Bleeding Heartland

All of Iowa’s 99 counties have counted their votes, clearing the way for the recount. None of the 34 State Senate races were decided razor-thin this year, but Republican candidates have requested or will request a recount in six of the State House’s 100 races.

Two of those elections are very close, two others were decided by a majority of less than 100 votes, and the last two are not remotely within reach for the losing candidate.

If every now-leading candidate stays ahead after the recount, the GOP would have a 63-37 majority next year, up from the current 60-40. In the fourteen years that I’ve followed Iowa legislative races closely, I’ve never seen a recount change the winner.



This area of ​​Council Bluffs and Carter Lake is an open seat due to the resignation of Democratic State Representative Charlie McConkey. On paper, this is one of the most balanced districts in the Iowa House with 4,782 active registered Democrats, 4,841 Republicans, and 4,624 nonpartisan voters as of early November. .

Trump carried those constituencies in 2020 with 50.5 percent of the vote to 47.1 percent for Biden. But Hubbell edged out Reynolds by 48.9 percent to 47.8 percent in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Democrat Josh Turek campaigned actively and knocked on many doors. The Iowa Democratic Party also spent approximately $50,000 on direct mail and television advertising in the expensive Omaha market on Turek’s behalf. Republican Sarah Abduch spent just a few thousand dollars and received no financial aid from the Iowa GOP. But a conservative group called the American Federation for Children Action Fund spent more than $12,000 in direct mail to support Abdouch and attack Turek.

Voter turnout was very low here. Unofficial results show Turek ahead with 3,404 votes to 3,397 (50.0 percent to 49.9 percent). Correct: seven votes.


Iowa’s redistribution plan created several unincumbent legislative seats in Scott County. This was one of them covering part of Davenport. Democrats had reason to be optimistic, with a slight voter registration advantage and a healthy win margin for Biden in the 2020 election: 53.4 percent to 44.5 percent. Similarly, in those counties, Hubbell received 54.3 percent of the vote versus 43.6 percent for Reynolds.

Republicans didn’t target that race, but Luana Stoltenberg spent tens of thousands of dollars on mail, digital, and television advertising. In addition, the American Federation for Children Action Fund paid for phone calls and texts on her behalf and spent more than $15,000 on email attacks on Democrat Craig Cooper.

Cooper ran a low-budget campaign with no significant ad spend other than less than $5,000 in direct mail. The Iowa Democratic Party did not pay for advertising on his behalf.

Stoltenberg appeared to be 29 votes ahead after November 8th. However, something went seriously wrong in Scott County, where Republican auditor Kerri Tompkins oversaw her first general election. Secretary of State Paul Pate ordered a nationwide administrative recount after about 470 absentee ballots appeared to have gone uncounted.

After this administrative recount, Cooper leads by six votes: 5,093 to 5,087 (50.0 percent to 49.9 percent). Stoltenberg has until the middle of next week to request a recount of that race, and she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on Nov. 18 that she intends to do so.



That race was a rematch from 2020. In a result that surprised most Iowa politics observers, Republican challenger Garrett Gobble defeated state Representative Heather Matson by 157 votes.

The redistribution made this area slightly more favorable for a Democratic candidate. The GOP still has a small voter registration lead of about 500. But according to the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App, Biden has Trump in the new House District 42 precincts by 49.0 percent to 48.5 percent surpassed. Hubbell’s lead over Reynolds in the 2018 gubernatorial race was 50.0 percent to 48.1 percent.

The Iowa Democratic Party spent approximately $122,000 on direct, digital and television advertising for this race. The Iowa GOP spent much more: around $472,000, including hundreds of thousands, on television ads.

Unofficial results showed Matson 24 votes ahead shortly after November 8. After the Polk County election, she leads by 23 votes: 6,991 votes to 6,968 (50.0 percent to 49.8 percent).


This race hasn’t been on many people’s radar because State House races in Dubuque have been uncompetitive for many years. But the redistribution added more territory outside of the city of Dubuque to State Representative Chuck Isenhart’s district. Though Democrats still have a voter registration advantage of nearly 2,500, Joe Biden narrowly won that district in the 2020 presidential election: 50.7 percent of the vote to 47.0 for Donald Trump, according to the map Josh Hughes creates in Dave’s Redistricting App Has. Fred Hubbell got 52.4 percent here in the 2018 gubernatorial race, to 44.9 percent for Kim Reynolds.

Isenhart’s opponent, Jennifer Smith, raised around $30,000 in the election cycle. The Iowa GOP spent approximately $16,000 in direct mail to support Smith and also benefited from tens of thousands of dollars in independent spending from conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and the American Federation for Children Action Fund.

Isenhart’s fundraising and spending were competitive with his opponent, but neither the Iowa Democratic Party nor progressive interest groups made independent spending here.

I was surprised Smith requested a recount, given Isenhart’s 94-vote lead last week was well outside of what a recount could realistically overcome. At this writing, the Democrat leads by 95 votes: 6,161 to 6,066 (50.3 percent to 49.6 percent).

Smith told the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald: “It was close enough, I just think voters and voters deserve to know and have it verified. […] It’s just a matter of transparency.”



No incumbent lived in this new district, which covered most of the Cedar Rapids suburb of Marion. Voter registrations are close: 6,988 active registered Democrats, 6,718 Republicans, and 6,920 non-party voters. However, the suburban terrain favored Democrats, with Biden overtaking Trump in the counties by 52.6 percent to 44.9 percent. Hubbell promoted the district 51.2 percent to 46.5 percent.

The Iowa Republican Party spent approximately $45,000 on mail or digital advertising on behalf of Susie Weinacht, who also spent thousands from her own campaign funds. The Iowa Democratic Party spent almost $60,000 on postal or digital advertising for Elizabeth Wilson.

After Linn County’s election, Wilson leads by 7,296 votes to 6,991 (51.1 percent to 48.9 percent). It’s a close race, but honestly not close. Perhaps Weinacht was inspired to seek a recount because there were some problems with the initial counting of absentee ballots in Linn County.


This part of Northeast Iowa has turned its back on Democratic candidates. Though Democrats still have a voter registration advantage of nearly 1,000, precincts in the new House District 59 voted 49.3 percent for Biden and 48.9 percent for Trump. Hubbell defended the area by 50.9 percent to 47.1 percent in the last governor’s race.

The Iowa Republican Party has not targeted this race, but GOP challenger Doug Campbell has raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars. Democrats were concerned enough to channel $22,630 from the Iowa Democratic Party for the Post in support of State Representative Sharon Steckman.

The result was not close: Steckman leads with 6,328 to 5,589 votes (53.1 percent to 46.9 percent). Despite this, Campbell asked for a recount.

I’ve seen many Iowa legislative races hold leads of less than 30 votes, so there’s no way Campbell can reverse a 739-vote deficit.