Democrats, Republicans in congress look to gain ground in midterms

Iowa Republicans look to flip the Congressional majority, but Rep. Cindy Axne says she doesn’t plan to return to Washington as the lone Democrat after the midterms.


Gabby Drees

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller Meeks, R-Iowa, responds to questions in a Daily Iowan interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

With a longtime U.S. senator and three competitive house races on the ballot, members of Iowa’s congressional delegation said they’re confident in their party’s chances in the midterm elections.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, said winning by a narrow margin in 2020 has not influenced her approach to reelection in 2022, where she is running in a new district.

“I think that I fit the district well. I was on faculty with the University of Iowa. I’m the first woman president of the Iowa Medical Society,” she said. “I was the first woman on faculty at the Department of Ophthalmology in the University of Iowa. So, I continue to take a course which fits the district well.”

Miller-Meeks said she understands agricultural and broadband issues from living in a rural area, but also is informed on manufacturing, education, and health care.

The Iowa Republican, representing the southeast district of Iowa, won her seat by six votes in 2020 against Democratic candidate Rita Hart.

In the redistricting process, Miller-Meeks was drawn into the same district as Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa. She will run in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, which contains much of her current constituency, and gain residence within the district, while also keeping her current property.

“I’ll keep my home and my acreage in Ottumwa, and have residence there just like I have a residency here,” Miller-Meeks said in an interview with *The Daily Iowan* in Washington, D.C. “But without moving into the new 1st District I can’t vote for myself, so I intend to cast a vote for myself so at least I win by seven.”

State Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, is challenging Miller-Meeks for this seat.

According to Iowa’s voter registration from April 2022, of the 466,843 active voters in the newly drawn district, 34.41 percent are Democrats, 32.31 percent are Republicans, and 32.48 percent vote under no party.

In Iowa’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Districts, the political makeup of the districts suggests they are all competitive.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, speaks during an interview at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Gabby Drees)

In the 2020 election, Axne, who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, went from being one of three Democratic congresspeople representing the state to the lone Democrat in Iowa’s delegation.

Axne is a top target in the Republicans’ effort to flip the House red in 2022, making the National Republican Congressional Committee’s list of around 50 races that are “on the radar.”

The redrawn 3rd District leans more toward Republicans than the district Axne won in 2020, but Axne said she plans to win reelection and see some other Iowa seats flip back to blue.

“I plan on coming back with two other great colleagues. I’m doing everything possible to make that happen. I don’t plan on coming back being the lone [Democratic] delegate,” Axne said.

There is a crowded Republican primary to challenge Axne: Des Moines’ Nicole Hasso, Senator from Altoona Zach Nunn, and Garry Leffler, a Republican activist known for driving an American flag-emblazoned tractor at pro-trump events, are all in the running to be the GOP’s nominee.

While Iowa has trended toward Republicans in recent years, Axne said in one-on-one conversations, Democratic values resonate with voters. She pointed to the infrastructure bill Congress passed last year, which is bringing an estimated $5 billion to Iowa for roads, bridges, broadband, and water quality.

“Who’s working for Iowa?” Axne said. “Who’s working for rural America? It’s Democrats. It’s not Republicans, they are gutting rural Iowa.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks in a Daily Iowan interview at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Gabby Drees)

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, said he is planning to keep his political approach consistent as he approaches his eighth run for a Senate seat he’s held for decades.

Grassley first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1980 and has swept each reelection race since.

“I want to emphasize how it isn’t different, because I’ve approached reelection from this standpoint: Just continue doing the very best job you can, where you are and what you’re doing, and continue to do it the best you can, is the best evidence for the voters to return you,” he said.

Grassley’s top Democratic challenger is former Rep. Abby Finkeanuer. He also faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City.

At 88, critics of Grassley have raised concern about his age as he seeks another term in the Senate.

“I faced the same question six years ago, when I was 81 or 82, and I’m still alive,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, speaks in a Daily Iowan interview at the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Gabby Drees)

Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, is running for her second term. She said issues like border security and inflation could motivate voters to support Republicans in the midterms.

“I think Americans are ready for a change in leadership in Congress, because they see the policies coming up of Nancy Pelosi’s supposed leadership here and unfortunately, they’re not seeing solutions to all the real crises that they’re facing,” Hinson said.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, won her reelection to a six-year-term in 2020. She won’t be on the ballot this year, but said she expects the House to win seats and take the majority.

She said there is a pathway for Republicans to take the Senate, as well.

“I think as Iowans look at the inflation – highest we have had in 40 years – if they look at the extreme level of spending coming from the federal government, Iowans are dismayed about that, if they look at even their gas and energy prices, they are very, very upset about that,” Ernst said. “So, I think all of these things will translate into Republican victories in the fall.”