Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, speaks during a debate Oct. 17, 2022, on Iowa PBS. (Pool photo courtesy of Iowa PBS)
The Associated Press called Iowa’s gubernatorial contest for incumbent Kim Reynolds just minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night.
Fending off a challenge from Democrat Deidre DeJear, the Republican governor won her second full term in office. The early declaration of victory for Reynolds did not come as a surprise for those following Iowa politics: Election polls and predictions consistently found that Reynolds had a sizable lead in the race.
At 9:30 p.m., Reynolds was ahead with 52.7% of the vote to DeJear’s 44.8%. Just over 37% of votes had been counted at that time.
In a victory speech, Reynolds reflected on what has happened in Iowa since she won her first election as governor.
“These last four years, we’ve faced a lot,” Reynolds said. “We’ve faced some significant challenges: A worldwide pandemic, a derecho, tornados, I think we went back and did a little more flooding, a little more drought, and so much more. But I think one thing that we’ve shown is that Iowa can do anything when we stand together — and, our state, of course is better for it. So now we are ready for the next challenge.”
Reynolds shared little about her policy plans while on the campaign trail. She said one of her goals in the upcoming legislative session is the passage of a private school scholarship program that failed to win legislative approval earlier this year.
While campaigning, the governor highlighted her record with the GOP-controlled Legislature on issues such as education and the economy. She argued Iowa recovered more quickly than other states from the COVID-19 pandemic because of measures she took, such her fall 2020 requirement that schools offer at least 50% of their instruction in the classroom. She also touted recent tax-cut packages and the state’s budget surplus of $1.9 billion.
“I like Kim Reynolds, and I like what she’s done,” said Renee Schon of rural Glidden, who cast a ballot on Tuesday. “I like the direction she’s taken Iowa.”
Reynolds has contrasted her leadership with that of President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in other states.
“Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, they are fundamentally trying to change who we are as a country,” Reynolds told the crowd at a Trump rally in Sioux City. “Well, aren’t you glad you live in the freedom-loving state of Iowa?”
While Reynolds has said life in Iowa is better than in other states, her Democratic challenger said Iowans are struggling. At campaign events, DeJear said Iowa’s education, health care and mental health systems are underfunded, which further hurts struggling the state’s families.
Joy Giudicessi, who voted in Des Moines on Tuesday with her daughter, Annie, said she was worried about what will happen to public schools if Reynolds wins by a landslide.
“I’m just afraid that if her margin is big enough, she’ll be like, ‘I can do anything I want,’” Giudicessi said.
Funding Iowa’s K-12 schools and higher education system would not require additional spending, DeJear said in a debate. She called for using the state budget surplus to address funding shortages, which she said would solve problems such as teacher shortages and declining test scores.
The Democratic challenger also said she would codify Roe v. Wade in Iowa, following the U.S. and state Supreme Court findings that neither constitution guaranteed the right to an abortion. Reynolds has not clarified whether she plans to advocate for further restrictions on abortion during the next legislative session, instead focusing her efforts on reenacting the fetal heartbeat ban in state court.
Reynolds was first appointed to the position of governor in 2017, when former Gov. Terry Branstad left the job to serve as U.S. ambassador to China during former the administration of former President Donald Trump. DeJear previously ran for Iowa secretary of state in 2018, and worked with Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign during the Iowa caucus season.
Libertarian Rick Stewart was also on the ballot for Iowa governor. The third-party candidate called for the legalization of marijuana and psychedelics in an Iowa State Fair speech and he advocated for Iowa returning to a one-room schoolhouse education system.
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