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Kim Reynolds wins re-election as Iowa governor
The Republican incumbent was seen as a sizable favorite over Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear
DES MOINES — Kim Reynolds has been chosen by Iowans to serve another four years as the state’s governor.
Reynolds, the Republican incumbent who has been Iowa’s governor since 2017 and the state’s first female governor, was reelected Tuesday over Democrat Deidre DeJear, a Des Moines small businesswoman and activist, and Libertarian Rick Stewart, an activist and former business owner from Cedar Rapids.
The Associated Press called the race for Reynolds just after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
“From the very beginning, this campaign has been about Iowa. It’s been about you. Because it’s the people of Iowa who make this state what it is: hardworking, innovative, committed to each other,” Reynolds said Tuesday night from Iowa Republicans’ campaign headquarters in downtown Des Moines.
Reynolds over the past six years has signed into law a string of Republican-led priorities — including three rounds of state income tax cuts, the final of which will gradually set a “flat tax” for all Iowans at 3.9 percent. Reynolds also has signed into law multiple rounds of stronger guidelines for elections, including a dramatic reduction of the time period for early voting; requirements for in-person learning at schools and a prohibition on face mask requirements in class during a pandemic; added legal protections for law enforcement officers; and a ban on transgender girls playing in girls school sports.
Reynolds also has overseen a state budget that, as a result of statehouse Republicans’ management and an influx of federal funding from the Democratic administration, now has a nearly $2 billion surplus in addition to reserve accounts that total another $2 billion.
One big-ticket agenda item Reynolds has not achieved is her proposal to shift $55 million in taxpayer funding from public schools to private school tuition assistance. Reynolds said throughout the campaign that she would make another pitch for that program in 2023; she even campaigned against incumbent Republican state legislators who were not supportive of her proposal in the Legislature earlier this year.
Whether Reynolds will have the votes in 2023 remains to be seen, but on Tuesday night she signaled she will try again.
“Our message for you tonight is this: We are not stopping. We are not slowing down. I am so excited to get back to work and to lay out a bold, conservative agenda and to follow through on what we say we are going to do,” she said. “It is going to be an agenda where you keep more of your money, where our schools are thriving and all parents have choice.”
On the campaign trail, Reynolds touted all those legislative moves and frequently criticized not opponent DeJear but Democratic President Joe Biden.
DeJear, who would have become the first Black woman elected governor in not only Iowa but the country, instead loses a second consecutive statewide race. She also ran unsuccessfully for Iowa Secretary of State in 2018.
DeJear owns a small consulting business in Des Moines and has been active in previous campaigns before she was a candidate. She worked on multiple presidential campaigns in Iowa: for Kamala Harris in 2019 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
“I wish the conversation tonight was going to go a little bit different. But I’ll tell you, I am extremely proud of the progress we have been able to make,” DeJear said at Iowa Democrats’ campaign headquarters, also in downtown Des Moines. “While we came up short in this campaign cycle for this specific campaign, we came up short with the numbers, I say we won as it related to progress.”
DeJear pledged to stay involved, saying she’s “not going anywhere.”
“Stay mighty in your convictions and know that every bit of work that we put in this campaign was worth it. And don’t you let anybody tell you different,” she said.
According to polling and fundraising, Iowa’s gubernatorial election was never particularly close.
Reynolds raised $11.2 million to DeJear’s $2.4 million over the course of the cycle, a nearly 5-to-1 advantage, according to state campaign fundraising records through Nov. 1. And most polls throughout the campaign showed Reynolds with a double-digit lead.
Reynolds was Clarke County treasurer for four terms before being elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008. In 2010, she was chosen as Terry Branstad’s running mate in his attempt to return to the governor’s office. They won, and Reynolds served as Branstad’s lieutenant governor until 2017, when he was named U.S. ambassador to China.
In 2018, Reynolds ran for a four-year term and defeated Democrat and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell by just less than 3 percentage points. In that election, Hubbell made it a close race despite winning only 11 of Iowa’s 99 counties and three of the state’s four congressional districts.
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