Iowa Legislative Preview

Up until today, all eyes have been on Iowa as we wait for the first-in-the-nation caucus goers to make their choices and decide the political futures of the remaining Democratic nominees for President. After today, the attention will shift to New Hampshire, then Nevada, then South Carolina, and then the Super Tuesday states. 

In recent years, Iowa was a national political battleground; Barack Obama won the state twice. But in the 2016 presidential election it swung sharply to the right; Trump won it by almost 10 points, the largest margin for any Republican nominee for President since Reagan. As the chatter around the 2020 presidential electoral map has heated up, Iowa has mostly receded into the background, with other Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania expected to be the battlegrounds where the race will be won or lost.

But even if Iowa isn’t the national political battleground it was in recent years, we can’t forget about the state in November. That’s because in 2020, Democrats have a very strong chance to win back the Iowa State House, and they’ve also got a good chance to win back the State Senate.

Iowa State House

While the State House has mostly been controlled by Republicans in recent years, Democrats held the State Senate until the 2016 election. In 2018, Democrats made strong gains in the House, netting five seats. Democrats also got a boost in April 2019 when Republican Andy McKean announced he would be switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. Republicans now control the chamber 53-47, and Democrats only need to flip four seats to flip the chamber. 

EveryDistrict’s Map of the Iowa House. The yellow and pink districts represent the best pickup opportunities for Democrats. Democrats need to worry most about defending the light blue districts. See more on our interactive map at:

Iowa State Senate

Democrats face a more uphill battle in the Senate, where they need to flip eight seats to flip the chamber. Also, only half of the Senate – the even-numbered districts – are on the ballot this year. Despite that, we’ve still identified 12 competitive districts that Democrats can compete in to win the majority this cycle. 

EveryDistrict’s Map of the Iowa Senate. The yellow and pink districts represent the best pickup opportunities for Democrats. Democrats need to worry most about defending the light blue districts. See more on our interactive map at:

You’ll notice in both of these maps that the districts that will decide control of the Iowa state legislature cluster on the eastern side of the state. According to Ballotpedia, there were 206 counties across the country that voted for Obama twice that flipped to Trump in 2016. Iowa had the most of any state (31) and they cluster on the eastern side of the state (see Ballotpedia’s interactive map here). A key part of the strategy to win back Iowa must include winning back Obama-Trump voters, in particular to flip the Senate.

But Iowa hasn’t been immune from other political trends, like suburban voters abandoning the Republican Party, a trend we saw start in 2016 and pick up steam in 2018. There are a number of areas that Romney won in 2012 that Clinton won in 2016, where Democrats continued to see strong results in 2018 that they can build on in this year’s legislative races.

Iowa’s filing deadline is in March, and there are already a bunch of great candidates running in these districts that we’re excited to be able to introduce you to soon. If you’re a candidate running for the Iowa legislature, fill out our candidate form and a member of the EveryDistrict team will be in touch to learn more about your campaign.

If you’re not a candidate for the Iowa legislature, you can help turn Iowa blue in 2020 by making a donation to EveryDistrict’s 2020 Fund, where 100% of your donation will go to candidates in the over 200 state legislative target districts we’ve identified in states like Iowa. Iowa state legislative races fall in the middle of state legislative spending (see our Purple States Report for more information about the cost of competitive state legislative races per state), but a big factor that hurt legislative candidates in Iowa in 2018 was a lack of funding. Your donation today will help ensure that Iowa legislative candidates on the ballot in 2020 are running campaigns that can win in November.