IA-02 voters likely to elect a woman in 2020

Before this year, no woman had ever represented Iowa in the U.S. House. But after the 2020 general election, women may represent three out of the state's four Congressional districts.

U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer's likely Republican challenger in IA-01 is State Representative Ashley Hinson. Representative Cindy Axne has at least even odds to win a second term against presumptive Republican nominee David Young. And the latest campaign finance reports point to a general election match-up between State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former State Senator Rita Hart in the second district.

Miller-Meeks won't need to report her fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission until the end of January, because she launched her fourth Congressional campaign on October 1. In all likelihood her only competition for the Republican nomination will be former U.S. Representative Bobby Schilling.

Schilling raised more than $1.1 million for his first Congressional race in 2010 and $2.5 million for his unsuccessful 2012 re-election bid, but he has struggled to find financial support for his current political venture. After kicking off his campaign in early July, Schilling raised just $54,505.55 during the third quarter. Individuals gave $51,199.00, of which $10,347.00 came in small unitemized donations. Fewer than a dozen people who made gifts larger than $200 live in Iowa. The candidate gave $306.55, and two PACs gave a total of $3,000.

Schilling is running a lean operation, spending only $5,339.99 during the reporting period. He appears to have no campaign staff, and with only $49,265.56 cash on hand as of September 30, he won't be able to hire any full-time workers in the near future.

Miller-Meeks easily defeated a weak fundraiser in the 2014 primary to represent IA-02, and I expect history to repeat itself, given the state senator's name ID. Chances of other GOP candidates joining the field are slim. I haven't heard of anyone else seriously considering the race lately, and former Governor Terry Branstad's endorsement of Miller-Meeks sends a strong signal to GOP establishment types.

On the Democratic side, Hart reported raising $228,581.96 from July through September. That's below the $279,593.81 she raised during the second quarter but a solid number for a non-incumbent nevertheless. Individuals donated $189,936.96 to Hart's campaign during the latest reporting period, and small donors giving less than $200 each contributed $41,124.54 of that amount. Only a few large donors have maxed out with $2,800 donations, so Hart has the potential to raise more from almost everyone who has donated. Fourteen PACs representing a mix of labor organizations, progressive groups, and committees affiliated with other Democratic politicians gave her campaign total of $39,050.00.

Hart's campaign reported spending $83,851.91 during the third quarter, which seemed like a big number this far out from an election. Nothing struck me as unusual on the list of itemized expenditures, though. The largest costs were staff salaries, digital ads and fundraising, and access to Democratic voter databases. She had $413,597.57 in the bank as of September 30.

I couldn't find any FEC filing by Newman Abuissa, indicating the other declared Democratic candidate in IA-02 has raised very little for his campaign. Even with lots of money to spend district-wide, he would struggle to compete with Hart's name recognition and support from influential Democrats.

The 24 counties in IA-02 contain 163,898 active registered Democrats, 142,352 Republicans, and 187,633 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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