Individuals, groups offer endorsements ahead of June 2 primaries in Iowa

Students wait in line to vote for the 2018 midterm election Nov. 6, 2018, inside Buchanan Hall.

Jake Webster

With just weeks to go until the June 2 primaries in Iowa, endorsements are rolling in for several candidates seeking federal office in the state.

Brady PAC, a gun-control advocacy outside spending group, unveiled dual endorsements of incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne, D-West Des Moines and U.S. Senate hopeful Theresa Greenfield last week.

“[Greenfield] is, of those four Democratic candidates leading up to the primary, we think that she is far and away the most likely to beat [Sen. Joni] Ernst,” said Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC. “Again, the fundraising is there, the national attention is there, the respect and admiration within Iowa we’re seeing is there and we see her being the one to win.”

Axne faces a potential rematch against former Rep. David Young if he wins his own primary election against challenger Bill Schafer. She won a tight race in 2018, defeating Young by just over 2 percent.

“You know it’s a tough race, and she only won by a couple points I think in ‘18,” Lemek said. “It’s a tough race but she’s doing the things we need her to do. We feel confident in a victory, she’s really just done an incredible job on the fundraising and she’s got the support again of many national groups and a lot of her colleagues as well.”

Joni Ernst is running unopposed in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, all but guaranteeing her renomination and setting her up for a general election matchup against one of the four remaining Democratic hopefuls.

Ernst secured a recent endorsement from the Republican Jewish Coalition’s political action committee.

“Joni Ernst has kept her promise to target wasteful federal spending, a.k.a. ‘make Washington squeal,’” the group wrote in their endorsement. “She’s a member of the GOP’s Senate leadership team, and she’s led the effort to confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees on the Judiciary Committee. As she seeks a second term, she’s being heavily targeted by Democrats who are emboldened after flipping two Iowa House seats from red to blue in 2018.”

Greenfield, who has received the most support from Democratic Party-affiliated groups and elected officials in Washington D.C., faces businessman Eddie Mauro, attorney Kimberly Graham, and retired Vice Adm. Mike Franken in the party’s Senate primary.

Franken received the endorsement of the Des Moines Register’s editorial board on May 7, he has touted that endorsement in a fresh TV ad.

“The retired three-star admiral is the candidate who is the most qualified, experienced and ready to hit the ground running,” the editorial board wrote. “As the nation faces unprecedented health and economic crises, he has come back to Iowa just as the times demand someone like him.”

Franken has also received the endorsement of Cal Woods, a former candidate for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in Iowa, and two veterans currently serving in Congress, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.

Graham, seeking the progressive mantle in the primary, was spotted at campaign events for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. ahead of the February caucuses in Iowa.

Graham has received the endorsement of Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, among others.

“The candidates winning across this country and changing this party for the better are candidates who are bold and who have a clear vision for the future,” Walker said in his endorsement of Graham, according to her website. “This is the stuff of great leaders, and we’re in a time where we desperately need them. We need to repeal and replace Joni Ernst, and the best person to do it is Kimberly Graham, a candidate for the people.”

Mauro, who is largely self-funding his campaign, has loaned the campaign more than $4 million as of the March 31 Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing deadline, according to FEC filings.

The Des Moines-area businessman has received the endorsements of two Des Moines state lawmakers, Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines and Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, along with Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo and Rep. Charlie McConkey, D-Council Bluffs. Various other local officials from around Iowa have also endorsed Mauro.

“Eddie’s not running just for himself,” Gaines said in her endorsement of Mauro’s candidacy, according to his website. “He’s running to fight for diversity. For our community. Eddie has a proven track record of leadership. Of showing up in my community. That’s why I’m endorsing him for United States Senate.”

In Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, home to Story County, incumbent Rep. Steve King, R-Storm Lake, faces a wide field in his reelection bid. Since his narrow win in 2018, defeating Democrat J.D. Scholten by little more than 3 percent, King has been stripped of his committee assignments in Congress and consistently out-fundraised by challengers.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, one of King’s challengers, has also received endorsements from traditionally Republican-aligned groups, including the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“There is nothing more important than defending innocent life,” Feenstra said in a statement after the NRLC’s endorsement. “In the Iowa Senate, I was proud that we defunded Planned Parenthood, ended taxpayer funding of abortion and defined that life begins at conception. In Congress, I’ll join President Trump as we continue to protect innocent life and create a culture of life in America. This incredibly important endorsement is further proof that I am the effective conservative leader with a proven record of defending life.” 

Feenstra’s candidacy has also been boosted by endorsements from around 20 of his fellow state legislators.

Others vying for the Republican nod in the 4th District include businessman Steve Reeder, Jeremy Taylor, a former Woodbury County supervisor and Bret Richards, a businessman from Irwin, Iowa. 

The College Republicans of Iowa State endorsed Taylor in November.

“Jeremy Taylor has shown that he can provide effective conservative leadership, and would make the residents of IA4 proud in Washington,” said the organization’s then-President Jacob Minock, graduate student in business administration in a statement in November. “He’s Pro-Life, Pro-Constitution, Pro-Gun, and Pro-God; which means we’re Pro-Jeremy Taylor.”

Whichever Republican wins the nomination in the 4th will face Scholten, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the district.

Early voting is already underway in person and by mail absentee voting for the June 2 primaries. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is encouraging Iowans to stay home and vote by mail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.