A major difference in Iowa’s 2022 mid-term elections may not affect voters, but could be felt in the results after Nov. 8.
This is the first year for a set of newly drawn congressional maps in Iowa which changed the borders for the four races being held for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. While all of the incumbents are still running in their districts, it may make for a much closer race for some.
“The congressional districts make a huge difference,” said Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science at Iowa State University. “But the quality of the candidates and how they perform I think still makes a bigger difference.”
The most notable impact may be in Iowa’s 3rd District which covers south central Iowa, including Des Moines’ Polk County, where various polls have shown incumbent Democrat Cindy Axne and Republican challenger Zach Nunn in a dead heat or giving a slight lead to Nunn, but still within the margin for error.
Axne has been the representative for District 3 since 2019, serving on the Agriculture and Financial Services committees in both of her terms. In a statement to Iowa Farmer Today, Axne said she is looking to continue research into sustainable agriculture and protecting the environment.
“I am fighting to increase research and development in the areas of soil health, carbon sequestration, and water quality to clean up our water, improve soil for better yields, and create jobs in the process,” she said.
Nunn, a current state senator and Air Force veteran, said he would advocate for more research in biofuels and other energy markets to boost the ag economy.
“We need a leader who understands our farmers are the solution,” he said. “Quality Iowa food and biofuels will continue to power America’s future and feed the world if Congress works with our Iowa ag community instead of against it.”
While historically incumbents tend to have a slight advantage in elections, Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said Axne is facing a tough test that may be impacted by the newly drawn district.
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“In both of her elections, she won by a relatively small margin,” he said. “The point is that Axne lost 15 of 16 counties in both elections — the more rural counties. Her political life continues or expires based on Polk County.”
The second district race, in northeast Iowa, has also been highly contested. Incumbent Republican Ashley Hinson is running for her second term in Congress against Democratic challenger Liz Mathis, with polls staying tight for much of the election cycle.
Hinson, who earned the endorsement of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, said her agricultural focus has been on the economy and rural communities, saying she wants to avoid large government overreach and advocate for stronger renewable fuel standards.
Mathis, a current state senator, said she is focused on the agricultural market and continuing to ensure export business doesn’t wane, which would give more price stability to farmers.
In Iowa’s first district, incumbent Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Christina Bohannan.
Miller-Meeks won her first term in office by six votes in 2020, after serving as a state senator and Iowa Department of Public Health Director from 2010 to 2014. She currently serves on the House committees for Veteran’s Affairs, Homeland Security and Education and the Workforce.
Bohannan, a current state representative and law professor at the University of Iowa, said her focus for agriculture is on growing the economy while also combating climate change. In her comments she has said she believes country is more important than party.
“I ran against a 20-year Incumbent of my own party when I thought neither Democrats nor Republicans were doing enough for the people of Iowa. I am beholden to no political party, and I will always put our people, our state, and our country over party politics,” Bohannan said.
The fourth district features incumbent Randy Feenstra in the most Republican-leaning district covering western Iowa. Feenstra unseated former congressman Steve King in the 2020 primaries before earning his first term and faces Democratic challenger Ryan Melton and Liberty Caucus candidate Bryan Holder in the 2022 election.
Feenstra is Iowa’s Republican representation on the House Agriculture committee and has recently been vocal about foreign ownership of American farmland. Melton is running on an agricultural platform focused on competition and sustainability.