Cindy Axne wins Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District race

Incumbent Representative Cindy Axne won a second term as Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District representative against former Rep. David Young by 1.4 percent. The two faced off in the 2018 midterm elections, when Axne unseated Young by a 1.51 percent margin.

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Lily Smith

Iowa 3rd Congressional District-elect Cindy Axne speaks to supporters during the statewide Democratic candidates’ watch party at Embassy Suites in Des Moines on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter


With 100 percent of counties and precincts reporting, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne won a second term as the representative of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District early Wednesday afternoon. The race was called at 1:29 p.m. Wednesday , the Associated Press reported she had 49 percent of the vote, beating out Republican challenger David Young. 

Axne, 55, unseated Young in 2018 receiving 49 percent of the vote, and Young is losing the 2020 rematch by 6,241 votes.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office reported at 4:16 a.m. Wednesday, Axne beat Young by 1.39 percent after all 16 counties reported Iowans’ votes.  

Axne’s district encompasses southwestern Iowa, including Des Moines and Council Bluffs. Alongside U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Axne was one of the first women from Iowa to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the Des Moines Register’s Oct. 31 poll, 39 percent of voters said they would be voting for Republicans and 45 percent Democrat. The margin of error was 6.6 percent.

On a Zoom call with nearly 70 organizers, supporters, and volunteers, Axne thanked everyone who assisted her during her reelection campaign. She said it was one of the most important evenings of her supporters’ lifetimes and she was grateful that they tuned in to hear her speak.

“I’m glad we’re able to connect with so many of you on a night that would normally have had us together, watching the results of this historic election,” she said. “Let me start by saying I’m grateful that the voters of central and southwest Iowa have chosen me to represent them in congress next year. Having the reaffirmed trust of Iowans, to be their voice in Washington, renews my commitment to fight for them, for all of you.”

Axne thanked her competitor and said she is committed to never stop listening to and putting Iowan’s first. 

Young conceded the race late on Nov. 3rd at a watch party in Des Moines, IA. He thanked members of his campaign team and his supporters and said his campaign left it on the table. 

“The votes have been tallied and the people have spoken,” he said. “And we respect the will of the people, right? This country is great because our people are good and the greatest of these are Iowans, of course…Tomorrow’s a new day, the sun will go up and tears may be shed tonight…To all those who voted for me, I love you. For those who did not vote for me, I love you too.”

The University of Iowa alum currently sits on the House Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Agriculture. She became the sole Iowa representative on the Agriculture Committee after former U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was removed from the committee during Axne’s first term.

Shawn Evan, a 50-year-old Des Moines resident, voted for Axne. In an interview with The Daily Iowan, the registered Democrat said he voted for Axne and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst due to their track record in office.

“I feel like those two are doing a good job doing what they’re doing, and hopefully we can get Trump out of office this time around,” he said.

Axne received endorsements from former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, the Iowa AFL-CIO, and the National Women’s Political Caucus, among others. 

Young defeated retired U.S. Army Col. Bill Schafer in the Republican’s primary election in June 2020. He received endorsements from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, President Trump, and the Iowa Farm Bureau, among others. 

The Drake University alumni served on the House Committee on Appropriations during his tenure in office. He previously served as the chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, from 2006 until 2013 — until he ran for Congress for the first time. He also served as the chief of staff to former Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, from 1998 to 2006.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Axne voted for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but voted against the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.

The HEROES Act passed 214-207 in early October. 17 House democrats and Axne voted against the bill along with all of the House republicans.  

She cosponsored the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The Act focused on banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants in police departments while working on ending racial and religious profiling. The bill would make lynching a federal crime, limit military equipment that police departments have access to, and require body cameras to be worn. 

The incumbent wants to cap the interest rates on student loans and make college more affordable. 

Axne has a background in environmental policy and plans to continue fighting for the investment in and promotion of Iowa’s leadership in clean, renewable energy. She also supports the Affordable Care Act and sits on the Affordable and Accessible Health Care Task Force. 

Axne is a small-business owner and she previously worked at around 20 state-governmental agencies. She resides in West Des Moines, where she lives with her husband and two sons. 

During her acceptance speech, Axne said she wished she could celebrate in person with her supporters, but it was a necessary sacrifice. 

“It’s a small sacrifice and a necessary one as COVID still hangs over our nation,” she said. “Celebrating remotely is the least we can do, in fact, to ensure we keep our neighbors safe. And as fervor of this election wanes, and we return our focus to the ongoing crisis, we as a nation must come together and continue to make sacrifices to save those still at risk.”

Josie Fischels contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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