Former Sanders staffer falls short in Iowa House race

Sen. Bernie Sanders went all in for his 2016 Iowa state director Pete d’Alessandro’s congressional campaign.

He endorsed d’Alessandro in January, helped raise money for the bid, headlined a rally for him in February and narrated a television ad that first aired in May.

But it wasn’t enough.

D’Alessandro finished third in the state’s Third Congressional District primary on Tuesday, having been outraised by both the winner, small business owner Cindy Axne, and second place finisher, Eddie Mauro.

In an interview Tuesday, d’Alessandro credited Sanders for paving the way for his campaign, which he said wouldn’t have been possible — or lasted as long in what had been a deep and well-funded field — without the “political revolution” they launched two years ago.

Before then, d’Alessandro said, “Someone like me couldn’t even be in the race. The fact that so many people like me are in these races throughout this country is actually the story. We’re gonna win some, we’re gonna lose some, but the story isn’t necessarily about the win-loss score.”

In a statement early Wednesday morning, Sanders touted the work of Our Revolution, the political organization formed out of his presidential campaign, and its winners on Tuesday night, including a pair in the Hawkeye State. He also gave a nod to d’Alessandro, who “despite being heavily outspent,” Sanders said, “ran a great, grassroots campaign in Iowa. I am sorry he lost.”

It was also a disappointing night for Sanders ally Cathy Glasson, a nurse and union leader backed by Our Revolution who came up short in the gubernatorial contest, which was won overwhelmingly by businessman Fred Hubbell.

The wealthy first-time candidate is now set to face off with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who leads a GOP-dominated state government.

“They are systematically dismantling the parts of government we need to work best, so they can fund tax giveaways to companies that don’t need them,” Hubbell said of Iowa Republicans in his victory speech Tuesday night in Des Moines.

By carrying more than 35% of the vote, Hubbell clinched the nomination outright and avoided what might have been a fraught state convention contest. Glasson is on pace to place second after state Sen. Nate Boulton left the race late amid allegations of sexual misconduct. John Norris, who ran Jesse Jackson’s 1988 primary campaign in Iowa, is due to finish third.

Hubbell will take on the incumbent Reynolds, who is seeking a first full term — she assumed the job in 2017 when President Donald Trump made her predecessor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, the US ambassador to China — in a contest that could tap into a range of issues with national implications.

The Democrat, who has already given millions to his own campaign, is expected to target Reynolds, the state’s first female governor, over her decision in May to sign a bill that would make Iowa home to what many describe as the country’s most restrictive abortion law, while trying to drive a wedge between her and Republicans loyal to Trump, whose tariffs have unsettled the state’s massive pork and soybean industries.

Hubbell has also pledged to return Iowa Medicaid, which was privatized by Republicans, to state control and restore funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Republican Governors Association welcomed Hubbell to the general election with a statement describing him as a “liberal megadonor and longtime political insider” who “doesn’t have what it takes to lead.”

In the first district, state legislator Abby Finkenauer is line to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress if she can oust Republican Rep. Rep. Rod Blum, whose seat the party has been eyeballing for months.

Finkenauer, one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “red to blue” picks, was endorsed by a pair of potential 2020 presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and California Rep. Eric Swalwell, along with EMILY’s List, NARAL and leading labor groups.

It wasn’t all bad news Tuesday for Sanders loyalists.

Our Revolution is on track for a win in the 4th district, where J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player, is hoping for a chance to unseat GOP Rep. Steve King. Scholten supports single-payer health care and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The group’s endorsed candidate for secretary of state, Deidre DeJear, is also leading Jim Mowrer, an Iraq war veteran who challenged King unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2016. DeJear will face off with incumbent Republican Paul Pate, who ran unopposed.