Another Election Day has come and gone. And while there is no doubt voters have spoken, less clear is what they said.
On the national level, Iowa moved from a Republican-dominated congressional delegation to one that’s evenly split between the two parties. It’s also a congressional delegation that, for the first time in state history, has equal gender representation. Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st District and Cindy Axne in the 3rd District are the first two women in history to represent the Hawkeye State in the U.S. House, and part of a national trend that saw Democratic women of color and women of minority religions elevated to national office.
These are no small feats, and provide a clear message that Iowans value the contributions of women, and have been unhappy with the trajectory of one-party rule in Washington, D.C.
The first part of this message also was heard through state-level contests. Kim Reynolds returns as governor, becoming the first woman ever elected to the office by Iowa voters. In Statehouse races throughout the state, female incumbents, Democratic and Republican, fared remarkably well. In January, their numbers will expand as they are joined by at least nine female newcomers who won their contests.
One-party state rule, however, will continue for another two years, as Republicans maintained a majority in each chamber of the Legislature and held the governor’s office. Only two Iowa House seats remain in play, but the outcome of those races won’t tip control. And while it is true additional seats in the House went to Democrats, not enough gains were made to threaten the majority.
Republicans already have been celebrating the election as a victory, as they should. Maintaining one-party control in a state that often has opted for a split Legislature is significant.
Yet a more detailed look at results show a shifting map, one that soon will be affected by a census and redistricting. Geography has become the best predictor of election outcome.
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Iowa’s urban areas are blue and getting bluer. Rural areas are red and getting redder. The hows and whys of this phenomenon are cultural and complicated, requiring far more thought and space than our political hangover allows. For now, we hope state leaders recognize the trend, and can agree that focusing on or giving credence to this urban/rural split won’t be good for anyone.
Voters have spoken, but lawmakers will have the last word. Here’s hoping what they say results in more unification and less division.
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