Government

Down-ballot hopefuls join TV ad fray

And here you thought there already were too many

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Kim Reynolds, Fred Hubbell, David Young, Cindy Axne, Rod Blum and Abby Finkenauer have been on Iowa television sets more lately than the cast of the “This is Us” family drama.

And just like “This is Us,” these relentless campaign advertisements are driving Iowans to tears. And now the cast of campaign ads is expanding.

With the Nov. 6 election a little more than a week away, campaigns that do not raise quite as much money as the high-profile races are just now going on TV in hopes of grabbing some attention.

Voters typically are less familiar with candidates in down-ballot races — like for state agriculture secretary, or auditor, or Secretary of State. Being able to advertise on television can help those candidates grow name recognition throughout the state.

In the Secretary of State race, both candidates have been on TV recently. Incumbent Republican Paul Pate’s ad features a portrayal of Pate as a “referee” who performs his job without allegiance to his political party. Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear’s first TV ad criticizes Pate for his attendance record in state executive council meetings and a 2016 election mishap in which more than 5,000 absentee ballots in Dallas County were not counted. That, however, was a mistake made by county-level elections officials.

The state ag secretary candidates also are up on TV. Republican Mike Naig, who was promoted to the job earlier this year, has a new TV ad that stresses his work in the office over the past few months, including his advocacy for expanded trade markets for Iowa farmers and businesses. Democratic challenger Tim Gannon’s first ad stresses his experience working in the federal ag department under former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and portrays Naig as beholden to corporate campaign donors. Gannon’s ad also calls him “the only farmer” in the race; Naig was raised on a farm but has worked in agribusiness and for the past five years in the state ag secretary’s office.

In the auditor’s race, Democratic challenger Rob Sand’s well-funded campaign has been on the TV airwaves for a little longer than the other down-ballot candidates. Sand has two TV ads running: one that gives a lighthearted portrayal of his desire for efficiency — he keeps turning off lights in the house while his wife, Christine, speaks to the camera — and one that highlights his investigative work in the state Attorney General’s Office.

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Republican incumbent Mary Mosiman has not gone on TV with a campaign ad. She has produced a series of online ads that stress her credentials as the only accountant running for the office. Mosiman has made a central point of her campaign her assertion that an accountant is best-qualified to run the state auditor’s office.

Those ads have joined the chorus of others filling Iowa’s airwaves. And one could argue these ads could be even more important than those from the higher-profile races, given these candidates’ opportunity to introduce themselves and make their cases to the voters.

Flipping governor mansions THIS FALL?

Much curiosity is being given to whether Democrats will gain majorities in the U.S. House and Iowa House in the upcoming elections. But “Governing” magazine suggests another flip could be in the works: the majority of governors.

There are 33 Republican and 16 Democratic governors going into the midterm elections. But with Republicans having to defend more incumbents and 15 races rated as either a tossup or leaning Democratic, a “Governing” report suggests Democrats are within range of achieving a majority of governors.

“If the political winds continue to blow in the Democrats’ favor, the party’s net gain could range from seven to 10 seats,” the report says.

“Governing” rates Iowa’s gubernatorial race as a tossup.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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