Iowa Voters Oust Conspiracy Theorist From County Elections Post

David Whipple and Kimberly Sheets. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Ty Rushing

August 29, 2023

Voters in Iowa’s Warren County voted Tuesday to remove their recently-appointed county auditor who had shared false conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, QAnon, and the 2020 presidential election, replacing him with the deputy auditor he had placed on leave after she declared her candidacy against him. Iowa’s county auditors oversee elections.

Republican David Whipple’s past social media posts drew local outrage after he was appointed to the post by an all-GOP county supervisors board following the past auditor’s resignation. Enough Warren County residents signed a petition to force a special election, and Kimberly Sheets, a Democrat and the current deputy auditor, ran against him and won.

Sheets captured 66.5% of the vote to Whipple’s 33.4% of the vote in Tuesday’s special election. The Democrat won despite Warren County’s rightward shift in recent years—Donald Trump carried the county, which lies directly to the south of Des Moines, by a 17-point margin in 2020.

The race drew international headlines because of Whipple’s past conspiratorial-laden social media posts.

In the days before the election, Whipple discouraged students at Simpson College from voting in the race.

“While it may be legal, it isn’t always right,” he said in a Facebook post.

“I’m the most experienced candidate,” Sheets told Starting Line before the election. “For seven years, I’ve been involved with the auditor’s office and I’m very familiar with all the different hats and tasks that are required in that position. I enjoy that position in regards to working with the community and the residents—all the residents.”

The road to this special election has been bumpy and many in Warren County, including former auditor Traci VanderLinden, thought the interim auditor position should have already been Sheets’. 

VanderLinden resigned in May for personal reasons and recommended that the three-member Warren County Board of Supervisors select Sheets to fill out the remainder of her term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2024.

Sheets and Whipple both applied for the interim auditor position. The all-Republican board opted to go with Whipple, who had no previous experience in government and came from a construction background. The board cited his “leadership” capabilities in choosing him over Sheets.

Shortly after his appointment, Whipple’s since-deleted social media posts where he shared various conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, QAnon, and even the 9/11 terrorist attack surfaced, and prompted calls for a special election. 

In 14 days, residents gathered more than 3,400 signatures—about 1,000 more than they needed and in a county of about 53,000 people—to trigger a special election for the remainder of the auditor’s terms.

The day after the petition was turned in, Whipple placed Sheets on administrative leave.

The Warren County GOP, which has strongly supported Whipple throughout the process, tried to get more than 1,000 signatures tossed out to make the petition invalid, but ultimately a three-person panel that included Whipple agreed to move forward with the election.

Since she was suspended from her job of nearly a decade, Sheets used the time off to campaign aggressively in Warren County and the results showed.


by Ty Rushing

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.


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