Des Moines Register: Democrat Cindy Axne beats 2018 rival David Young for second time
November 2, 2020
Heading into Tuesday night, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne hoped conditions were right in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District to recreate her 2018 victory over former U.S. Rep David Young.
Young conceded the race late Tuesday, before the Associated Press projected Axne as the victor in the district that covers Des Moines and southwest Iowa. At about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the AP called the race for Axne.
Preliminary results from the Iowa Secretary of State show Axne repeated her 2018 path to victory of carving out a large margin of support in Polk County and keeping losses in the other 15 counties from overwhelming that lead. The unofficial figures showed an overall narrower margin of victory than two years ago, with her winning by less than 1.5 percentage points, or by about 6,000 votes, versus 2.2 percentage points or 7,700 votes in 2018. Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder won about 15,000 votes, or 3.4% of the total in the 2020 election.
“I was able to hold my own in our rural counties, even though across the state that was difficult for Democrats,” Axne said in an interview Wednesday morning. “I think a lot of that was that folks understood: I follow through on what I said.”
She cited efforts on biofuel tax credits, farm aid and removing the “Cadillac tax” on some employer-sponsored health care packages, as well as a willingness to break with or challenge party leadership with helping her in those areas.
Iowa, like much of the nation, experienced a blue wave in 2018 that swept Axne and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer into Congress, making them the first women from Iowa elected to the House. Their victories also tilted a majority of the state’s four-person U.S. House delegation into the Democrats’ favor, 3 to 1.
Late Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported that Finkenauer’s seat had flipped to Republican Ashley Hinson, Republicans also won the reliably red 4th Congressional District, with state Sen. Randy Feenstra replacing U.S. Rep. Steve King.Get the Iowa Politics newsletter in your inbox.
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The 2nd Congressional District remained too close to call late Wednesday afternoon.
Axne acknowledged her party’s gloomy outlook in her victory speech, delivered over video at about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. She called her win “one of the only bright stars in Iowa tonight.”
“I feel obligated to remind you that this election doesn’t mark the end of the hard times we face in Iowa,” Axne said. “It can, however, mark the beginning of a new direction in the fight to get us back on track. And while it’s too early to really understand exactly what our government will look like in January, it will be important to come together to fix the issues facing our nation.”
In the interview Wednesday, Axne said early signs of Republicans holding the Senate seem to indicate the nation is in for more gridlock. That could put Democrats on defense to protect the Affordable Care Act from being repealed, versus chasing Axne’s policy goal of allowing people to buy into a government-run health insurance program. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ends up winning (that race was also too close to call Wednesday at 1:45 p.m.) she does hope that could lead to opportunity on that front.
“We will continue to have gridlock, probably — I hope we don’t — over the answer of what (health care) should look like,” Axne said. “But given where we’ve been, given the fact that Republicans have consistently wanted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, I have a concern that we’re going to continue to be working on opposite sides of trying to find an answer. It really worries me we could lose protections for Iowans at a time where they’re more important than ever.”
Young conceded the race in a speech at about 11:30 p.m. at the Republican Party of Iowa’s election night watch party Tuesday in downtown Des Moines.
“You win some and you lose some,” Young said. “… We did it all. We had the ground game. But we couldn’t overtake Polk County … We left it all on the table, including my voice.”
It was the only rematch among the Iowa 2020 federal races. Two years ago, Axne won only one county, Polk, but the 30,000-vote margin there and narrower losses in the other counties than for prior Democratic challengers secured her 2.2-percentage-point margin of victory.
Young, who previously served as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff, won the district by 10-plus percentage points in 2014 and 2016.https://www.usatodaynetworkservice.com/tangstatic/html/pdem/sf-q1a2z3be0d353f.min.html
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Axne maintained a steady fundraising lead throughout the election and nearly doubled what Young raised by mid-October, having raised $5.8 million to Young’s $3 million.