The Race for the House Part 2: Florida, Iowa, Indiana

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Even if the Democrats fail miserably in November, the MINIMUM that has to be done is maintaining control of the House. As we have seen, control of even half of Congress can make life a hell of a lot more difficult for the Executive. Control of the Senate, or at least a split, will also change quite a bit in terms of legislating. I will cover those a bit closer to the elections. House races tend to be more under reported as they are highly localized. Currently, the House of Representatives is supposed to seat 435 members. The total is supposed to be adjusted based on population sizes of districts although this number hasn’t changed since the early 20th Century. As members of the House each serve two-year terms, all 435 are up for grabs this year. However, most seats are in districts that are safe for the incumbent party. According to Cook Political Reports, 90 races are “competitive”, 25 of which are detailed as Toss-ups. Over the next four weeks, I will go through these districts and the candidates running for the seats. All demographic stats are from the U.S. Census as of 2018.

Part 1

An update on previously covered races: While I expect more changes to come over the next few weeks, shifts are already happening. Cook Political Reports updated the race in Georgia-6, leaning in favor of Democrat Lucy McBath.

(Above, Des Moines, Iowa State Capitol)

District: Florida 26th

Major Cities: Homestead, Key Largo, Key West

Demographics: The district is the first minority-majority populated at nearly 72% Hispanic, half of whom are of Cuban descent. This is a good part due to the fact that Key West is only 90 miles away from Cuba. Cuban-Americans also tend to be more conservative than members of other Latin-American groups, possibly due to a bad taste left by the Castro government. 54% of Cuban-Americans voted for Trump compared to 34% among people of different backgrounds. This does disproportionately represent older folks but with a district with an average age near 40, the Republicans do have a very real base here. The district also tends to be comfortably middle class as well, making around 8,000 dollars more than the average Florida family.

2016 Presidential Result: Clinton +6.1

Incumbent: Debbie Muscarel-Powell (Democrat, pictured via Franmarie Meltzer)

Challenger: Carlos Gimenez (Republican)

Analysis: Both parties have real opportunities here. For Powell and the Democrats, it is a chance to cement a safe district going forward with generational turnover and very favorable votes within the last few years. For Gimenez and the Republicans, it is a chance to pick up a vulnerable Senate district. Gimenez, the current mayor of Miami-Dade has a higher name recognition and a higher favorability rating than his opponent. However, he is not yet officially the nominee with a primary in mid-August. He is currently in a race against firefighter, Omar Blanco, who is running on a much more Conservative platform. Positioning himself as a moderate, Gimenez might have won votes against a Bernie or Warren style Democrat but will struggle against someone as deeply inoffensive as Muscarell-Powell.

Prediction: Muscarel-Powell. Even with a Gimenez win in the primaries, he is already at a financial disadvantage, one that is surely going to hit harder in the next two weeks or so leading up to his primary. Muscarel-Powell has the advantage of only running one race.

District: Iowa 1st

Major Cities: Cedar Rapids (2nd largest in Iowa) and Waterloo

Demographics: Iowa is an odd place. While it is not necessarily considered a stronghold, it is home of the most important day of the Democratic Primary in the Iowa Caucuses. It also voted for Trump in 2016. This year though, the Democrats are looking to sweep the state. The Pesidency is obviously up for grabs, and Republican Senator Joni Ernst is losing in the most recent polls. It is probably unnecessary to detail the demographics of each of the three Iowa districts I am writing about because, based off of census data, they are nearly identical. Nearly 90% white, around 30% of the population with at least a Bachelor’s, and a plurality of individuals working in human services in some manner. The most interesting aspect of the Hawkeye state is what is happening in its cities. They have become consistently more progressive over the last few years. Senator Bernie Sanders won the primary this cycle (Fellow lefties, do y’all remember this? It was before COVID took a collective crap on the country and we were still dreaming of a real progressive in office. Those were the days) and this represents a greater trend. This article by Ronald Brownstein of the Atlantic details the shift in metro Iowa before the caucus explains it very well.

(Pictured right: a physical representation of Iowa's population)

2016 Presidential Result: Trump +4

Incumbent: Abby Finkenauer (Democrat, pictured below via Leah Herman)

Challenger: Ashley Hinson (Republican)

Analysis: As it happens in most cases, the incumbent has a funding advantage going into this part of the race. This is not the exception with Finkenauer, who has a one-million-dollar advantage in cash on hand. What is unique about this race is how absolutely awful Hinson’s website is. Sure, most of Finkenauer’s linked campaign ad looks like she is selling a pickup truck, but Hinson’s looks like newsroom B-roll. She opens with the video with an attack on socialism showing video of Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi, two people not currently running in Iowa, one of which is the man who won the Iowa caucus. The people who lump Pelosi and Sanders together are not the those that Hinson needs to convince. My favorite tidbit from their websites thoug,h is their donation tab. Finkenauer’s page links to donation amounts ranging from $15 to $100. Hinson however asks for $50 to $2,800. Whoever runs her website really need to take some time to think about this. If your messaging is that your opponent is actively harming the working families of Iowa for calling the Green New Deal “interesting”, maybe it would be a good idea to back off on the fundraising prices. Just a thought though. It just adds on to dishonesty from her campaign which was accused of plagiarizing her opponent’s website. The New York Times ran a story on this, stating “Ms. Hinson’s website also borrowed exact passages from the Des Moines Register and from The Hill, an outlet that covers Washington; in op-eds, she has taken phrases from CNBC; and her platform on veterans issues uses near-identical language to Ms. Finkenauer…”.

Prediction: Finkenauer. As will be the case in the next two races as well, an increase of turnout for Biden and Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield will help to boost votes for Democrats down ballot. Adding two of the five largest Iowan cities are in the district also helps due to the population’s shift to the left.

District: Iowa 2nd

Major Cities: Davenport (3rd largest), Iowa City (5th largest)

Demographics: See Iowa 1st

2016 Presidential Result: Trump +5

Incumbent: The former 6 term Congressman Democrat Loebsack announced he is not running for reelection.

Challengers: Rita Hart (Democrat) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Republican, pictured)

Analysis: Everything should fall right into place for Hart. In a normal year, in a community represented by a well-liked Democrat for so long, it probably would have. She is not running against a normal Republican though, and this is not a normal year. Miller-Meeks is a Doctor. She is not a COVID denier and actually served as Iowa’s Director of Public Health. If you go in depth on her positions, she makes bad faith arguments about Medicare For All and Obamacare but that is to be expected at this point from a Republican. I think one of the most impressive things on her Campaign’s website is answering questions in videos. The quality of said videos are awful but it totally adds a bit of charm. Kinda like she is a grandma trying to figure out how her webcam works. This helps to connect with possible voters without rallies and meet and greats and should be implemented by every. single. campaign. right now. As for Hart, there is strong Democratic organization, but she needs big turnout in the cities.

Prediction: This could really go either way, but I think if Meeks focuses on her background rather than ideology, she definitely has a good shot with swing voters.

Major Cities: Des Moines (Largest in Iowa)

Demographics: See Iowa 1st

2016 Presidential Result: Trump +3

Incumbent: Cindy Axne (Democrat, pictured via Eric Connolly)

Challengers: David Young (Republican)

Analysis: Young, a two-term Rep lost his seat during the “Blue Wave” of 2018 to Axne, he is back for revenge. I have a hard time seeing how he is going to succeed. One of the reasons attributed to the Blue Wave was the instability and fear mongering about the migrant caravans. It is not hard to see a similar situation take hold this year. The continuous leftward trajectory of cities in Iowa combined with the fact that she already axned (haha get it?) the same opponent just two years ago bodes well for Axne.

Prediction: Axne. This race just feels so boring.

District: Indiana 5th

Major Cities: Fishers (5th largest) , Carmel (6th largest), Noblesville

Demographics: Nearly everything I said about the Iowa districts apply here. I wonder if it applies to every state that starts with “I” hmmm, someone should really study the connection. Either way, yeah same deal, around 80% white, mostly hovering around age 40 with careers in human services and education. The biggest difference though, is that Indiana’s 5th district has a higher than average median household income of $70,000. This probably has to do with the fact that 93% of the population has graduated High School and nearly 50% of the population has at least a Bachelor’s degree.

2016 Presidential Results: Trump +8

Incumbent: The current Congresswoman Republican Susan Brooks is retiring this year.

Challenger: Christina Hale (Democrat) and Victoria Spartz (Republican, pictured)

Analysis: This race has absolutely no business being as close as it is right now. The seat has been under Republican control since 1993 and was represented by Congresswoman Brooks for the last seven years. This, seems to be changing. The district as described earlier is picture-perfect suburbia. The incredibly high education rate, with generational turnover looks to open the door for Democrats. Spartz, a Ukrainian immigrant is running on an anti-socialist platform. The messaging may work on some, but this rhetoric tends to be less effective against young people and those with a college education. This may be another situation of Biden driving more folks to the polls than before, encouraging the party to garner votes down ballot but:

Prediction: I have to give this one to Spartz. The Democratic shift is coming but I believe the Republicans probably have too big of an advantage. Trump is still going to get his fair share of support and there is no competitive Senate race as is the case in Iowa to encourage more turnout.

The Politician Independent Newspaper, created in 2020