Red wave hits Iowa in clean sweep for Republicans holding federal office

The midterm election on Tuesday showed statewide success for the Republican party. As Iowa slips from a swing state to a red state, some believe it can still be competitive.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a watch party for Iowa Republicans on Election Day at the Hilton Downtown in Des Moines on Nov. 8, 2022.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Republicans swept nearly all statewide races on Tuesday night in what many candidates and voters called a “red wave” this midterm election. Despite the results, elected officials said that Iowa can still be a competitive state for both parties.

As results rolled in on Tuesday night, Iowans saw more seats flipped from Democrat to Republican. Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District found new republican leadership, and Iowa’s Attorney General and state Treasurer went from Democrat to Republican. Many state house Democratic seats also flipped.

While Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been in the Senate for 41 years, held onto his seat, he said Mike Franken was his closest challenge yet.

Franken lost to Grassley by about 150,000 votes.

“I assured him and I want to assure all of you: I will work hard for every Iowan for the next six years, and for those that didn’t support me in the election, Iowans are Iowans as far as I know,” Grassley said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds also held onto her position Tuesday night with 58.1 percent of votes compared to her opponents Democrat Deidre DeJear with 39.5 percent and Libertarian Rick Stewart with 2.4 percent of votes.

Reynolds said she has differences with DeJear, but that she respects anyone willing to put their name on the ballot.

“We both want Iowa to succeed and that’s how it should be because at the end of the day, at the end of the campaign, we’re all Iowans and we’re all in this together,” Reynolds said.

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that the red wave was exciting for his party, but the state is a deep purple because Iowa has the tendency to be a battleground swing state.

“Here’s the first thing I would do if I was a Democrat, to be real honest with you, get every single one of those Democratic leaders, and they can make a difference right now by making sure that Iowa is the first in the nation for the Democratic side,” Kaufmann said. “If the Democrats let that go, that’s not good for them.”

Kaufmann said that even through fully Republican leadership, the Democrats can emerge with extreme relevance if they push their first-in-the-nation caucus status. He said the parties can work together to ensure the presidential election is competitive.

The “red wave” was notable for both parties, as Democrats try to stay positive.

Democrat Tom Miller, the longest-serving Attorney General in Iowa history, lost to Republican Brenna Bird on Tuesday by about 20,000 votes.

By Thursday, all statewide races were called in favor of Republicans. There is, however, one seat that Democrats may still have a hold on. Incumbent Democratic Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand is currently ahead of his opponent Todd Halbur by about 2,500 votes. Until The Associated Press calls the race, voters will not know if the seat has been flipped.

Miller said during his election watch party in Des Moines, he knew a big win from the Republicans was coming but assumed the Democrats could hold a couple of statewide seats.

“We withstood quite a bit, but this wave was just too big and too encompassing,” Miller said in a speech on Tuesday.

One of the closest races in Iowa this election season was between incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and her Republican challenger Zach Nunn, where Axne lost her seat by only 2,000 votes.

Axne was not the only Democratic U.S. congressional candidate to lose their seat. Republicans in New York flipped four seats — the most of any state. While the race for control of the House is still too close to call, Republicans are prepared for the flip.

Either party in the U.S. House needs 218 members in order to take control. As of Thursday night, Republicans have 209 seats and Democrats have 189 from the races that the AP has already called.

In April of 2021, as previously reported by The DI, Iowa politicians and political experts had the same sentiment that the state could not yet be considered red.

Tim Hagle, University of Iowa associate political science professor said, told the DI a year ago, that Iowa is not cemented as a ruby red state with a Republican majority. He said from 2007-2010, Democrats controlled all three branches of the state house.

Voter Jim Vorwey, from Urbandale, Iowa, who attended the Iowa GOP watch party, said he suspected more than a red wave. He suspected a red tsunami.

“We’ve got to turn things around to where we have a government that is working for the people, instead of me trying to work for the government. And that’s kind of what we’re seeing,” Vorwey said.

As an excited supporter of the Republican party, Vorwey said Americans are wanting a change in leadership and what their leaders prioritize. He said this is why the country is seeing so many seats flip to Republican control.

“Whatever the government is going to give you, it’s going to come out of somebody else’s pocket…that’s what we need to fight against,” Vorwey said. “To represent the people that are really the taxpayers, we got to represent the House, as opposed to people that are the loudest who want the House.”