Iowa Democrats nominated two women on Tuesday to challenge Republican congressmen in districts the national party is targeting for possible pickups, including a 28-year-old state legislator who could become the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House.
State Rep. Abby Finkenauer would earn that distinction if she’s able to unseat Rep. Rod Blum in November in northeast Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, wealthy Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell easily won the five-way Iowa Democratic primary race to run against Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who advanced to the fall campaign uncontested in her primary.
These were some of the key primary races:
1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Finkenauer won her race against three other candidates to advance to the general election. Other Democrats were Cedar Falls business executive Thomas Heckroth, Army veteran George Ramsey of Cedar Rapids, and Air Force Reserves veteran Courtney Rowe of Cedar Rapids.
Blum was running unopposed in the northeastern Iowa district. He’s considered vulnerable in November in a district where active Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 16,000 voters.
3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Axne won a three-way primary in the southwest corner of the state and could present a strong challenge to Young. Axne defeated insurance company owner Eddie Mauro, and Des Moines political operative Pete D’Alessandro to take on Young in the 16-county district, which includes Council Bluffs and Des Moines, leans Republican in voter registration.
4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
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.
Human resources professional Cyndi Hanson of Sioux City opposed King but lagged far behind him in the vote.
Sioux City paralegal J.D. Scholten won three-person Democratic primary to face King in the general election, defeating Spencer City Councilwoman Leann Jacobsen and Ames pediatrician John Paschen.
Hubbell succeeded in his first political effort, defeating four Democratic opponents for a chance to face Reynolds
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.
A general election win by Reynolds would be the first time Iowa elected a woman as governor.
SECRETARY OF STATE
DeJear defeated former Iowa National Guard intelligence analyst and two-time congressional candidate Jim Mowrer to earn a place on the November ballot opposite GOP Secretary of State Paul Pate.
Pate lists one of his top accomplishments as passage of a voter identification law, and that law has been the focus of much of the campaigning by Mowrer and DeJear. Both argue the law that now is being implemented will discourage voting, especially by low-income and minority citizens.
DeJear worked as Iowa African-American vote director for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
Incumbent 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.
Naig hopes to keep the office he won by appointment on March 1 after Bill Northey accepted a U.S. Department of Agriculture job. Naig, who grew up on a northwestern Iowa family farm, had served as deputy secretary since 2013.
He led soybean association trade representative Ray Gaesser, hog farmer and Iowa State University extension watershed specialist Chad Ingels, dairy farmer Craig Lang, and farmer and state Sen. Dan Zumbach.
Tim Gannon, a farmer who worked for Tom Vilsack when he was governor and U.S. secretary of agriculture, is the sole Democratic candidate.