Ernst Event

Sen. Joni Ernst signs a cap for Garry Land from Clinton during a campaign stop along with Governor Kim Reynolds, State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and State House candidate Mike Vondran Oct. 31 in Davenport.

The national results may be mixed, but in Iowa, election night was a good one for Republicans.

“They had to have been sorely disappointed,” Dennis Goldford, a political scientists at Drake University, says of Democrats.

Patty Judge, a Democrat who served as state secretary of agriculture and lieutenant governor, had worked in the past several years on an outreach effort to rural voters. That effort clearly fell short, she says.

“Iowa is a deep red state at this point,” she says.

While Judge thinks the rural outreach effort did succeed in getting the many Democratic presidential candidates to think about rural issues and to learn about ethanol and the farm economy, it didn’t succeed in convincing rural voters to vote Democrat.

The state voted for President Donald Trump over Democratic challenger Joe Biden by a margin of 53.1% to 44.88%. And incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst held off Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield by a margin of 51.75% to 45.14%.

That race was hotly contested and featured two candidates who both had rural backgrounds. Ernst grew up in a small town in southern Iowa while Greenfield grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota.

The state’s four congressional races featured three very close contests. In the 1st District, first-term Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer lost to Ashley Hinson. Hinson, a state legislator and former television anchor, recorded just over 211,000 votes to about 200,000 for Finkenauer.

In the 2nd District, longtime Democratic congressman Dave Loebsack retired. The race to succeed him between Republican Marriannette Miller-Meeks and Democrat Rita Hart included several recounts as of press time. As of Tuesday afternoon, Miller-Meeks led the unofficial results by 47 votes over Hart in a race in which more than 394,000 have been cast.

In the 3rd District, first-term incumbent Cindy Axne, a Democrat, edged former congressman David Young in a rematch of the 2018 race. Axne recorded 218,968 votes to 212,727 for Young.

The one race that wasn’t close came in the 4th District, where Randy Feenstra, a Republican, easily beat J.D. Scholten, a Democrat. Scholten had come close to defeating Steve King, a long-time congressman from the district, in 2018. But King lost his primary to Feenstra, who is considered to be as conservative as King but less controversial. The tally was 236,852 votes for Feenstra and 144,344 for Scholten.

Republicans also retained control of both the state Senate and the state House in this year’s vote, giving the party complete control over state government. Democrats had hoped to cut into that control and to perhaps gain control of the House, Judge says, but that did not happen. Instead, Republicans expanded their margin of power.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.