Accolades are due to all 99 Iowa women whose names appeared on recent primary ballots. Not only did a record-breaking 84 make it through to the general election this fall, but the sheer number of women becoming more involved and willing to lead is already affecting change.
Not only will Gov. Kim Reynolds lead the Iowa ballot in her bid to be elected to a full term as governor, but Deidre DeJear will challenge Paul Pate in the race for secretary of state. If she wins, she’ll become the first African-American to hold statewide office in Iowa.
In two of the state’s four Congressional districts, women battled through hotly contested primaries to earn a spot on the ballot.
Abby Finkenauer in the 1st Congressional District earned 67 percent of the vote in a four-way race. She’ll face Republican incumbent Rod Blum and Libertarian Troy Hageman in the fall and, if the 29-year-old wins, she’ll be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Cindy Axne bested two male opponents in the primary in order to earn an opportunity to take on two more in November. In addition to facing Republican incumbent David Young, Axne will face Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder.
Women won 79 out of 89 legislative contests, which led Dianne Bystrom of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics at Iowa State University to express optimism that the state’s current and all-time-high number of 35 women in the Legislature will be surpassed.
So, from the Statehouse to county government, most Iowa voters will notice more female names on their ballots, which will hopefully result in a government that’s more representative of the populace. While more recent Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement and the election of President Donald Trump may have hastened it, this is a surge that’s been building in Iowa for decades, thanks to statewide gender equity appointment requirements and the work of many partisan and nonpartisan advocacy groups.
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Women, especially those in the Hawkeye State, have long lamented that their typical top priorities — health care, education, collaboration, economic opportunity and all manner of equity — have received short shrift in campaign rhetoric and inadequate public policy debate.
Although several candidates ran unopposed, adding the voices of nearly 100 women to the primary contests elevated the conversation away from negative personality politics. Therefore, we are, for the first time in years, optimistic about the possibility for substantive election year debates.
So, let the general election season begin. And may the best man, or woman, win.
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