Political watchers say the race in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District is one of the most competitive in the country.
The incumbent, Republican David Young, has only served one term in Congress. And Democrats historically have larger turnouts during presidential election years. So Democrats says their candidate Jim Mowrer has a shot at turning this district blue.
Despite these high stakes, in a debate last night on KMA Radio in Shenandoah, both candidates were civil. Mowrer did take shots at Young for his support of GOP nominee presidential Donald Trump, but the two rarely talked out of turn.
This seemed catch moderator Mike Peterson at little off guard.
"I tell you what gentlemen, you have done so well in staying to our format that we ran out of the original 12 questions we had written," said Peterson. "Chris Wallace shouldn’t have been so lucky. But we do have some bonus questions."
Young and Mowrer have been hitting harder through negative campaign ads, and that’s because it could be a close race. Some analysts are saying Iowa’s 3rd District leans Republican, while others consider the race a tossup.
The 3rd District covers southwest Iowa, and includes the state’s most populous county—Democratic leaning Polk—along with 15 other counties that range from purpley-red, to electric crimson.
Donna Hofmann heads the Department of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa. She says many potential voters in the 3rd will be influenced by the presidential race.
"What we know about how voters make decisions in voting booths is that the most powerful cue that they have is in fact partisanship," says Hoffman. "They may get down to issues third, or even lower than that."
But if you are a voter who cares about the issues of congressional races, keep reading.
Young says he wants to simplify the tax code, dismantle Obamacare, opposes the privatization of Social Security, and as he discussed in last night’s debate, he's concerned about the national debt and budget.
"I’m on a bill that’s called No Budget, No Pay," said Young. "That says this, if you don’t get the budget done by the time set in law, well you should have your pay withheld. I’m the only member of Congress to have my pay withheld, and it’s a matter of principle, because I believe like most Iowans believe, that you shouldn’t be paid until you get the job done."
One area in which Young strays from some Republicans—including Donald Trump—is the Trans Pacific Partnership. This ambitious and controversial trade agreement includes 12 Pacific Rim counties, though not China.
Young supports the TPP, citing Iowa farmers who want to sell their products internationally.
"We need to get into there before China does. And we showed some strength out there, China respects that. But the farmers I talked to, small manufactures. They are looking for new markets and opportunities and this can help," he says.
Like a lot of Democrats, Mowrer doesn’t support the TPP.
"We need to have trade deals that have environmental standards, that have labor standards, adn will pay off for the American economy in a big way," Mowrer said during the debate. "[The TPP] would continue to ship jobs overseas, that would continue to empower China, and empower their currency manipulation."
Some opponents of the TPP worry it will allow China to manipulate trade through its relationships with counties like Vietnam and Singapore, which are part of the pact.
Mowrer also says he wants to close corporate tax loopholes and overturn Citizens United. Mowrer supports comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and wants to raise the federal minimum wage.
"Eighty percent of folks who earn minimum wage in Iowa are adults over the age of 20, and many cases they are supporting families, and they’re working a lot of part-time jobs," said Mowrer. "There is dignity in work. And you should not live in poverty if you work fulltime in this country."
UNI’s Donna Hoffman says because such large numbers of people dislike the two main presidential candidates, many may just not vote.
"You could have people demoralized on both sides," she says. "We really are not expecting this to be an record setting election in terms of turnout."
And if enough people stay home, it could affect down-ballot races like this one.