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Iowa Party Leaders Hope To Boost Turnout

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John Pemble
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IPR file photo

Iowa candidates and party leaders are making final appeals to voters in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms. With races for governor and some congressional districts thought to be toss-ups, Iowa Republicans and Democrats are feeling the pressure to boost turnout.

Many voters stay home during midterm elections, but neither party says they can afford that this year. 

Speaking with supporters gathered at the Hy-Vee in Washington in southeastern Iowa, state Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufman is starting to sound hoarse, trying to get his message out. Kaufman acknowledged how hard it can be for producers to pull themselves away from their farms this time of year, but he told the group just casting their individual ballots isn't enough this year.

“You have to bring people with you! You have to bring in those absentees! You have to look up that nephew you haven’t visited with in a little while, and offer to take him to the polls. That’s what you have to do!” Kaufman said.

According to the Secretary of State's voter registration database, active Republicans in this county outnumber active Democrats and No Party Affiliated Voters. Ahead of Election Day, Republicans hold the governor's mansion, both chambers of the statehouse and three out of four seats in the U.S. House. Kaufman told the Washington County voters it's a pivotal election.

“It’s about moving this state forward and not going back. We are counting on you," he said. "They are counting on you.”

Analysts have rated the races for Iowa's governor and 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts as toss-ups, with some surveys showing the races leaning towards the democrats. Contests for the 4th Congressional District, secretary of state, and state auditor have attracted national attention as well.  

In competitive races across the state, results may come down to voters in pivot counties, who supported Barack Obama twice before voting for Donald Trump.

Iowa Democratic Party leader Troy Price spoke to voters in one of those areas, Lee County. Packed into a community hall in Fort Madison, Price told the Lee County Democratic Party to be motivated by the losses the party suffered in 2016.

But listen, we can do this and we must do this," Price said. "Because we know what the consequences are and the consequences are simply too great.”

Historically, when the president has low approval ratings, the minority party stands to gain seats in midterm years. But Price says flipping seats won't happen on its own.

“Go collect those absentee ballots, make those phone calls, do all the hard work we possibly can," Price said. "Then we’ll be able to tell our kids and grandkids about the great year that was 2018.”

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter