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THE REGULARS: Next two years in Washington may make last two years look calm

November 11, 2018

Sioux City Journal Regulars columnist Al Sturgeon is shown in the Sioux City Journal offices on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010.

Although the off-year elections did produce a blue wave of Democratic victories, the wave was not as high or deep as many Democratic activists were hoping for.

Flipping the U.S. House of Representatives from red to blue was definitely the high point of the night for Democrats. Democrats went from a minority party in the U.S. House to a majority party with significant gains throughout the country. This breaks the Republican monopoly of power and gives Democrats a seat at the table. Democrats owe much of their congressional victories to women who not only voted for Democrats in high numbers, especially in the suburbs, but many were successful candidates themselves. Over 100 women will be part of the U.S. House of Representatives, a record number.

This was especially true in Iowa where Cindy Axne in Iowa’s 3rd District defeated incumbent David Young and Abby Finkenauer defeated incumbent Rod Blum in Iowa’s 1st District. Axne and Finkenauer are the first women successfully elected to the House of Representatives in Iowa.

Finkenauer and Axne will join Iowa’s other Democratic congressman, David Loebsack, from the 2nd District. Loebsack, a Sioux City native and friend of mine, has been pretty lonely for the last few years, being the only Democratic member of the Iowa delegation. It was almost a clean sweep for Democrats with Iowa’s 4th District Democratic candidate J.D. Scholten coming close to unseating 16-year incumbent Steve King. Scholten’s grassroots campaign really energized the 4th District and there are early indications J.D. will be back two years from now.

Democrats made impressive gains at the gubernatorial level winning in Wisconsin, Michigan, even Kansas, but losing in Ohio and Florida. No doubt the bright spot for Republicans was gaining seats in the U.S. Senate. Although Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota always looked vulnerable, defeats of long-term incumbents Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Bill Nelson (Florida) were unexpected.

For Democrats, Fred Hubbell’s defeat by Gov. Kim Reynolds was a shocker. It is somewhat quixotic how Hubbell could go down to defeat at the same time Democratic congressional Democrats were making history. Republicans also maintained control of the Iowa Legislature, but the margin dwindled in the House to 52-48.

Democrat Rob Sand, who was elected state auditor, is someone to keep an eye on. Sand, a former attorney general, handily defeated incumbent Mary Mosiman and was well-financed and well-organized. Sand is extremely bright, articulate and ambitious. By all accounts, Sand will take his oversight responsibility seriously and perhaps to a level not seen before. Long overdue.

Lastly, the big highlight locally was Democrat Jackie Smith’s narrow defeat of incumbent Rick Bertrand (51-49). This is a seat Democrats held for 24 years before Bertrand’s eight-year run. Smith’s several months of door knocking probably made the difference. The local party owes a great deal to all those who ran for office, but a special thanks goes out to David Dawson and Rita DeJong. Dawson and DeJong lost their bids for state senator and state representative, respectively, but worked hard against the odds and represented our party with class and enthusiasm. A special thanks to them.

So what does all this mean? For U.S. House Democrats it means they must come up with a platform for what they stand for, not just oppose President Trump. With a divide in the party’s left and moderate wings, that could be difficult.

The election also clearly established the Republican Party as the party of Donald J. Trump and everything that goes with it.

And, one thing is for sure, with a Democratic House of Representatives fully equipped with subpoena power and Robert Mueller’s report due soon, the last two years will appear calm by comparison to the next two. We will probably be looking at a government shutdown at some point.

In the words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Next week: Linda Holub

A Sioux City resident and local attorney, Al Sturgeon is a former Democratic state representative and senator. He is the father of six children.

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