First Democrat announces Senate bid against Iowa’s Grassley

Greg Nash

Former county official Dave Muhlbauer is entering the race to unseat Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), becoming the first Democrat to formally jump into the 2022 contest.

“I grew up a Democrat. My dad was a Democrat. My grandpa Louis was a Democrat,” Muhlbauer said in a video announcing his candidacy. “We are the old-school, farming, labor Democrats. We are for that middle class.”

“A lot of farmers that are 50s, 60s — they come to me: ‘Dave, I used to be a Democrat.’ And they just feel that Democrats are leaving the rural areas high and dry,” he added. “I think people are just fed up. They’re stretched thin.” 

Muhlbauer previously served for four years on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors before losing his seat last year by a margin of fewer than 100 votes. His campaign announcement on Monday marks his first run for statewide office. 

Grassley, who has served in the Senate for more than 40 years, has not yet said whether he will seek reelection to an eighth term next year. Republicans are eagerly watching his next moves, believing that if he chooses to retire it could put his seat in play for Democrats.

So far, only one Republican, state Sen. Jim Carlin, has jumped into the race to challenge Grassley. Other potential candidates include Grassley’s grandson, Iowa state House Speaker Pat Grassley, and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

Other Democrats said to be considering Senate bids in Iowa include Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) and J.D. Scholten, who came close to defeating former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2018. Ret. Admiral Mike Franken, who sought the Democratic Senate nomination in Iowa last year, also has not ruled out a bid.

Democrats have faced an increasingly difficult time in Iowa in recent years. Former President Trump carried the state twice, by nearly 10 points in 2016 and by more than 7 points in 2020.

Democrats also failed to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) last year, despite a raft of polling at the time that suggested a tighter race than the 6-point victory.

Tags 2022 midterms Chuck Grassley Cindy Axne Dave Muhlbauer Donald Trump Iowa Iowa politics Iowa Senate Race Joni Ernst Steve King
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