Republican Zach Nunn ousts Cindy Axne to flip sought-after Iowa district

Rep. Cynthia Axne (D-Iowa) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 to discuss the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act.
Greg Nash
Rep. Cynthia Axne (D-Iowa) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 to discuss the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act.

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) is projected to be defeated by Republican state Sen. Zach Nunn, flipping a seat that GOP leaders had seen as among their best pickup opportunities of the cycle.

The Associated Press called the race at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District includes the heavily Democratic Des Moines, but it wasn’t enough to insulate Axne from the economic anxieties — particularly relating to inflation — that were on the top of voters’ minds heading into the polls. 

Nunn, like Republicans nationwide, had made that issue central to his campaign pitch, accusing President Biden and the Democrats of exacerbating inflationary trends with an influx of new federal spending, including legislation responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that Biden enacted in his first weeks in office.

Nunn said he would fight inflation by cutting spending and slashing taxes — two popular ideas in the right-leaning district, although economists of all stripes have warned that the latter will only make inflation worse.

Axne — who was first elected as part of the 2018 blue wave that gave Democrats the House majority — had sought to counter those attacks by pointing to the host of benefits adopted in Biden’s first two years. That list included proposals to bolster the country’s infrastructure, boost domestic manufacturing, expand health care access and help businesses weather the pandemic.

She had also played up the Supreme Court’s decision this year to eliminate federal protections for abortion, noting that Nunn has supported an abortion ban without exceptions — a position she said empowers the government to overrule the health decisions of Americans and their doctors.

But history was not on Axne’s side, as the party that controls the White House has routinely suffered losses in the president’s first midterm cycle. Making things tougher, Biden’s approval has been well underwater for more than a year. And Axne also appeared to be hurt by the new congressional map, which threw into the 3rd District a number of rural counties in the southern part of the state. 

Money also played a role. While Axne had raised much more campaign cash than Nunn through the cycle — $6.6 million to her opponent’s $2.3 million, according to OpenSecrets — outside spending had poured into the district, helping to push Nunn over the finish line. 

Tags 2022 midterms 2022 Midterms House Biden Iowa

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