For the first time, at least one third-party candidate has qualified for every Congressional or statewide office in Iowa. Although third parties haven't traditionally fared well in Iowa, Libertarians had their best showing ever here in 2016 and have nominated a record number of candidates for this November. Since several U.S. House or statewide races could be very close, even a small percentage of the vote for candidates other than the Democratic or Republican contenders could become significant.
With the filing period for Iowa's general election ballot closed as of 5:00 pm on August 25, it's time for an overview of the landscape. The full candidate list is posted on the Iowa Secretary of State's website. UPDATE: John Deeth notes that candidates may have filed on the last day, which wouldn't be reflected on the version currently posted online. I will update as needed; the key point is that there will be no statewide or Congressional races in Iowa this year with only Republican and Democratic options on the ballot. SECOND UPDATE: The Secretary of State's office uploaded an amended candidate list on August 27. No new candidates filed for statewide office, but one additional person qualified for the ballot in the fourth Congressional district. Scroll down for further details.
Republican: Rod Blum
Democrat: Abby Finkenauer
Libertarian: Troy Hageman
During the 2010 Republican landslide, the combined vote for two third-party candidates in Iowa's first Congressional district exceeded Democratic Representative Bruce Braley's margin over his GOP challenger, Ben Lange. But the presence of a Libertarian on this year's ballot is unlikely to help Blum, by common consent one of the most endangered House Republicans in the country.
Cook Political Report: Toss-up (UPDATE: rating changed to lean Democrat on September 6)
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Toss-up (UPDATE: rating changed to lean Democrat on September 6)
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call: Toss-up
FiveThirtyEight.com: Lean Democrat, Abby Finkenauer has 5 in 7 chance of winning
Republican: Christopher Peters
Democrat: Dave Loebsack
Libertarian: Mark David Strauss
No Party: Daniel Clark
No third-party candidates were on the ballot for this race in 2016, when Loebsack faced Peters for the first time and won by a 53.7 percent to 46.2 percent margin. Since Peters was himself a Libertarian candidate for the Iowa Senate in 2010, I thought the Libertarian Party might not nominate a candidate here.
Clark was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination. He has campaigned against Loebsack from the left, but I don't expect him to get enough traction to put this seat in play.
Cook Political Report: Solid Democratic
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Safe Democratic
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call: Solid Democratic
FiveThirtyEight.com: Solid Democrat, Dave Loebsack has 39 in 40 chance of winning
Republican: David Young
Democrat: Cindy Axne
Libertarian: Bryan Jack Holder
Green Party: Paul Knupp
Legal Medical Now: Mark Elworth Jr.
No Party: Joe Grandanette
More than 25,000 people (6.7 percent) voted for one of the three third-party options in IA-03 two years ago. Holder and Grandanette (a conservative supporter of Donald Trump) were on the ballot last cycle; Holder won 3.9 percent of the vote and "Mr. G" 1.2 percent. Knupp campaigned around this district as a Democrat for about nine months but didn't have his act together to qualify for the primary ballot. I'd never heard of Elworth, an activist for legalizing cannabis, before seeing his name pop up on the candidate list.
Most Iowa politics watchers expect Axne to be more competitive against Young than 2016 Democratic nominee Jim Mowrer, who finished nearly 14 points behind the incumbent. Another campaign marked by millions of dollars in spending on negative television and radio commercials could drive thousands of voters to third-party options again.
Last month, Bleeding Heartland reviewed the strengths Axne and Young take into the general election campaign.
Cook Political Report: Toss-up
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Toss-up
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call: Tilt Republican
FiveThirtyEight.com: Lean Democrat, Cindy Axne has 2 in 3 chance of winning
Republican: Steve King
Democrat: J.D. Scholten
Libertarian: Charles Aldrich
No Party: Edward Peterson
No third-party candidates were on the ballot here in 2016, when King defeated Kim Weaver with about 61 percent of the vote. Although King will be strongly favored to win his ninth term, given the voter registration numbers in the IA-04 counties, a sizable number of Republicans have voted for GOP primary challengers to King the last two cycles. My hunch is that Aldrich will outperform Libertarians in Iowa's other Congressional districts, thanks to Republicans who can't stomach King but can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat.
IA-04 wasn't seen as competitive during the last election cycle. This summer all the major forecasts have changed their rating to "likely Republican." Bleeding Heartland discussed here what needs to come together for Scholten to pull off an upset.
AUGUST 27 UPDATE: Edward Peterson submitted his nominating papers on the final day of the filing period.
Cook Political Report: Likely Republican
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Likely Republican
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call: Likely Republican
FiveThirtyEight.com: Likely Republican, Steve King has 6 in 7 chance of winning
Republican: Kim Reynolds
Democrat: Fred Hubbell
Libertarian: Jake Porter
Clear Water Party of Iowa: Gary Siegwarth
Although no polls on this race have been published since the June primary, Democratic and Republican politics-watchers expect a close race between Reynolds and Hubbell. Both candidates have been campaigning actively around the state. They also have been advertising in Iowa's largest television for months and have the resources to stay on the air continuously through election day.
The stakes are high for Porter, who needs at least 2 percent of the vote in November for Libertarians to maintain full political party status. I wouldn't count him out.
I still don't understand the motivation for Siegwarth's candidacy on a clean water platform. Fred and Charlotte Hubbell have been among the strongest supporters of Iowa environmental organizations for many years. Charlotte Hubbell is a past member of the state Environmental Protection Commission. While Siegwarth has almost no money in the bank, any name on the ballot is bound to attract some votes.
Cook Political Report: Toss-up
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Toss-up
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call: Lean Republican
UPDATE: On August 31, Inside Elections changed their rating on this race to Tilt Republican.
Secretary of State
Republican: Paul Pate
Democrat: Deidre DeJear
Libertarian: Jules Ofenbakh
Pate takes the advantages of incumbency into this campaign, but Democratic activists are highly engaged in this race. The signature "accomplishment" of Pate's tenure has been passage of a law containing various voter suppression tactics. (Some of the law's provisions are on hold pending litigation.) Jason Kander's Let America Vote organization has had dozens of interns and volunteers out mobilizing support for DeJear since June, hoping this race will "send a message to every vote-suppressing politician in Iowa and across America that if you want to attack democracy, you’ve got to go through us. And if you want to come for our right to vote, we’re coming for your job."
If anyone's looking for another reason to oppose Pate, recall his grossly inappropriate demagoguery while a lawsuit on felon disenfranchisement was pending before the Iowa Supreme Court in 2016.
The Libertarian nominee for governor, Jake Porter, was the party's candidate for secretary of state in 2010 and 2014. He received about 3 percent of the vote in the last midterm election, while a "new independent" candidate gained a little under 2 percent.
Republican: Mary Mosiman
Democrat: Rob Sand
Libertarian: Fred Perryman
Republicans have held this office for decades, but this year's race is shaping up to be the most competitive in my lifetime. Sand has been campaigning full-time since last November and has out-raised the incumbent in every reporting period so far. He had more cash on hand than Mosiman last month, which is rare for a first-time candidate.
Libertarians have not previously nominated a candidate for this office, to my knowledge. Putting Perryman on the ballot is a sign of the party's commitment to running a full slate.
Republican: Jeremy Davis
Democrat: Michael Fitzgerald
Libertarian: Timothy Hird
Fitzgerald's the longest-serving state treasurer in the country and survived the 2010 and 2014 Republican landslides, so there's not much to see here. No Republican filed for this office before the primary, but GOP state convention delegates nominated Jeremy Davis in June.
Secretary of Agriculture
Republican: Mike Naig
Democrat: Tim Gannon
Libertarian: Rick Stewart
All other things being equal, incumbents are usually favored to win. But Naig isn't a typical incumbent: he was appointed (not elected) and has held the office only since March, so his name recognition is low. He barely won the nomination in a crowded field and hasn't raised much money. In addition, the Trump administration's tariffs are hurting the farm economy, despite an aid package federal officials announced last month. Gannon has strong credentials, has been actively campaigning since February, and had substantially more cash on hand last month than Naig.
Libertarians have not fielded a candidate for this office before, to my knowledge. A "new independent" candidate gained about 3.6 percent of the vote in 2014.
Democrat: Tom Miller
Libertarian: Marco Battaglia
Iowans have elected Miller to this office nine times, and Battaglia (nominated at a Libertarian Party convention in June after losing the nomination for governor) is not well-positioned to break the incumbent's winning streak.
The Republican Party of Iowa failed to recruit a candidate for this office before the state convention in June. Patrick Anderson started trying to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot on August 23, but his volunteers fell short. According to a written statement Anderson posted shortly after the filing period closed, his official total was 1,300 signatures, while 1,500 were needed to qualify for the ballot. Anderson said "the party assisted me in obtaining a nomination by petition as a GOP candidate" and thanked Governor Kim Reynolds' campaign team for their help.
Final note: Libertarians have nominated 32 candidates for federal, statewide, state legislative, or county-level races in Iowa, a record number for the party. In contrast, Congressional candidate Paul Krupp is the only Green Party representative to appear on the ballot. Given Iowa's low barriers for ballot access, it's embarrassing the Greens have almost no presence. The party had no one on the Iowa ballot in 2016 other than the president/VP ticket. At that time, Ed Fallon (a Ralph Nader endorser in 2000) told Bleeding Heartland, "if the Green Party is serious about becoming a viable political force in this country, they need to do the hard core, door-to-door grassroots organizing needed to build the party from the ground up."