Campaign finance reports show competition in Grassley, Axne races

By: - July 20, 2022 12:46 pm

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and former Navy Adm. Mike Franken will face off for one of Iowa’s U.S. Senate seats Nov. 8, 2022. (Photos courtesy Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch and screenshots from Iowa PBS)

Incumbent Iowa Republican candidates for national office have more money than their Democratic challengers, new campaign finance reports show.

But Federal Election Commission reports also show that in two of the state’s most competitive races, Democratic candidates have significantly out-raised Republicans. Democratic Senate candidate Michael Franken raised over $1,750,000 in the most recent fundraising period, while longtime U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley raised around $609,000.

Grassley, 88, still holds the lead in cash on hand, with just over $4 million in his war chest. In comparison, Franken has about $1.1 million on hand. The senator, who is seeking his eighth term in office, has also raised more than his opponent in the overall election cycle, having collected nearly $6.2 million in total, while Franken has raised a total of $4.6 million.

This is the first fundraising checkpoint since Franken, 64, won the Democratic primary to take on Grassley. The senator’s campaign staff pointed out that in U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s re-election campaign in 2020, Democrat Theresa Greenfield had raised more than $10 million by this point in the election cycle.

“Iowa Democrats must be disappointed that their ‘star’ recruit is in such a weak financial position,” Grassley’s campaign communication director Michaela Sundermann said in a news release.

While the retired Navy admiral outraised Grassley in this period, polls and election forecasts still show Franken behind in the race. A July Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found Grassley ahead by 8%, winning 47% to 39%.

An 8-point lead, however, is much weaker support than Grassley has typically received in elections. Since he became a senator, Democratic challengers have not won more than 40% of the vote against Grassley. Previous Iowa Polls have shown Grassley polling above 50%.

There are no polls showing Franken leading, but campaign staff say the latest results, alongside recent fundraising numbers, show a competitive race. Franken campaign manager Julie Stauch called the filings a “watershed moment.”

“It’s clear Iowans have had enough of Sen. Grassley’s failed leadership and lack of results,” Stauch said in a news release.

Republicans lead in three House Districts

Rep. Cindy Axne, IA-03, announced Nov. 12 that she will seek reelection to the U.S. House. (Headshot courtesy of Axne’s office, map courtesy of Iowa Legislative Services Agency)

In Iowa’s House races, Republican incumbent U.S. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra all outraised their general election opponents by at least $100,000.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa’s sole Democrat in Washington, is working with more money. Axne raised just over $646,000 in the most recent fundraising period, while her opponent, Iowa Sen. Zach Nunn, raised around $254,000. She has raised more than $4.3 million this election cycle and has more than $3 million in cash on hand.

Nunn has raised more than $1 million this cycle and has just $300,000 in the bank.

Axne has the advantage in money, but election forecasters are predicting Republican gains in Iowa’s 3rd District after redistricting. In 2020, the two-term representative won reelection in a district that former President Donald Trump narrowly carried.

Under Iowa’s new borders, the district encompasses more rural, conservative areas. Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, election handicappers, both changed their predictions for the district to “leans Republican” after Nunn’s primary win. However, the July Iowa Poll found more 3rd District likely voters want a Democrat to represent them in the U.S. House than a Republican, at 47% to 44%.

Nunn has won significant national Republican support this election cycle. Figures such as U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have joined him, as well as other Republican candidates, on the campaign trail this year.

Other Republican House candidates also received national support and endorsements in this year’s races. While much of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s focus in Iowa has been on keeping Axne in office, the party campaign arm has also attacked Reps. Hinson and Miller-Meeks on issues such as abortion and cuts to funding for family farms.

In the representatives’ districts, Iowa’s 1st and 2nd, likely voters favored Republican candidates by over 10% in the recent Iowa Poll.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.