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January 1st, 2015

A Look Back at 2014 in Iowa Politics: November and December

Ernst celebration

As we celebrate the arrival of 2015, offers you a look back at an amazing year in politics. We will produce these articles and items chronologically. Today we look at the very successful November elections and the fallout from those results.

For a look at January and February, click here.

For a look at March, click here.

For a look at April and May, click here.

For a look at June, click here.

For a look at July and August, click here.

For a look at September and October, click here.


The month begins with huge news from Ann Selzer’s Iowa Poll. Conducted for the Des Moines Register, the poll shows Joni Ernst leading Bruce Braley by eight points in the U.S. Senate race, three days before Election Day. Most other polls show Ernst ahead by one or two points. The poll causes jubilation for Republicans, sorrow for Democrats and skepticism by some who believe the poll is an outlier.

Democrat Senator Tom Harkin hands the Ernst campaign an unintentional, final day boost when comments emerge that show Harkin talking about Ernst’s appearance and comparing her to pop singer Taylor Swift. The seemingly sexist comments dominate the final day’s news cycle, much to the chagrin of the Braley campaign.

Joni Ernst spends the final days of the campaign barnstorming around the state. She joins the Iowa GOP team at a raucous rally in West Des Moines on the eve of the election.

State treasurer candidate Sam Clovis, as he has done many times during the campaign, offers the final, inspirational push for Iowa Republicans during the West Des Moines rally. He implores the crowd to “complete the mission”.

After the Monday evening West Des Moines stop, Joni Ernst ventures to Ames, Cedar Falls, Ft. Dodge for a 1 am rally, a stop in Sioux City at 3:45 am and makes her final campaign event at 6 am in Council Bluffs. Ernst votes in her hometown of Red Oak early Tuesday, then presumably gets a little rest while Iowans head to the polls.

Joni Ernst becomes the first Iowa female elected to Congress as she defeats Bruce Braley by seven points. Ernst’s victory also gives Republicans the majority in the U.S. Senate. The journey to victory is a remarkable one for Ernst, who started the campaign as a little-known state senator from a small town in southwest Iowa. Ernst focused her campaign on rejected Washington, D.C., and doing things “the Iowa way”. The strategy clearly pays off.

Ernst’s victory caps off a terrific night for Iowa Republicans. Other results include Rod Blum upsetting Pat Murphy in the First Congressional District, David Young beating Staci Appel by 10 points in the Third, and Steve King cruising to reelection in the Fourth.

The good news continues for Republicans as Governor Branstad crushes Jack Hatch by 23 points and Paul Pate edges Brad Anderson to become Iowa’s secretary of state once again. Republicans also increase their majority in the Iowa House to 57-43.

The lone blight on an otherwise terrific 2014 election is Republicans’ inability to gain ground in the Iowa Senate. Democrats maintain the 26-24 majority they have held for the last several four years.

National media outlets and political observers proclaim Democrat Bruce Braley’s campaign the worst of the year and possibly the worst in Iowa history. Braley’s myriad of self-inflicted stumbles took the former shining star of the Iowa Democratic Party to a devastating defeat.

The four-term congressman even loses in his own district. It is a demoralizing outcome for Iowa Democrats. The seat Tom Harkin held for three decades, which they assumed was safe, falls into Republicans.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley prepares to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just as Bruce Braley forewarned in his infamous comments denigrating Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school”. Grassley releases a lengthy statement about what Americans can expect from the committee with Republicans now in charge.

A headline in the Des Moines Register claims Governor Branstad says “the gas tax will be a priority in 2015”. The article causes consternation among Iowa conservatives. However, the accompanying article does not indicate any support from Branstad for a gas tax increase. He does discuss the need to fund infrastructure improvements, but does not express support for any particular plan.

The Register later changes its online headline to read “transportation funding” instead of “gas tax”. Regardless, it’s obvious a gas tax increase will be a hotly debated topic during the 2015 legislative session.

An Iowa National Guard unit is told to prepare for deployment into West Africa to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus. The order, handed down by President Obama, is met with an immediate outcry by some Iowans. The Iowa guard unit specializes in full spectrum medical support and is scheduling to leave in the spring.

Congressman Steve King announces plans to partner with Citizens United for the first Iowa Freedom Summit. The event will take place January 24 and feature prominent conservatives, and likely 2016 presidential contenders, from around the country. The first round of speakers to commit to the event includes Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Rick Santorum.

Senator Chuck Grassley displays class and bipartisanship with a tribute to his longtime Iowa colleague in the U.S. Senate, Tom Harkin.

Iowa Republican officials lash out at President Obama’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Dr. Ben Carson earns praise from Iowa social conservatives with his speech at The Family Leader’s annual “Celebrate the Family Dinner”. Carson’s presence attracts a record crowd of more than 900.

Iowa Republicans mourn the passing of longtime Iowa House Rep. Dwayne Alons. The staunch social conservative died from renal cancer. He had served in the Iowa House since 1998 and was a retired Iowa Air National Guard Brigadier General. Alons is survived by his wife, Clarice, four children and 13 grandchildren.



New Jersey Governor Chris Christie earns praise from Governor Branstad and Iowa farmers, but scorn from liberals, for vetoing a New Jersey bill that would have banned pig gestation crates in the state. Christie’s decision is viewed as a move to endear himself with Iowa caucusgoers.

Every Republican Party of Iowa staffer and member of the State Central Committee signs a pledge to remain neutral in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. The move by the state party to maintain impartiality is unprecedented.

2014 Republican attorney general candidate Adam Gregg is appointed state public defender by Governor Branstad.

Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann makes national newsdue to his spat with the much-despised Westboro Baptist Church group that brings its anti-gay protests to military funerals. The feud explodes when an Iowa judge overturns two Iowa laws banning flag desecration and flag misuse. Kaufmann vows to write new legislation that will specifically address the group’s protests of military funerals.

Iowa House Rep. Mark Costello emerges from a field of seven candidates to win to the Republican nomination during a special convention for the vacant Senate District 12 seat. The vacancy is created when Joni Ernst resigns from her state senate seat after being elected to the U.S. Senate.

Debate over whether or not to continue the Ames Straw Poll reignites when Governor Branstad speaks out in favor of scrapping the poll and replacing it with a different type of Republican festival. The majority of the State Central Committee expresses interest in keeping the event. The Ames Straw Poll is traditionally the first test of organizational strength for GOP presidential campaigns.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal returns to Iowa to headline the Polk County GOP’s Holiday Party. Many attendees say Jindal is on their small list for presidential candidates they are considering for the Iowa Caucus.

Retired postal worker and military veteran John Kookier wins the Republican nomination for the vacant House District 4 seat. The seat was held by recently deceased House Rep. Dwayne Alons.

Far left U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and a group hoping to draft liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president hold well-attended events in Iowa. State Senate President Pam Jochum is among those attending the Ready for Warren rally, as Iowa Democrats look for alternatives to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Iowa Caucus.

The first Iowa campaign office of the 2016 caucus cycle opens when the Draft Ben Carson for President Committee sets up shop in Johnston. The grand opening attracts a crowd of more than 100 and includes several prominent Republican officials and activists.

Republican House Rep. Mark Costello easily wins the special election to fill the vacant Senate District 12 seat. Costello nets 74 percent of the vote in the three-way contest. A new special election will be held to fill Costello’s Iowa House seat.

Three of the top 10 political gaffes of the year stem from the Braley/Ernst U.S. Senaterace, according to The Hill. All three gaffes are committed by Democrats. Making the list is Bruce Braley denigrating Chuck Grassley and Iowa farmers, Michelle Obama repeatedly referring to the Democrat congressman as “Bruce Bailey” at a campaign rally and Tom Harkin comparing Joni Ernst to Taylor Swift.

Happy New Year!

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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