Going into the June 7 primary, I anticipated a close Democratic contest for secretary of state. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker had few substantive disagreements and few opportunities to reach a mass audience. The campaign received relatively little news coverage, and the candidates didn’t get speaking time at the Iowa Democratic Party’s large fundraiser in April.
While Miller’s home base was in a larger county, Van Lancker had raised and spent much more on the secretary of state campaign. His team had a paid consultant, purchased the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter file, and began significant digital advertising two months before the primary. Van Lancker spent $5,863 on Facebook ads alone, making tens of thousands of impressions, according to Meta’s ad library. In contrast, the majority of Miller’s campaign spending went toward collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The result was surprisingly lopsided: Miller received 97,896 votes (71.7 percent) to 38,602 (28.3 percent) for Van Lancker. The winner carried 98 counties, losing only Clinton, where voters had previously elected Van Lancker four times.
I interviewed Miller about his victory on June 8 and reached out to engaged Democratic voters for insight on how they picked a candidate for this race.