Local elections were held across the state last Tuesday, including races for mayoral seats, city councils, school boards, and bond referendums. In order to be official, each county board of supervisors must certify the results.
At the top of the ticket in Des Moines, Connie Boesen was elected as Des Moines mayor, becoming the first woman to hold the office. She narrowly beat progressive candidate Josh Mandelbaum by 711 votes. He will remain on the city council. Boesen succeeds Frank Cownie, the longest-serving mayor of Des Moines, who announced in September that he would not run for reelection and endorsed Boesen in the days leading up to the election.
In Des Moines city council races, all three incumbents easily won their races over challengers. Linda Westergaard (Ward 2), Joe Gatto (Ward 4), and Carl Voss (at-large) will return to the city council for four more years. Chris Coleman, a former city councilperson, was elected to fulfill the remaining two years of Indira Sheumaker’s term in Ward 1 after she resigned in August.
School board races were closely watched this year due to growing political tension on school-related issues. The Iowa State Education Association and One Iowa Action supported progressive candidates in many urban and suburban districts, while organizations like the Family Leader and Moms for Liberty endorsed and funded conservative candidates. Issues like book banning, inclusive curriculum materials, teachers’ unions, and treatment of LGBTQ students are sometimes decided at the state level, but in practice are affected most by local school boards, making these elections key battlegrounds. This year, Iowa’s school districts overwhelmingly chose progressive, ISEA-backed candidates in Ankeny, Johnston, Waukee, and West Des Moines.
Polk County Bond Referendum
The bond issue on the ballot in Polk County was approved, authorizing up to $350 million in bonds for the Des Moines International Airport expansion. This funding will allow the airport to replace the existing terminal and add five gates and eight remote aircraft parking spaces. The sale of the general obligation bonds is expected to save the airport $76 million, compared to issuing aviation revenue bonds. Executive Director Kevin Foley said, “The positive outcome of this election exemplifies the shared vision of our community for a thriving and vibrant airport. We are eager to move forward with this financial support, and we are committed to using these funds wisely to enhance the travel experience and expand our airport’s services.”
Full Polk County election results can be found here.
Fetal Heartbeat – Injunction
On Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird filed the legal case her team will present to the Iowa Supreme Court on the abortion legislation that was blocked this summer. The law banning abortions in the state at six weeks was signed by Governor Reynolds, triggered a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, and was temporarily blocked in July by the Polk County District Court. Attorney General Bird argues a new “rational basis” test applies in court due to the Supreme Court ruling that reversed the fundamental right to abortion.
Attorney General Bird said, “No right is more valuable than the right to life. Each day, innocent, unborn lives are lost to abortion. We know that every moment counts when it comes to protecting the unborn and are working diligently to ensure the Heartbeat Law is upheld. I’m confident that the law is on our side, and we will continue fighting to defend the right to life in court.”
Governor Reynolds said in a statement, “The injunction placed on Iowa’s Fetal Heartbeat Law has already led to the innocent deaths of children. It needs to end,” Reynolds said. “Every life is valuable and worth our state’s protection — no matter what stage of life they are in.”
Democratic leadership continues to emphasize that a majority of Iowans support safe, legal access to abortion.
Iowa’s Third Congressional District
US Representative Zach Nunn has a new challenger for his seat in Iowa’s Third Congressional House District: Lanon Baccam. Baccam is a former US Department of Agriculture official, a veteran, and worked on President Joe Biden’s campaign. On Thursday he announced a run for the seat Nunn narrowly won in 2022 from Cindy Axne. The announcement included endorsements from former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and current State Auditor Rob Sand. Two other Democrats have filed paperwork for this race, but Baccam is the first to publicly announce.