# IA-Gov 2022



Did low turnout sink Iowa Democratic candidates?

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

Many people have asked why Iowa experienced the red wave that didn’t materialize across most of the country. While no one factor can account for the result, early signs point to turnout problems among groups that favor Democratic candidates.

Although this year’s turnout was the second-highest in absolute numbers for an Iowa midterm, participation was down about 8 percent compared to the 2018 general election. The number of Iowans who cast ballots this year (1,230,416) was closer to the 2014 level (1,142,311) than to the high-water mark of 1,334,279, reached four years ago.

My impression is that the decline in turnout was not evenly distributed, but was more pronounced among registered Democrats than among Republicans, who have long been more reliable midterm voters in Iowa.

That alone could account for the narrow defeats of U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (who lost to Zach Nunn in the third Congressional district by 2,145 votes, a margin of 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent), Attorney General Tom Miller (lost to Brenna Bird by 20,542 votes, 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent), and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (lost to Roby Smith by 30,922 votes, or 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent).

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Not all Iowans welcome in Kim Reynolds' field of dreams

“Here in this field of dreams that we call home, anything is possible,” Governor Kim Reynolds declares near the end of her last television commercial before the November election.

Although the ad is superficially upbeat, its script and carefully chosen images convey an exclusionary message. To Reynolds, the place “we call home” is for people like herself: straight, white Christians from rural areas.

It’s another divisive move for a candidate who already spent heavily to bring racist tropes to Iowans’ tv screens.

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Eight revealing exchanges from the Reynolds/DeJear debate

You have to hand it to Deidre DeJear.

Governor Kim Reynolds has all the advantages of incumbency. She has spent most of the year avoiding unscripted questions and taking credit for projects that President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress made possible. While the challenger has struggled to get her message in front of voters, Reynolds enjoys free media coverage almost daily and has blanketed the state with (sometimes racist) television commercials for the past six weeks.

The day before the only scheduled debate between the candidates for governor—Reynolds would not agree to the traditional three—the Des Moines Register published a new Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co showing the incumbent ahead by 52 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

In other words, the odds facing DeJear could hardly be longer.

Nevertheless, the challenger spoke with clarity and confidence throughout the hour-long “Iowa Press” appearance, using facts and personal stories to great effect. She refused to take the bait when Reynolds fell back on divisive talking points about what “they” (Democrats) supposedly want to do.

I hope voters will take the time to watch the whole program, or read the transcript on the Iowa PBS site. Eight exchanges struck me as particularly revealing.

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Iowa governor not even close to keeping one 2018 campaign promise

“If elected, will you commit to weekly press conferences?” a moderator asked during the first debate between Iowa’s candidates for governor in October 2018. “I do it all the time,” Governor Kim Reynolds replied.

Asked again during that campaign’s third debate whether she would hold weekly press conferences, Reynolds claimed to have already made that commitment, adding, “If there’s any ambiguity, I will.”

Bleeding Heartland’s review of the governor’s public schedule reveals she has not come close to keeping that promise for most of the past four years. After a period of greater accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reynolds held just four formal news conferences during the second half of 2021. More than 40 weeks into this year, she has held only ten news conferences, the last occurring on July 12.

Reporters with access have sometimes been able to ask the governor a few questions at a “gaggle” after a bill signing or another public event. But most weeks, Reynolds has not scheduled even an informal media availability.

Avoiding unscripted questions on camera gives Reynolds greater control over news coverage of her administration, and keeps awkward moments mostly out of public view.

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Take two on Kim Reynolds' racist campaign commercial

Governor Kim Reynolds’ re-election campaign continues to air a television commercial that plays on racist tropes in order to boost the governor among the largely white Iowa electorate.

Reynolds’ campaign spokesperson Pat Garrett has not replied to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about the commercial. But after Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn denounced the ad as “a cheap, racist and dangerous stunt using harmful stereotypes to score political points,” Garrett told some other reporters that the spot “contrasts the failed policies supported by liberal Democrats across the country with the common sense leadership of Gov. Reynolds.”

Visual evidence shows the ad-makers were determined to create negative associations with Black women. The tactic would undermine the governor’s Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear.

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Kim Reynolds race-baits in new tv ad

Nothing happens in a campaign commercial by accident. Strategists plan every word and image, with the candidate’s approval. Directors may film many takes to get the perfect cadence for every line.

So Iowans should understand: the racist tropes in Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest tv ad are deliberate.

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