January 23, 2019

Setting the Stage for the 2018 Midterms

People often forget that 2018 is an election year. It’s not just an election year, but a vitally important election that will undoubtedly impact the make-up of our federal and state governments. At MBI, we are focused on putting our PAC resources to state and local candidates that embody the mission of our organization—to be the essential resource for improving member performance and promoting a business environment that is favorable to the construction industry. There is a lot of information that we could cover in 4 congressional and 125 house races, but this article is meant simply to highlight some of the individual races that could impact whether Republicans retain control, or give up control, to the Democrats. 

On November 6, 2018, voters will go to the polls. While MBI does not do political endorsements and never has in the past, we wish to do our part in GOTV, or “get out the vote” efforts. We are encouraging all of our members to do your civic duty and vote for the candidates that you think will be pro-construction and pro-business. In addition, if you need information on how to register to vote, changing your registration or any other information regarding the mid-term elections, please visit the Secretary of State’s website at


Across Iowa, you are seeing a shift in the mindset of Iowa voters, particularly in the suburban areas. As reporter Erin Murphy recently pointed out in The Gazette, “the key races that are likely to decide who controls the Iowa House in 2019 and 2020 mostly are in suburban areas of the state’s biggest cities, and in rural counties in Eastern Iowa, especially along the Mississippi River.”  And Dr. Christopher Larimer, political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa says, “the suburban, educated vote will be significant this fall.  The education split was beyond what political scientists had previously modeled for…I think that is a group (suburban, college-educated residents) that is going to be significant for voters.” 

But as we all know, it all comes down to turnout. And traditionally, the party in control, does not turnout the voters needed to remain in control.  What’s interesting about this current political environment to me, are the number of voters that still do not show up in the polling numbers. The so-called silent Trump fans that obviously didn’t show up in the polls leading to 2016. If there wasn’t this silent majority, President Hillary Clinton would be in office and Donald Trump would be back on The Apprentice.   

State Level:

Governor’s Race

A hotly-contested race for Governor has pitted incumbent Governor Kim Reynolds (R) against challenger Fred Hubbell (D).  Both are well-funded, and both have been running campaigns trying to define the other. Mr. Hubbell wants Iowans to think Gov. Reynolds is a poor manager of the state, our Medicaid system and the overall budget. While Gov. Reynolds is painting Mr. Hubbell as a rich elitist who cannot connect with Iowans and has something to hide by not releasing his full tax returns. 

There have been plenty of ads and accusations back in forth both on policy and personal transparency. But one thing is for sure, MBI and the commercial construction industry in Iowa have benefited in the past 8 years from the leadership of both Gov. Terry Branstad and Gov. Kim Reynolds (and the Legislature). When you take into account workers compensation reforms, reducing the statute of repose, banning project labor agreements, tax reform, creation of association health care plans, and generally a favorable regulatory environment, we have much to be appreciative of for Gov. Kim Reynolds. Polls, including the gold standard for Iowa politics “The Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll,” show a dead heat.  You can read about the poll here.  I would be a fool to predict who is going to win this race at this time. But this very well may come down to the roughly 10% of voters who say they still haven’t made up their minds.           

Iowa House

Currently, Republicans control the Iowa House of Representatives 59-41. Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) hopes to retain that majority for the next two years. Minority Leader Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) is relying upon a “blue wave” in those suburban areas and Eastern Iowa house districts. Some of the most competitive districts are included below including two open seats. While it is certainly possible to flip control to Democrats, I would guess the Republicans retain control with around 54-56 members. 

                HD 9 (Fort Dodge)—Ann Meyer (R) vs. Megan Srinivas (D)

                HD 38 (Ankeny)--Incumbent Kevin Koester (R) vs. Challenger Heather Matson (D)

                HD 42 (West Des Moines)--Incumbent Peter Cownie (R) vs. Challenger Kristin Sunde (D)

                HD 43 (Windsor Heights)--Michael Boal (R) vs. Jennifer Konfrst (D)

                HD 55 (West Union/Decorah)—Incumbent Michael Bergan (R) vs. Challenger Kayla Koether (D)

                HD 60 (Cedar Falls)--Incumbent Walt Rogers (R) vs. Challenger Dave Williams (D)

                HD 67 (Marion/Cedar Rapids)--Incumbent Ashley Hinson (R) vs. Challenger Eric Gjerde (D)

                HD 92 (Rural Scott County)—Incumbent Ross Paustian (R) vs. Challenger Jean Simpson (D)

Iowa Senate

Republicans also control the Iowa Senate, and are likely to remain in control. Unlike the House where every member is up for re-election, only half of the 50 sitting Senators are up for re-election. Currently, the make-up is 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats and 1 Independent. The following six races are most likely going to decide the final make-up of the Iowa Senate.  It’s conceivable that Republicans control the Iowa Senate with between 30-32 members at the end of the election which would be a large majority for the Republicans.  


                SD 7 (Sioux City)—Incumbent Rick Bertrand (R) vs. Challenger Jackie Smith (D)

                SD 13 (Warren & Madison County)-Incumbent Julian Garrett (R) vs. Challenger Vicky Brenner (D)

                SD 19 (Ankeny)-Incumbent Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) vs. Challenger Amber Gustafson (D)

                SD 27 (Mason City)—Incumbent Amanda Ragan (D) vs. Challenger Shannon Latham (R)

                SD 29 (Maquoketa)—Incumbent Tod Bowman (D) vs. Challenger Carrie Koelker (R)

                SD 41 (Ottumwa)—Marianette Miller-Meeks (R) vs. Mary Stewart (D)


Federal Level:

MBI has traditionally not been involved in federal congressional races, as AGC of America takes the lead on those. However, we do have good relationships with the Members of Congress and engage when there is a need to. But for informational purposes, here is information on folks running and voter registration numbers by district. Both Sens. Grassley and Ernst are not up for re-election in 2018, so these members are all in the House of Representatives. 


Incumbent Rod Blum (R) vs. Challenger Abby Finkenauer (D)

Registered Voters:

GOP:  140,267

DEM:  163,369

No Party:  189,786


Incumbent Dave Loebsack (D) vs. Challenger Dr. Christopher Peters (R)

                Registered Voters:

                GOP:  143,639

                DEM:  166,810

No Party:  181,074


Incumbent David Young (R) vs. Challenger Cindy Axne (D)

                Registered Voters:

                GOP:  169,962

                DEM:  170,437

                No Party:  167,320


Incumbent Steve King (R) vs. Challenger J.D. Scholten (D)

                Registered Voters:

                GOP:  190,274

                DEM:  120,023

                No Party:  172,404

If at any time you have questions on who MBI is supporting through the MBI-PAC, please do not hesitate to reach out to Ben Hammes, Director of Public Affairs at: or 515-314-9016. Ben would be happy to walk you through individual races or his overall thoughts on who would be the best candidate in your district.