WATERLOO — The 2018 midterm election shows Iowa remains a purple state, analysts say.
Tuesday night, two congressional seats flipped to Democrats, but Republicans maintained control of the Iowa House, Senate and governor’s mansion.
“Iowa is still a swing state. Democrats can win these elections for federal office,” said Christopher Larimer, University of Northern Iowa political science professor. “I think it speaks to the overall competitiveness in Iowa.”
The election of Democrat Dave Williams of Cedar Falls over incumbent Republican Walt Rogers in House District 60 has turned Black Hawk County’s legislative contingent all blue.
“I’m pretty proud of the work all the people in Black Hawk County have done,” said state Sen. Bill Dotzler of Waterloo. “If you look at our vote totals across, it’s pretty clear Black Hawk County residents think their representatives are on the right track.”
Dotzler said it was unfortunate more Democrats weren’t elected across the state.
“I think it’s pretty clear when you have an opponent like Dave Williams, who was funded pretty equally to get his message out, people believed what he was talking about,” Dotzler said.
Dotzler has been in the minority party for half of his 22 years in the Legislature.
“It’s time to govern, and we need to work together to solve some of these problems,” he said. “We’re in deep trouble when it comes to financing the things that I think Iowans feel are important.”
Dotzler wants to address the severe shortage of talent in Iowa and work with leadership to create a winning formula for the state.
“It isn’t, to me, who’s in charge. It’s who’s going to work to move Iowa forward in the right direction,” Dotzler said. “We need to be talking about a brain gain instead of a brain drain.”
State Auditor-elect Rob Sand won more votes than Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell in Iowa’s first race without straight-party voting.
If Hubbell had the same support as candidates in the congressional districts he would’ve won, Dotzler said.
The high-profile race for Iowa secretary of state wasn’t as close as the governor or state auditor races. Democrat Dedeire DeJear lost to incumbent Paul Pate by more than 100,000 votes in the unofficial tally.
The power of the incumbency in Iowa is strong, but individual candidates can make a difference, Larimer said.
“Both sides came away with something they can talk about as they campaign for 2020,” Larimer said.
But for the immediate future, Republicans retained control of state government.
“My guess is that since they still have unified control, Republicans are going to try to finish their agenda,” Larimer said. “I’m guessing the Republican Party views, basically, that they have two sessions left to get done what they want to get done.”
There’s always a chance the Legislature could flip in the Democrats favor in 2020, Larimer said. Democrats tend to vote in greater numbers during presidential years.
“It’s generally more competitive when you have a larger electorate,” he said.
Young voter turnout doubled at Cedar Falls precincts located near the University of Northern Iowa and Luther College in Decorah, and tripled in Ames, said Frances Swanson, Iowa state media manager with Nextgen America.
“Nationally the exit polls have young people favoring Democrats at about 65 percent,” Swanson said.