Adam Zabner, 23-year-old activist, wins Democratic primary for Iowa House 90

Zabner is the prohibitive favorite to win as no Republicans have declared candidacy in the race.


Gabby Drees

Democratic nominee for Iowa House District 90 Adam Zabner celebrates with supporters at his watch party at George’s Buffet in Iowa City on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Zabner won the nomination, receiving 43% of the votes, or 1,999 votes.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

Adam Zabner is the Democratic nominee for Iowa House 90 after winning 43% of the votes in the primary on Tuesday. 

By winning the Democratic primary, Zabner is the prohibitive favorite to win the general election as no Republicans have declared candidacy in the race. 

“The first thing on my mind is, how do I get out and make sure I have a majority? That’s my goal between now and November,” Zabner said. “In the general [election] I want to work as hard as I can to make sure we send Christina Bohannan to Congress and to make sure that we re-elect [Sen.] Kevin Kenny, to make sure we flipped some of these seats in the House and and get a majority or at least closer to one.” 

Surrounded by supporters in “Vote for Adam” t-shirts, illuminated by string lights on the back patio of Iowa City restaurant George’s, Zabner said the biggest issue on his mind is education.

“Iowans want to have the best schools in the country again, that takes funding and we’ve got to get out and do the work to support our teachers, and make sure that they’re getting paid what they deserve, and make sure that our schools have the resources they need to thrive,” Zabner said. 

Zabner won against Andrew Dunn, a 23-year-old University of Iowa student and Democratic organizer, who secured 37 percent of the votes, and Christy Wolfe, who has served as a clerk for her sister, Rep. Mary Wolfe, and has worked as a teacher, who secured 21 percent of the vote. Johnson County had a total turnout of 21.5 percent. 

“It was over 20 [percent] for a midterm primary,” Wolfe said. “That [turnout] speaks really well for the future engagement in Iowa City and the hard work that people hear in terms of participating in the process.”

Wolfe said she will continue to work with others in the state on the issues of education, abortion rights, and gun violence. 

Both Wolfe and Dunn said they will be supporting Zabner in this race. 

“It’s disappointing in one bit, but at the same time it’s directly countered by the feeling of love that I have in the community or being able to get that much support,” Zabner said. 

The House 90 seat was left open by Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, who is pursuing higher office in the U.S. Congress. Bohannan won her Democratic primary in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday in an uncontested race. Bohannan is running to unseat the current Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. 

Bohannan said Zabner is a smart leader she is excited to work with. 

“I think Adams Zabner is terrific. I think that he will be a strong energetic representative for Iowa City,” Bohannan said. “He is a lifelong Iowa citizen and he cares about making Iowa the kind of place that young people and other people want to live and stay.”

Zabner’s parents came to the U.S. from Venezuela 30 years ago. If he wins the general election as anticipated, Zabner will be one of the first Latino Democrats to ever be elected in the Iowa Legislature, which he said he is proud of. 

“I’m so proud of what immigrants in this country and Latinos in particular contribute,” Zabner said.

Iowa House 90 is one of several open Johnson County seats in this primary.

The Iowa House 89 seat was vacated by Rep. Mary Mascher, Iowa City, who is retiring. Eleanor Levin won the Democratic primary to replace her. 

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, is also retiring. Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner won the primary to replace him in Senate District 45. 

No Republicans ran in the primaries for Iowa House District 90 or 89 or Senate District 45. 

Zabner will likely be in the minority party in the upcoming legislative session as Republicans currently hold a trifecta of power in the Iowa state house. In the House Republicans currently hold 60 seats and Democrats hold 40. 

Tuesday night results are not made official until June 14 when results are canvassed.