Iowa Voters to Decide Crowded Democratic Primary Races

In this Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Eight states cast midterm primary ballots Tuesday, with implications for control of the House, Senate and several governor’s races. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Iowa voters will narrow the Democratic field Tuesday in crowded and competitive primary battles for the state’s governorship and congressional delegation.

The Hawkeye State’s highest profile contest has been the Democratic primary for governor, a race that has seen six candidates crisscrossing the state drumming up votes for the right to take on incumbent Republican Governor Kim Reynolds. The former lieutenant governor stepped into the job in the spring of 2017 when Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.

In addition to the gubernatorial contest, two Iowa congressional races that could help Democrats retake the U.S. House of Representatives are being watched nationally.

In Iowa’s First District in northeast part of the state, four Democrats are vying for the nomination to take on two-term incumbent Republican Rod Blum, who is considered one of the most vulnerable members of the House. The Cook Political Report, however, recently called the midterm battle a “toss-up.”

Three Democrats have campaigned feverishly in the Third District, which includes metro Des Moines, for the right to take on two-term Republican David Young in the southwest part of the state, which is said to lean Republican.

Governor Race

Five Iowa Democratic candidates are vying for their party’s nomination for governor: Cathy Glasson, 59, a registered nurse and president of a Service Employees International Union local; Fred Hubbell, 67, a retired executive in insurance, retailing and state government; Andy McGuire, 61, a physician with experience in health insurance and a former Iowa Democratic Party chair; John Norris, 59, a former aide to two Iowa governors and ex-U.S. Senator Tom Harkin; and Ross Wilburn, 53, an economic-development program director and former mayor of Iowa City.

A sixth candidate, Nate Bolton, will be on the ballot, but he recently withdrew from the race when claims of sexual harassment surfaced.

The large Democratic field makes it tough for any candidate to reach the 35 percent minimum required by Iowa law to win the primary outright, and many absentee ballots were cast before Bolton pulled out.

Democrats have shown few policy differences while positioning themselves squarely against what they see as major setbacks delivered by the Republican-controlled Legislature on education spending, health care, public employee unions and tax cuts aimed at businesses and the wealthy at the expense of struggling wage-earners.

Hubbell is the leader of the pack in terms of fundraising, though much of it has come from his own money. He had an 11-point lead in The Des Moines Register’s May 19 Iowa Poll, and his name is a well-known in the state with his family’s deep roots in insurance, real estate and retailing. Hubbell earned The Des Moines Register editorial board’s endorsement.

First District

Four Democrats are on the ballot in northeast Iowa’s First Congressional District in a race that has focused on education and affordable health care: Abby Finkenauer, 29, a two-term state representative who works for a Dubuque community foundation; Thomas Heckroth, 34, a businessman and former aide to Senator Harkin and the U.S. Department of Labor; George Ramsey, 50, an Army veteran; and Courtney Rowe, 36, a systems engineer for a flight-controls firm.

Finkenauer is favored as she led all Democratic candidates in fundraising – at $1.3 million, three times the next highest – and earned endorsements from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List and unions.

Third District

Three candidates are vying for the right to take on two-term Republican Congressman David Young in Iowa’s Third District: Cindy Axne, 53, who co-owns a digital design firm; Pete D’Alessandro, 54, has 30 years of experience working for Democratic political candidates and headed U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Iowa in 2016, earning Sanders’ endorsement; and Eddie Mauro, 55, a small-business owner, former insurance company president and former teacher and coach.

The Democrats focused on their own biographies along with education, health care and mental health.

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll published May 20 had Mauro at 27 percent and Axne at 26 percent, with D’Alessandro trailing at 11 percent. But 36 percent of voters were undecided. Axne is considered the favorite as she earned a long list of state and local endorsements, including from The Des Moines Register editorial board and Emily’s List.

Other Iowa races

Three Democrats are running to take on Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King, who is considered a solid bet to win a ninth term. And in the Second District, incumbent Democrat Dave Loebsack is considered a safe bet for a seventh term. In the general election, he will face surgeon Chris Peters, a Republican who ran against Loebsack unsuccessfully two years ago.

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