Iowa Democrats see hope in nominees for governor
DES MOINES — After nearly a decade of declining support in Iowa, Democrats were hoping to capitalize on the primary night results and take the first step toward regaining some strength in what once was a swing state.
Among the nominees party voters selected Tuesday were two successful women to challenge Republican congressmen in what could be competitive fall campaigns as Democrats attempt to win back control of the U.S. House.
However, it was wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell who will try for the state’s biggest prize — a chance for Democrats to wrest away the governor’s office from Republican Kim Reynolds. She stepped into the office by succession and in November will try to become the first woman elected to the post.
He easily cleared the 35 percent threshold needed to avoid a Democratic state convention. He defeated nurse and union local president Cathy Glasson of Coralville; physician and former party chairwoman Andy McGuire of Des Moines; aide to former Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Democratic Party state chairman John Norris of Des Moines; and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn.
Reynolds immediately criticized Hubbell, who comes from a wealthy Des Moines family, for providing millions of dollars to his own campaign. She’s a two-term lieutenant governor, who took the top job when Gov. Terry Branstad became ambassador to China.
The secretary of state’s office initially said more voters turned out than in any June primary in history but on Wednesday corrected the statement, saying it was the third largest. Women fared particularly well. Among them were state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who at 28 could become the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House if she’s able to unseat Rep. Rod Blum in November in northeast Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.
Blum was running unopposed. He’s considered vulnerable in November in a district where active Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 16,000 voters.
West Des Moines businesswoman Cindy Axne also will appear on the general election ballot after her primary victory in the 3rd District in the southwestern part of the state, moving on to take on two-term Republican David Young. Axne won a three-way primary and could present a strong challenge to Young.
The primary also featured a victory by Des Moines businesswoman Diedre DeJear in the Democratic primary for secretary of state, making her the first African American to win a major party nomination for statewide office. DeJear worked as Iowa African-American vote director for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Democrats also nominated Sioux City paralegal J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player, to run in northwest Iowa’s 4th District against longtime GOP Rep. Steve King.
King easily won his primary as he seeks his ninth term representing the sprawling district that stretches over 39 counties in northwestern and northern Iowa.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was leading against four other Republicans but the race was still too close to call early Wednesday. Naig’s vote total remained just under 35 percent, which means the race may go to a party convention. In an Iowa primary, candidates must pass a 35 percent threshold of votes or a convention is called and a nominee is selected by party leaders.