WATERLOO — Eric Giddens is Iowa’s newest state senator after winning the special election for Senate District 30.
The election took place Tuesday, more than a month after Jeff Danielson resigned his seat on Valentine’s Day to accept a position as American Wind Energy Association’s central region director.
Giddens, 45, of Cedar Falls, a Democrat, defeated Republican Walt Rogers and Libertarian Fred Perryman for the seat and will have to be re-elected in 2020.
The election saw Giddens win with 7,610 votes to Rogers’ 5,631, according to unofficial totals from the Black Hawk County Auditor’s office. Of the 45,113 registered voters, 13,398 ballots were cast, or 29.7 percent of eligible voters.
Giddens had 56 percent of the vote, Rogers had 42 percent and Perryman had a little over 1 percent. There were seven write-in ballots.
Absentee ballots made a big difference. Rogers won 11 of the 23 reported precincts, but Giddens brought in 3,941 absentee ballots to Rogers’ 2,125, giving Giddens an early lead he was able to hold on to.
Giddens plans to keep education his priority.
“The future of public education is a big concern of mine,” he said.
District 30 covers all of Cedar Falls and parts of Waterloo and Hudson.
“It’s exciting. What can I say,” Giddens said. “There's so many people that put all hands on deck to make this happen; that shows the importance that people recognized in this election.”
A large victory party was held for Giddens at the Octopus on College Hill in Cedar Falls, with members of the public patting him on the back almost every minute and some saying, “Senator Giddens. I like the sound of that.” Rep. Abby Finkenauer gave him a congratulatory call shortly after his victory was announced.
The election results still need to be confirmed and certified.
“I don’t know exactly when I’ll be sworn in,” Giddens said.
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Winter weather and melting snow had posed an obstacle to campaigning. Candidates have had to cancel several outdoor canvassing events because of excessive snow or low temperatures.
Flooding forced Black Hawk County to move one of its polling places for Cedar Falls Ward 1, Precinct 1, who normally vote at the Eagle’s Club on Lone Tree Road, to Cedar Falls City Hall.
Satellite voting sites were set up last week on the University of Northern Iowa campus and the Diamond Event Center. Election Day fell during Iowa’s spring break, which pushed a lot of student activists to encourage their classmates to get out the vote. Both college Republicans and Democrats started organizing and meeting with Giddens and Rogers.
At least 1,100 ballots were cast in the week leading up to the election. More than 800 of those ballots came from the UNI campus satellite voting site.
The election also was timed as Democratic presidential candidates were visiting the state.
At least nine candidates came to the Cedar Valley to throw their support behind Giddens, and more sent videos and campaign workers.
Rogers has said he wasn’t concerned about the presidential candidates campaigning for his opponent. Instead he had videos of support from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst.
The special election is estimated to have cost $41,500. The auditor’s office doesn’t have the money in its budget to cover the costs and may need to do a budget amendment later in the year.
The candidates brought in nearly $90,000 in contributions during the campaign.
Rogers raised $45,070 to Giddens’ $43,600.50, but Giddens had 213 individual contributors to Rogers 80 contributors.
Rogers congratulated Giddens on his win and thanked all of his supporters and donors.
“I know when a door closes, God will open another one, so I’m confident that he will take care of me,” Rogers said.