Joel Wauters: West Gym - Cedar Falls, IA - October 19, 2018
From two candidates debating the issues on stage, to a visit by a U.S. senator and a gubernatorial rally, the voters of Iowa were enthusiastically engaged during the early fall months of the 2018 midterm elections.
After the political parties select their nominees in early June, candidates turned their attentions towards the November 6 general election. For Democrats, the 2018 race was a chance to redeem themselves. After a difficult election in 2016 with a stunning loss in the race for the White House, it was the goal of many progressive candidates to win as many legislative and state executive offices to change the tide of state, and ultimately, national politics in a nationwide “blue waves.”
As for the Republicans, it felt like damage control was the priority. With two years in the books of conservative leadership in state and federal offices, Republicans were wary of a Democratic blue wave coming to erase majorities in state assemblies and overturn many laws that were past.
“I feel like the country’s at a tipping point,” said Greg Kanz, a Cedar Rapids father of two who attended a political rally in Cedar Rapids on October 30. “We’re either going to go one way or the other, and it’s a crucial time to make a decision.”
In northeast Iowa, three races captivated the minds of voters. For governor and lieutenant governor, which are elected on one ticket, incumbent Republican Kim Reynolds looked to win the governor’s office along with her running mate Adam Gregg for the first time on her own mandate.
Reynolds had succeeded to the position as Lieutenant Governor after her predecessor resigned to take a post in diplomacy a year earlier. Her challenger in the race for the governor’s mansion was businessman Fred Hubbell and his running mate, state senator Rita Hart.
“I’m running for governor of our state to put people first,” Hubbell said at his rally. We need change.”
“One of our highest priorities is to invest in our public education system,” said Hubbell. “We need to create good paying jobs for our hardworking men and women.”
In the race for the first district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Rod Blum faced a formidable challenge in his bid to win a third term in Washington D.C.
”I love this country. I’ve lived the American dream,” said Blum in an October 5 debate in Cedar Falls. “I want to make sure the American dream is available for my children and their grandchildren.”
As the weather began to slowly become cooler, UNI students were active in the political process. On October 23, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California came to the Cedar Falls campus outside of the West Gym to help campaign for Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee running for Iowa Secretary of State.
“The secretary of state is such an important office,” Harris said to the crowd of students. “It will be about upholding one of the most important pillars and symbols of what it means to have a democracy.”
By the time election night finally came, the excitement was nearly at a boiling point. As the results came in, many political pollsters and analysts predictions of a blue wave were confirmed.
Finkenauer claimed victory in the race for the first district congressional seat with a 4.8% win over Blum to become one of the youngest women ever elected to congress, as well as one of the first two women elected to represent their state in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 174 year history of Iowa.
“We as Iowans made very clear exactly who we are,” Finkenauer said during her victory speech before a cheerful and excited crowd in Dubuque. “Tonight, we rejected fear and division. Tonight, we proved we step up for our friends, our family and our neighbors.”
In the race for governor and lieutenant governor, it was Reynolds and Gregg edging out Hubbell and Hart in the closet gubernatorial race in 20 years, while Deidre DeJear fell short of the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, losing to incumbent Republican Paul Pate by just over 104,000 votes.
The elected candidates will take office in January of 2019 to begin new terms as American leaders. From the election of 2018, the voices of Iowans were heard loud in clear, with over 1.3 million voters cast their ballots in the most highly participated midterm election in state history. The voters have spoken. Now the time has come for the leaders to begin to lead.