© 2022 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
IPR News

Packwood Republican Holds On To Southeast Iowa Senate Seat In Special Election

Iowa Secretary of State's Office
Unofficial results show Republican Adrian Dickey of Packwood will be the next state senator from District 41 in southeast Iowa, after he beat Democrat Mary Stewart of Ottumwa in a special election.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s special election in southeast Iowa show Republican Adrian Dickey will be the next state senator from district 41. It’s another win for Republicans in an area that has trended conservative in recent years.

According to preliminary numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, Adrian Dickey carried the district by 966 votes out of some 9,000 total votes cast. A volunteer firefighter and trucking company owner from Packwood, this is Dickey’s first bid for political office.

Dickey said he felt “beyond elated” after the results came in Tuesday night. He had been worried that the winter storm that blanketed the state on Monday would keep a sizeable proportion of his base of “rural conservatives” from getting out of their driveways, let alone getting to the polls.

“My reaction is a little bit of disbelief to be honest,” he said. “To see the results come in – the way they came in – I am very humbled that the people that were able to get out the vote did so and did so with such authority.”

He’ll succeed Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who resigned to be provisionally seated as the representative for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, pending a formal challenge to her own six-vote margin in that race.

The southeast Iowa district covers all of Davis and Van Buren Counties as well as parts of Wapello and Jefferson Counties, including the cities of Ottumwa, Fairfield, Bloomfield and Keosauqua.

Dickey faced off against Democrat Mary Stewart, a retired community college administrator from Ottumwa. Stewart previously ran for the seat in 2018, when she lost to Miller-Meeks by a mere 808 votes.

Among Dickey’s top priorities are cutting taxes and expanding tax credits for volunteer first responders from $100 to $1,000, an incentive which he says is well-deserved by those who provide vital services throughout many rural communities. Dickey says he takes his victory as a vote of support from southeast Iowans for furthering conservative policies.

“They like how the state is going. They like the direction we’re headed in. They want to see that moving forward,” he said. “They’re for less government, less taxes, more individual responsibility. Those are just some key core principles that the Republican Party stands by.”

Dickey also said he plans to advocate for getting Iowa students back in the classroom for in-person instruction and as well as for continued support for small businesses weathering the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

“It’s incredibly important we keep our kids in school. Get them in school, keep them in school,” he said. “Help our small businesses open and stay open. Smaller government. Less taxes. ”

Miller-Meeks congratulated Dickey as the results rolled in Tuesday night.

“I congratulate Senator-elect Adrian Dickey on his election to serve the people of southeast Iowa in the state senate,” reads a written statement from Miller-Meeks. “I know he will work hard to represent them and to be their voice in Des Moines!”

Stewart, for her part, said she congratulated Dickey, wished him well, and urged him to dedicate himself to delivering for the residents of southeast Iowa, many of whom she says live in poverty, struggle to find decent jobs, and worry about the consolidation of their schools and the decline of their communities.

“The voters in this district need to have a voice there [in Des Moines] and I hope he carries their voice forward in a positive way,” Stewart said. “And I also hope that he listens to what these people have to say because they have legitimate concerns and legitimate needs.”

Stewart acknowledged that parts of southeast Iowa have apparently been trending towards Republicans in recent years and said “it’s going to take time” for her party to build back support in this part of the state.

“Democrats have a job to do, providing information to voters and making sure that we present the issues – not only that we’re interested in – but how those actually impact peoples’ daily lives. And make sure that connection is clear and strong and we get the message out,” she said.

The district has remained in Republican control in recent cycles, though current party registration shows a relatively even split between Democrats and Republicans. As of Jan. 4, active voter records for the district compiled by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office show 13,343 registered Democrats, 12,879 registered Republicans and 10,841 registered "no party" active voters.

The campaign for the special election was an exceptional one: packed into just under a month in the middle of a global pandemic (and a snowy Iowa winter). Turnout for the race was expected to be even lower than usual for a low turnout special election, after a winter storm dumped upwards of 5 inches of snow in some parts of the district.

The outcome of the race will not change the balance of power at the statehouse, where Republicans continue to hold a trifecta. Following Dickey’s win, Republicans will boast 32 out of 50 Senate seats.