented Ankeny for one term in 2019 and 2020 when it was part of District 38 before last year’s redistricting. The new District 42 covers the southern half of Ankeny. Matson said her approach was to center voters, their issues, and to talk to everyone in the community.

“I spent most of my time, in addition to knocking every single Democrat door, knocking a significant number of no party and Republican voters,” she said. “I approached it like I always do, which is just giving that good faith opportunity to make a connection at every single door and not making an assumption about what that voter would think of either me or my message.”

Matson said people were receptive to her showing up and a lot of them were glad she did, even if they weren’t registered as Democrats.

“There were a lot of people who, registered Republicans and some no-party folks, were surprised that I was there by saying things like, ‘Oh, well, I’m not a Democrat. I’m a Republican.’ I’m like, ‘I know you are, I’m here because I believe that if you’re running for office, you need to show up and talk to everybody.’ And that kind of catches people off guard in a good way,” she said.

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Matson also said everyone understands that no one will agree on every issue, even in the same party, and the key was to show she cared about their thoughts anyway.

Matson won her election against incumbent Republican Garrett Gobble, who defeated her in 2020, by just 23 votes. A recount held yesterday confirmed Matson’s victory.

Molly Buck, the Democratic candidate for District 41, which covers northern Ankeny, won her race against Republican Marvis Landon by 129 votes.

Buck, who works as a teacher, said she had a similar campaigning experience to Matson’s. Buck attributed her win to the same things because she knows it wouldn’t have happened without flipping some Republican voters.

People were also open to talking to her, even if they didn’t agree with everything she said. Buck said some people wanted to catch her in a “gotcha moment,” but as they dug into issues, they realized they agreed with more than they expected, such as mental health funding and that public schools need more support.

“I don’t think that necessarily the people out there really feel that divided,” Buck said. “And once they start talking to another candidate or to a candidate from the other party, they realize we want the same things. We want a good life. We want rights for all people. We want people to be heard. We want people to feel like they have a voice.”

Both Matson and Buck said it was impossible to expect everyone to agree with everything they said, but that most people seemed impressed they showed up at all.

“Sometimes people wanted to talk about policy, sometimes they were just wanting to talk about what’s going on in their life. And some people just appreciated that I asked,” Matson said.

They also both agreed it wouldn’t have been possible without the organization of the Ankeny Area Democrats and chair Mary McAdams.

“It’s due to Mary McAdams’ work with Ankeny Area Democrats and our neighbor-to-neighbor program, I think, is one reason that that flip was possible,” Buck said.

The neighbor-to-neighbor program connected local Democrats to each other, with an emphasis on connecting neighbors. The point was to make sure every registered Democrat was connected and had information about the Democratic candidates on the ballot and had the information they needed to vote and to vote early if they wanted.

Most of the success though came from talking to people and humanizing their positions.

Buck said a few people recognized her name from attack ads, but after talking to her they told her she wasn’t anything like what those ads said.

“I think talking to people and being the person who shows up at their door does neutralize that,” she said.

Talking to each other is what will make it possible to get things done, Matson said. So many people told her they were ready for attack ads to be over.

“I give the same message at the door no matter who I’m talking to. Just the exact same pitch. And so part of that included talking about how, when I look around at our community, state and country, it really seems like people don’t want to talk to each other. And every person, regardless of party, their response was, ‘well, that’s true,’” Matson said.

“I think in a time where we are so divided and especially through political polarization, that just showing up to say ‘I actually want to get to know you,’ is, I think, how we help move forward as a state and as a country,” she continued.


Nikoel Hytrek

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story had the wrong House district for Heather Matson. Matson’s district is 42.


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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