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Axne spotlights differences on abortion in her bid to hold 3rd District seat

Third District U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne campaigns in Des Moines at a town hall-style event hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership on Oct. 26, 2022.
Madeleine King
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IPR
3rd District U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne campaigns in Des Moines at a town hall-style event hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership on Wednesday.

Republicans are expected to do well in House races in November, but 3rd District Congresswoman Cindy Axne is highlighting the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion to renew Democrats’ interest in the midterms.

Congresswoman Cindy Axne makes her way through the art-deco styled reception room of a distillery in the town of Osceola. A couple dozen voters have come out for a Tuesday evening meet up.

As people pick up their drinks and settle around a table, Axne sets down a bottle of root beer.

A map of Iowa is shown outlining the new Congressional Districts.
After redistricting, the 3rd District covers 21 counties that include the Des Moines metro and much of south central Iowa.

Clarke County is part of a swath of southern Iowa that is new to the redrawn 3rd District, which still includes the Des Moines metro.

Axne introduces herself by running down a list of legislative wins, including infrastructure funding to expand broadband and rebuild bridges, and a measure that places a price cap on the cost of insulin and prescription drugs in Medicare.

“I'm sick and tired of hearing that Iowans can't afford to pay their electric bills and take their full vial of insulin,” Axne said.

In the closing argument of her stump speech, Axne turns her attention to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that eliminated federal protections for abortion rights.

“The middle of the summer half this country woke up and their rights were taken away,” Axne said. “If you have a son and a daughter, all of a sudden your son had more rights than your daughter did.

“(Republicans) call themselves the party of small government, but they’re in our bedrooms, they’re in our doctors’ offices, they’re everywhere.”

Rep. Cindy Axne answers voters’ questions at a campaign meet up held at the Revelton Distillery in Osceola on Oct. 11, 2022.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
Rep. Cindy Axne answers voters’ questions at a campaign meet up held at the Revelton Distillery in Osceola on Oct. 11.

Axne is the only Democrat representing Iowa in Washington, D.C. She’s running for a third term in office against Republican Zach Nunn as her party tries to hang onto its majority in the U.S. House.

Other leading topics in the 2022 midterms, like the economy and inflation, favor Republicans. But many Democrats see the decision overturning Roe v. Wade as an issue that could prevent a red wave from flipping control of Congress.

Axne is looking to gain momentum in the race by homing in on the decision as one of the key issues in the race.

For weeks, Axne’s campaign ran one ad after another repeating a moment from a Republican primary debate back in May.

Moderator Dave Price of WHO-TV in Des Moines asks the candidates to raise their hands if they support banning abortions, with no exceptions. In the clip, Nunn raises his hand appearing to support a total abortion ban.

In a debate with Axne that aired on KCCI-TV, Nunn was asked to clarify his position.

“I am pro- life,” Nunn said. “I support the mother and the baby and we’ve voted repeatedly here in Iowa to provide exceptions for the health of the mother, something my opponent has lied about repeatedly.”

In the Statehouse, Nunn has supported mandatory abortion waiting periods. He also voted for the “fetal heartbeat” law that would ban abortions in Iowa after six weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies.

That law remains blocked in court, but attorneys for Gov. Kim Reynolds are seeking to have it reinstated.

Nunn said in the same debate that any future decisions on abortion limits should only be made at the state level, not in Congress.

“The reality is that here after the Dobbs case, under 10th amendment of the Constitution it returns back to the states and by default to us, the Iowans,” Nunn said.
Axne favors federal action to preserve abortion rights. She has voted twice to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act in the House that would bar states from passing strict abortion laws.

“Because that state senator or state representative up in Sioux City has no right to tell some woman here in Osceola what she can do with her health care decisions or how she's supposed to manage her family,” Axne said. “Nobody should be involved in this other than women, their families and their doctors.”

State Sen. Zach Nun, R-Bondurant, addresses supporters outside the Dallas County courthouse in Adel on Oct. 7, 2022.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
State Sen. Zach Nun, R-Bondurant, addresses supporters outside the Dallas County courthouse in Adel on Oct. 7.

Abortion is an issue that goes against the political current of the midterms.

According to Grand View University political science professor Bryan McQuide, that’s what makes it so important to the outcome of not only the 3rd District race but also deciding the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

McQuide said Axne faces an uphill climb for reelection. She’s running in a new district where voters don’t know her as well. President Joe Biden’s low approval rating draws energy away from the Democratic base, and Republicans tend to show greater turnout in midterm elections.

“Republicans are very, very motivated to vote this year,” McQuide said. “They're angry about inflation. They're angry with Biden. They're angry about the student loan announcement.”

Axne needs to drive Democratic turnout, especially in Polk County where she has her greatest advantage, in order to close the gap that Zach Nunn is likely to build in the rest of the 3rd District. McQuide said abortion is an issue that could do that.

“If Axne gets more Democratic voters out to vote and reminds them, ‘Hey even though there’s no presidential election this is really important for abortion rights,’ then she can survive this reelection,” he said.

At her meet and greet in Osceola, Axne spelled out the fact that her fate in the 3rd District could help determine whether Democrats are able to hold their narrow majority.

“We have four members that serve in what should be Republican seats,” she said. “This is an R+3 seat. I'm one of the four.”

If Democrats do win back control of the House, Axne said her first priority is to codify Roe v. Wade.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa