Republicans win all but one Iowa statewide executive office.

State auditor’s race remains too close to call

By: and - November 9, 2022 12:17 am

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Republicans have won all but one of Iowa’s statewide executive offices, but the state auditor’s race remains too close to call.

Here’s where the races stood early Wednesday:

Attorney general

Republican Brenna Bird defeated longtime incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller by a narrow margin early Wednesday.

Miller, a Democrat, told reporters he called Bird to concede. “While we’re disappointed with the result, and this whole wave that hit so many people, I’m very thankful the 40 years that I had as attorney general.”

Miller had been seeking his 11th term. Bird is the Guthrie County attorney. She had 51.2% of the vote to 48.8% for Miller in unofficial results with about 98% of precincts reporting.

Miller, 78, is the longest-serving state attorney general in the country and had cross-party support, according to a recent Iowa Poll, which found that 14% of people who planned to vote for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds, both Republicans, also planned to vote for Miller.

Miller has touted his efforts to protect consumers from fraud and to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for addictions.

Bird, who was elected Guthrie County attorney in 2018, said she would use the power of the state office to challenge President Joe Biden’s executive orders and to back Iowa’s laws — including the 2018 “fetal heartbeat” abortion law — in court. That law is being relitigated in light of recent Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and Miller isn’t representing Reynolds because of his support for abortion.

“I could not zealously assert the state’s position because of my core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women,” Miller said this summer. “In my nearly 40 years in office, I have declined to represent the state in only one other similar situation.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds said in May she desires an attorney general who is more agreeable with her agenda. Bird has said she will challenge the Biden administration on regulations including mask and vaccine mandates, environmental restrictions and border policies.

Bird has also emphasized her support from law enforcement officers in the state, noting that she received endorsements from most of the state’s sheriffs. She challenged Miller in 2010 but lost by about 11 percentage points.

Bird had considerable financial support this year, including contributions of $1 million in September and $800,000 in October from the Republican Attorneys General Association, according to state records.

Treasurer

Republican state Sen. Roby Smith of Davenport defeated Democratic incumbent Michael Fitzgerald, the Associated Press projected Wednesday.

Smith had 51.3% of the vote to 48.7% for Fitzgerald in unofficial results, with 98% of precincts reporting.

Fitzgerald, first elected in 1983, is the longest-serving state treasurer in the country. He said his plan if reelected would be to build on programs he initiated in office, including Iowa’s 529 College Saving Programs, which invests and distributes money to help families save for higher education costs free of federal and state taxes.

Smith, who has served in the Iowa Senate since 2011, said during a debate in October that he would advocate for tax cuts in the Legislature, and he faulted Fitzgerald for not registering in favor of recent Republican tax-cut legislation. Fitzgerald responded that it was the role of legislators, not the treasurer, to set tax policy for the state.

Auditor

In what might be the only bright spot for Democrats among Iowa’s statewide offices, incumbent Rob Sand was narrowly leading Republican challenger Todd Halbur as of Wednesday. The race remained too close to call.

Sand had 50.1% of the vote to 49.8% for Halbur in unofficial results with 98% of precincts reporting. The Iowa Secretary of State has ordered recounts in Warren and Des Moines counties due to “technical errors” in counting results.

During the campaign, Sand emphasized his efforts to hold officeholders accountable regardless of party affiliation. He also cited his efforts to save taxpayers money by holding a contest that encourages local governments to find efficiencies.

Halbur, former chief financial officer for the state Alcoholic Beverages Division, is a small business owner of a school supply company and a Realtor. He said he would bring a conservative financial agenda to the office if elected.

Secretary of Agriculture

Republican incumbent Mike Naig has been reelected to a second term as Secretary of Agriculture, the Associated Press has projected.

He had 61.1% of the vote in unofficial results to 38.8% for Democrat John Norwood, with 98% of precincts reporting.

Naig has defended Iowa’s voluntary water-quality programs as effective and says Iowa has made progress with programs such as the establishment of wetlands to contain nitrogen fertilizer runoff. He says he’s worked successfully to expand markets for Iowa farm products and increased the demand for biofuels.

Norwood is a West Des Moines business consultant and a county soil and water commissioner. He says Iowa needs a better-coordinated plan to accelerate conservation and water-quality improvements, which includes taking a substantial amount of cropland out of production.

Secretary of State

Incumbent Republican Paul Pate was won his bid for a third term as secretary of state, the Associated Press projected.

Pate had 60% of the vote and his Democratic challenger, Joel Miller, had 40% in unofficial results with 97% of precincts counted early Wednesday.

During his campaign, Pate touted enactment of election security efforts such as Voter ID during his tenure. He called for more voter education to combat election misinformation and disinformation.

Miller, the Linn County auditor, suffered an extra setback Tuesday when a ballot error was discovered in his county. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the Linn County Board of Supervisors’ race was omitted on ballots for Putnam Township.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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Kathie Obradovich
Kathie Obradovich

Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.

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