Republican Flips Iowa State House Seat Held By Democrats For Decades
The Iowa state flag flies outside the State Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. As the first in the nation Iowa caucuses approaches, where registering your vote isn't as simple as casting a ballot, the state is starting to thrum with nervous energy.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A longtime Democrat-held Iowa state House District has fallen to Republican candidate Jon Dunwell, according to projections. He won roughly 60% of the vote in a special election Tuesday. 

The seat, which has been held by Democrats for decades, will now be filled by a Republican for the first time since 1992. The seat became open when the incumbent Democrat representative left for a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, and Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) announced a special election. 

“Community engagement is very important to me. Being out and among people is very important to me. Giving everyone a seat at the table is very important to me,” said Dunwell, a former pastor, according to the Newton Daily News. 

Back in 2018, the margin in the district was nearly completely flipped, with Democrat Wes Breckenridge taking 58.7% of the vote to the Republican candidate’s 41.2%. The Hill reported that Dunwell’s victory marked the second instance of a Republican flipping a state office since Biden took office. The other instance was a state Senate seat in Connecticut. 

While turnout for the Special Election was only about 20% for eligible voters in the district, some analysts have said that Dunwell’s comfortable victory indicates a growing shift to the right in Iowa politics. 

In November 2020, then-President Trump won roughly 60% of Jasper County, the best turnout for a Republican candidate in the county since 1928 when Herbert Hoover was running for reelection. By contrast, then-President Barack Obama won 56% of the vote in Jasper County in 2012. 

Iowa, as a whole, has shifted in the last ten years. After voting for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, the state went for Trump twice with relatively comfortable margins. 

At a national and state level, increasingly more Democrats have voiced concerns about upcoming elections in the face of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings.

In the Virginia gubernatorial race, now just weeks away, Democrat candidate and former Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a recent video call that his campaign needed to work through difficult “headwinds from Washington” stemming from Biden’s unpopularity.

Other Democrat strategists have also voiced fears about the 2022 midterm elections. Historically, the party of the incumbent president does not perform well in these elections. Many Democrats, as such, are concerned about a large swing in the House and a potential loss of the Senate.

Douglas Schoen, a former consultant to President Bill Clinton and adviser to Mike Bloomberg during his 2020 run said that Democrats were on pace to “lose big” if the party’s current path remained unchanged.

He wrote in an essay last month, “If the Biden administration continues to push unnecessarily big government spending initiatives and tax increases, along with weak immigration policies and an incoherent foreign policy strategy, Democrats could suffer the most substantial midterm loss of any party in recent history.”

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