Brad Zaun won the 3rd Congressional District primary in a convincing fashion by garnering 42% of the vote. Jim Gibbons finished with 28% of the vote, while Dave Funk received a respectable 22% of the votes cast.
Zaun’s strength was apparent early on when he crushed his opponents by receiving over 50% of the vote in Polk County. Zaun’s opponent could never overcome the 8,700-vote margin he was able to build up in the district’s most populous county.
Zaun, who only won four of the District’s 12 counties, also won in Marion, Monroe, and Jasper counties, but did so by only a small margin. Gibbons won seven of the remaining counties, while Dave Funk won in Mahaska County.
In Zaun, Republicans have nominated a relentless campaigner who is down to earth and can relate to everyday Iowans. Like Terry Branstad, Zaun has never lost an election where his name has been on the ballot. He was out-spent in his 2004 State Senate Race and crushed his opponent. In his 2010 Republican Primary, Zaun was out-spent five to one, but it ultimately didn’t matter.
Unlike his other six opponents in the race, Zaun was the only candidate who had a natural base of support, which was the foundation of his campaign. Zaun’s closest competitor, Jim Gibbons, wasn’t technically from the district, which meant that he didn’t have that natural hometown support that candidates need.
Gibbons proved to be an exceptional fundraiser, but some of the money that he raised could only be used in the general election. While Gibbons was the only candidate to place heavy TV buys on the local networks, Zaun was able to match him on WHO TV, and Gibbons didn’t advertise on the Fox News cable channel in the closing weeks of the campaign. Zaun was also the only candidate in the race who advertised on WHO radio. Even if Gibbons had matched Zaun on the radio and on cable, it’s doubtful that his campaign would have been able to cut into Zaun’s base of support in Polk County.
Dave Funk, who finished third in the seven-way primary, had solid support across the district. He was identified as the Tea Party candidate and had Ryan Rhodes, a Tea Party organizer as his campaign manager. Funk’s most impressive feat was getting almost 20% of the vote in Polk County. While being heavily outspent and unable to run many radio and TV ads, his grassroots campaign found real traction, but not enough to prevent Zaun from winning the nomination.
Zaun must now turn his focus to the general election. Congressman Boswell has over $600,000 in the bank for his fall campaign, while Zaun raised $120,000 and spent all of it on his primary. Zaun will need to focus on raising money in advance of the June 30th fundraising deadline. He will need to show that he has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Boswell so he can get financial backing from the NRCC, who favored Gibbons in the race.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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