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Iowa Republicans emerge from primaries with big voter advantage
Democrats lose 15,000 voters in the state, new data show
Iowa Republicans came out of the June primary elections with a big advantage in registered voters.
Compared with July 2021, Republicans in the state have gained about 20,000 voters while Democrats have lost about 15,000.
According to the most recent voter data from the Iowa Secretary of State, 681,871 Iowans are registered as Republicans and 597,720 are registered as Democrats. Independent and third-party voters account for 570,364 registered voters. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Iowa by more than 84,000 voters, the highest lead the party has commanded in more than two years.
This November, Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, are up for re-election and face Democratic challengers Deidre DeJear and Mike Franken, respectively. Voters also will choose candidates in the state's four congressional districts and dozens of state Senate and House races.
Republicans’ gains came entirely in the month of June leading up to the primary election — close to 25,000 voters registered with the party between June and July. The party had a contested U.S. Senate primary as well as a competitive primary in the 3rd Congressional District, and several Statehouse primaries driven largely by candidates' positions on Reynolds’ proposal for private school tuition vouchers, which did not pass the GOP-controlled Iowa House earlier this year.
Democrats, who saw fewer contested elections but a competitive U.S. Senate race, gained more than 5,000 voters between June and July, but it wasn’t enough to close a 20,000 voter dip between July 2021 and June 2022.
“It’s been put on hyper drive, quite frankly, because of (President Joe) Biden's policies,” Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufma
nn said in an interview on the increase in registered Republicans. “… This is now Biden, without comparison to anything or anyone else, being perceived as failing us on the economy.”
Democrats still outnumber Republicans in three of the state's four congressional districts, excluding Western Iowa’s 4th District, though the gap between the parties in those three districts has closed some in the past year.
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement that the party is working to support grassroots organizing networks to bring voters into the party.
“Iowa Democrats will leverage our advantage and motivate no-party and moderate Republicans to support our candidates,” he said. “We know Iowans agree with us on the most important issues: Public dollars are for public schools, wages you can raise a family on and respect for reproductive health care decisions. The Iowa Democratic Party’s job in the coming months is to prove to Iowa voters that Democrats have their back."
The numbers reflect national trends that signify dissatisfaction with Biden’s administration and economic anxieties fueled by rising inflation, which Republicans have capitalized on to criticize the president and Democrats broadly.
While the Iowa Secretary of State’s data doesn’t show how many people switched their registration from Democrat to Republican, a report from the Associated Press found that more than 1 million voters nationwide had left the Democratic Party for the GOP in the last year. In Iowa, the AP found that people who switched to the Republican Party was close to double those who switched to the Democratic Party.
The national trend is most pronounced in the suburbs and smaller cities, according to the AP, where wealthy, college educated voters were a key bloc for Democrats in 2020. In Polk County, there are about 400 fewer Democrats and 1,600 more Republicans than there were a year ago. Gloria Mazza, chair of the Polk County Republican Party, said she’s seen more people switch from independent to Republican in the county, rather than switching from Democrat.
“I think we would see a lot of it in the suburbs, this movement back to the party that maybe we had lost in the last four years or so,” she said.
Some Democrats are hoping the June U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and gave states the power to regulate abortions will help drive votes in November. Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said voters in Des Moines suburbs are angry about the decision, which he hopes will bring some less engaged voters back into the party.
“They had won some races and they thought maybe they could disengage after Donald Trump was out of office, and now we’re seeing a re-engagement from a lot of suburban women and suburban people in general,” he said.
Both parties are working to register voters in the four months leading up to the general election. Brett Nilles, chair of the Linn County Democrats, said the county party has set up voter registration drives at abortion rights protests and other community events in order to reach people who care about Democratic issues but may not be registered to vote.
“We’re always trying to look at that, in terms of where are potential voters who aren’t registered that we can identify,” he said.
Kaufmann said he hopes to continue the momentum into the election by driving up voter registration and encouraging Republicans to vote both in person and absentee.
“This will be the largest effort for a midterm election for Republicans in Iowa history,” he said. “We’re going for it. I am running the Republican Party of Iowa as if we are 10 points down.”