Tom Walton chairs the Dallas County Democrats, was a Democratic primary candidate for Iowa House district 28 in 2022, and is an attorney.
In the 2022 election for Iowa House district 28, Republican David Young showed up again in Iowa politics, after losing Congressional races in 2018 and 2020. Young won the Iowa House seat covering parts of Dallas County by only 907 votes, after the Iowa Democratic Party spent only about a quarter as much on supporting its nominee as the Republican Party of Iowa spent on behalf of Young.
Each of those winning votes cost his campaign about $331 based on campaign finance data. All told, Young and the Republican Party spent nearly half a million dollars on his race. As this article demonstrates, his election cost everyone too much—in money spent and loss of freedoms.
First, an overview of his campaign finances. On the contributions side, the Young campaign took in about $202,192.02. About 40 percent came from individuals living outside of Dallas County. About 22 percent came from political action committees, and 11 percent came from Young’s parents or related family trusts.
If you included the $60,000 his parents gave to the Republican Party of Iowa during the campaign, and assume the state party directed that money to supporting Young’s campaign, his parents’ donations totaled about 31 percent of all contributions, or about $81,500. Given there are no limits on what individuals may donate to an Iowa campaign, it is curious why Young’s parents donated $60,000 to the Iowa GOP, rather than directly to the campaign. Maybe it might look like someone was a little too involved? His father is the former Chief Financial Officer of Wells Fargo Financial, LLC, and his mother is an interior decorator.
The Iowa GOP’s in-kind contributions to Young’s campaign (through TV, mail, and digital advertising) totaled $483,078.20, with about 80 percent or $390,400 spent on TV ads. In comparison, the Iowa Democratic Party spent almost eight times less or $49,378.91 for TV ads on behalf of his opponent, Sonya Heitshusen. The next highest Republican Party expenditure was for digital ads at $58,319, spent mostly to personally attack the Democratic candidate. After Young’s campaign reimbursed the Iowa GOP for these expenses, the state party still had thrown $330,778.20 at his effort.
The list of PACs chipping into Young’s campaign raises the question of whose interests he really represents. For example, the Educational Opportunity PAC, which supports giving public tax money to well-off conservative families whose children attend private schools, got exactly what it wanted when Young voted to give as much as an estimated $879 million in public money over the next four years, and then, $345 million annually thereafter, to private schools, according to projections from the Iowa Legislative Services Agency. (Those are likely low, as enrollment in the school voucher program has already exceeded expectations in the first year.)
Smithfield Foods, Inc. PAC gave to Young too. It is the top pork producer in the U.S. with about 530 company-owned and 2,100 contract farms producing about eighteen million pigs every year (including 1.2 million sows). Smithfield and three other meatpackers combined control nearly 70 percent of the market. Not surprisingly, Young took no action regarding the increased concentration in the meat market in Iowa and the runoff of pig sewage into Iowa’s rivers.
On the contrary: he voted for a state budget that cut $500,000 from the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, which had been expected to fund a pollution monitoring sensor network supported by the University of Iowa, to measure nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Iowa’s rivers. Did anyone tell Young that in 2013, nitrogen levels at the testing equipment near Van Meter—his hometown–on the Raccoon River were a record 24 mg/L—more than double the EPA safe level? Darn those annoying sensors. His other Big Ag PAC contributors included Syngenta and the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Senator Chuck Grassley’s Hawkeye PAC showed up for a future supporter of Grassley’s grandson, House Speaker Pat Grassley. In a classic case of nepotism, the senator began to up contributions to House Republican candidates in 2018, a year before grandson Pat was ran for speaker, including giving $535,000 to the Iowa House Majority Fund–a huge jump over previous donations. The senator’s aligned PAC donated $2,500 to Young (a former staffer in Grassley’s office), which was one of his highest PAC donations.
Among individual donations, Denny Albaugh rang the bell with $10,000—Young’s biggest individual donation, not counting his parents. Albaugh made his millions in the herbicide business, particularly glyphosate. Actually, he has been called “Mr. Glyphosate.” At one time, Albaugh claimed to be the second biggest glyphosate producer in the U.S. Good for him. Maybe not so good for users of the chemical.
Recently, after exhaustive judicial review, a jury determined that glyphosate causes a type of cancer called Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is based, in part, on a study by University of Washington researchers that showed exposure to glyphosate increased the risk of that cancer by 41 percent. Albaugh, Inc. has been sued based on the same claim.
Given voting trends in House district 28, David Young did himself no favors with his votes as a first-term Iowa House member. Unfortunately for Young, the list of his right-wing votes is long and keeps getting longer, no matter his “moderate” façade.
In addition to giving public money to private religious schools, among other votes that will haunt him, Young voted to:
1) allow firearms on school property;
2) prohibit adult students from helping their school review and select library materials;
3) compel staff to tell parents if an adult student requests that staff use a name or pronoun to address them that is different than the name or pronoun assigned to the student in the school district’s registration forms or records, subject to disciplinary hearing and action against any superintendent or teacher in alleged violation;
4) conceal the identify of any parent that requests any materials be removed from the curriculum or library, while the identify of any parent opposing such a request remains public;
5) require public schools to list all books in their libraries online, but not private schools, subjecting superintendents and teachers to state license disciplinary action for any violation;
6) prohibit schools, except private schools, from telling sixth graders that some people they may meet in their life are attracted to the same sex or identify with a gender other than their gender assigned at birth, subjecting superintendents and teachers to state license disciplinary action for any violation;
7) prevent any public school, but not private school, student from using a single-use restroom or changing area or similar single-use place in any school unless it corresponds with that person’s biologic sex;
9) bar people from suing gun or ammunition manufacturers for their injuries based upon accepted common law theories of public nuisance, engaging in unreasonably dangerous activities or the improper marketing of guns and ammunition as a proximate cause of injuries due to gun shots;
10) prevent parents and their minor children (which includes 17-year-olds) from receiving any medical care for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of, or affirm the minor’s perception of, the minor’s gender or sex, if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex, regardless of a physician’s advice, including that such medical care is required to avoid self-harm;
11) limit your right to recover damages for medical malpractice against a doctor to only $250,000, unless there is a substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function, substantial disfigurement, loss of pregnancy, or death, in which case the damages are capped at $1 million;
12) cut $22 million from Area Education Agencies that provide educational and therapy support to our school students with special needs;
13) prevent the state’s financial watchdog from seeking court relief when a state agency refuses to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena; and
13) prohibit termination of pregnancy Iowa after approximately six weeks of gestation, with narrow exceptions, which is effectively a ban, given that a women may not even realize she is pregnant at that stage, subjecting any physicians involved to revocation of their licenses to practice.
Despite the money burned up by his campaign, Young’s vote count in the district barely outpaced that of Todd Halbur, the Republican nominee for state auditor, who was described as “’virtually unknown.” There are many possible reasons why that is so. Maybe it was the perception that he was really a long-time resident of Washington, D.C., trying to resuscitate a comatose political career back in Iowa. Perhaps it was the memory of his compromise selection as the Republican candidate for the third Congressional district race in 2014, after finishing in fifth place in the GOP primary.
Maybe it is what one expert election watcher diplomatically called his “wonkish personality” and “less fiery” style. Maybe it is the feeling he is hiding his politics: campaigning as a moderate—sometimes not even identifying his party affiliation in ads—but then towing the right-wing line after the election. Maybe some independent voters remembered Donald Trump’s endorsement of Young in 2018: “Remember, a vote for David is a vote for me.”
Finally, a growing blue trend in suburban Dallas County probably may explain the campaign’s and GOP’s excessive spending. Other Democrats performed very well in House district 28 in 2022 Three statewide candidates—two who lost the general election—won the precincts in district 28 by about 10 percent each. Of course, statewide name recognition and levels of funding may account for some of that gain.
However, in a more local race, the House district 28 precincts in Senate District 14 were won by State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat, in an upset win over the Senate’s number two Republican, Jake Chapman.
These and other reasons may account for why Young’s campaign over-spent but under-performed in the race for House district 28. This is a district Democrats should win with the right candidate. Young and the Republican Party must depend on excessive spending and personal attacks to win. In 2024, Democrats need a candidate who knows how to fight back; a candidate they can support with substantial personal donations from Dallas County Democrats and others, and all the money the state party can muster.
Top photo of David Young after his January 2023 swearing in as an Iowa House member first published on his Facebook page.
Map of Iowa House district 28: