116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Republicans ousted two 40-year Democratic incumbents and could have a clean sweep of statewide offices following a midterm election where the GOP further solidified its control over state government.
More than 4,000 votes, however, were still outstanding Wednesday in Warren and Des Moines counties after technical issues prevented some tabulations from being downloaded or uploaded.
It’s enough to impact the race of State Auditor, where Democratic incumbent Rob Sand was narrowly leading Republican challenger Todd Halbur by about 3,000 votes, or slightly more than a quarter of a percent of the vote cast in the race. All results are unofficial.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, the state’s top election official, has requested administrative recounts in any impacted precincts. Recounts are scheduled to take place Thursday.
“I will ensure the ballots will be counted and the integrity of Iowa’s elections will be maintained,” Pate posted to Twitter.
Des Moines County Auditor Terri Johnson said results are delayed because of a problem involving uncounted absentee ballots.
Johnson said the county processed 4,431 absentees, but results for only 3,600 ballots were showing up during the vote count Tuesday night due to an issue uploading results from a ballot scanner to a laptop. Rather than trying to figure out which batches of scanned ballots did not upload, Johnson said she’s requesting a machine recount of all 4,400-plus absentee ballots.
“We notified the Secretary of State’s Office that night and let them know we had an issue and that I would be requesting an administrative recount,” Johnson said. “In the 18 to 19 years I’ve been doing this, this is the first time I’ve ever had to do an administrative recount. Everybody’s vote should count and I just want to make sure it’s correct.”
The Des Moines County supervisors will meet Thursday for a special board meeting to vote on the request for an administrative recount of absentee ballots. Once approved, Johnson said the recount would commence shortly thereafter.
“Hopefully, we’ll get done in four to five hours, if not sooner,” she said.
Warren County Auditor Traci VanderLinden said election officials ran into issues with tabulators at five precincts after polls closed. She said election workers noticed tabulations “did not get downloaded to the thumb drive when they brought it back to us.”
VanderLinden said county officials will conduct an administrative recount of possibly some 2,000 ballots Thursday using different machines. The recounts will be overseen by officials from both political parties.
Iowans vote on paper ballots, and tabulators are not connected to the internet.
“Although we are waiting on counties to finish their work and ensure every Iowan has their voice heard, we are confident based on Rob’s lead and the small number of votes outstanding that he has been reelected,” Zach Meunier, Sand’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
Halbur did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.
Sand, 40, a lawyer, served in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office from 2010 to 2017 as a prosecutor of public corruption cases before being elected state auditor in 2018.
The office is responsible for auditing the financial operations of Iowa’s state and local governments and provides guidance to CPA firms performing such audits.
Halbur, 55, owns a school supply distribution company and is a licensed real estate agent. He also served as chief financial officer at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, which dismissed him in 2018. However, he was recently awarded $1 million by a Polk County jury as the result of a whistleblower lawsuit against the division and its administrator for wrongful termination.
Republican challengers on Tuesday unseated the longest-serving state attorney general and state treasurer in U.S. history, according to unofficial election results from 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Brenna Bird — who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and more than 70 Iowa sheriffs — bested Democratic incumbent Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who was hoping for his 11th term as Iowa’s attorney general.
Similarly, Democratic incumbent Mike Fitzgerald lost his title as state treasurer to Republican challenger and Davenport state lawmaker Roby Smith.
Miller, 78, had been the Iowa Attorney General since 1979, aside from a four-year break when he ran unsuccessfully for governor. He was the longest serving state attorney general in U.S. history.
Bird, 46, has served as the county attorney for Fremont, Guthrie and Audubon counties. She worked as former Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King’s counsel and chief of staff until 2010. After that, she worked as Gov. Terry Branstad’s legal counsel until 2015.
“I am looking forward to the next four years because we are going to back the blue. We are going to help crime get down. We are going to enforce the Constitution on the federal government,” Bird said at a Republican watch party in Des Moines.
“Despite this and the results, I’m very thankful to the voters that have given me the chance 10 times in 40 years to be the attorney general,” Miller said Tuesday. “I’m deeply indebted.”
Bird’s pitch to voters focused on two major planks: supporting law enforcement and suing the Biden administration for what she sees as federal overreach.
Fitzgerald, 70, was first elected in 1982. He said if he was reelected, he would continue promoting the state treasurer’s programs and would want to start a 401(k) program for people without access to a work retirement plan.
Smith, 44, worked for 10 years as a banker before running for the Iowa Legislature, where he has been a senator for 12 years.
Smith said he would advocate for tax cuts, promote financial literacy and increase the state's investment rating on its 529 College Savings program — a tax-advantaged savings plan.
The treasurer serves as the state’s banker. The office manages taxes paid to the state, invests the state’s money and administrates savings programs.
Secretary of State
In a race between two candidates with Linn County ties, Republican incumbent Paul Pate won his third consecutive term as Iowa’s secretary of state over Democratic contender Joel Miller.
The secretary of state oversees Iowa’s elections, supervises county auditors and handles the state’s business filings.
Pate, 64, is a former mayor of Cedar Rapids and state legislator. Miller, 67, has been Linn County’s auditor since 2007 and is a former mayor of Robins.
Secretary of Agriculture
Republican incumbent Mike Naig defeated his Democratic challenger, John Norwood, to secure another four-year term.
Naig, 44, had been working as deputy secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship when, in 2018, he was promoted to the post after former Secretary Bill Northey accepted a position in the federal ag department. Later that year, Naig won election to a full, four-year term as ag secretary.
Norwood, 58, a business owner and Polk County Soil and Water commissioner, said if he won his race, he would’ve wanted to expedite Iowa’s work on improving water quality and foster an agricultural system that would be built to last.
During an interview, Naig praised his department’s responses to flooding, droughts, a derecho, return of the bird flu and a pandemic.
Caleb McCullough and Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.
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