BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Early voting was critical to the success of several local Democrats in local elections Tuesday night.
Rich Harlow won the District 3 Lee County Supervisors race with 1,481 votes to 1,277 or 54.6% of the votes cast in the five precincts. Harlow won 59.2% of the absentee and early voting. However, Harlow won by 204 votes, but had a 260 vote lead in absentee and early voting numbers.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Harlow said. “That was a lot of hard work and knocking on doors and parades.”
He said he’s anxious to get working for the people of Lee County and the board of supervisors.
“I look forward to working with them,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of the meetings and they’re all hard working people. Looking forward to working with them and the staff as well.”
Harlow said this campaign was more arduous than previous runs for city council.
“Absolutely. A lot more of a grind than I thought it would be. It’s been since February,” he said. “When I ran for city council I beat seven other people and it was no way a grind like this has been a grind.”
He said he thinks the election was a referendum of the people not just locally, but on a state and national level, that they are very frustrated.
“By in large I think with the people of not just Lee County, but the people of United States, there is a lot of unrest and ‘politicians’ is a dirty word. We’ve got a great country and that’s how things happen. Right now there’s a lot of division and I was out talking to people, and I found that a lot of people are just plain fed up.” Harlow said.
Phone calls to Steffen went unreturned.
In the District 83 Iowa House race, Fort Madison’s Jeff Kurtz knocked off Keokuk Republican Jeff Reichman 5,518 to 4,587 for 54.6% of the votes cast. Kurtz brought in 60.6% of the early and absentee voting.
“I think it was a good night for us and a good night state-wide for all our candidates. We certainly made gains from 2016,” Kurtz said.
A very telling statistic in that race was that Reichman had more votes on election day than Kurtz had. Jeff Kurtz took 2,908 absentee and early votes compared to Reichman’s 1886 for a difference of 1,022, but Reichman lost the election by only 931 votes. So Reichman actually had 91 more votes on election day.
“I think the absentee ballots helped, those are votes in the bank,” Kurtz said. “We engaged in absolutely no dirty campaigning. I congratulate Jeff. He’s probably the strongest candidate that they could have run. There were some factors there that didn’t play well. I think it was matter of timing.”
Kurtz said he thinks Democrats gained some ground because of emotional issues such as collective bargaining, IPERS, and underfunded education as well as the privatized Medicaid debacle.
Reichman said he was told the election would be decided by Oct. 9 and the absentee ballots proved that projection correct.
“Unfortunately, you can’t take those out of the equation,” Reichman panned after the results were in.
“It was a good experience overall and my first venture into politics. As we say in life and the military, you’ll learn more from your defeats than through your victories.”
He said that wasn’t a precursor to a future run, but he didn’t rule it out either.
“It’s too early to tell. We’ll regroup and re-evaluate,” he said.
He said the Democrats just outspent his campaign and that was the main reason for the loss.
“We were just getting outspent. I said from the beginning, my measure of our success is what they had to counter. If we did something, they had to counter it and outspend us and they did that 13 to 1,” Reichman said. “We had a good message. For the price they spent, they could have taken everyone out to lunch. I spent enough to return two pop cans. It’s hard to compete with that, but at the end of the day they got more votes.”
Reichman congratulated Kurtz on the win and said the two are really very similar except on taxes.
“Congratulations to him. We shook hands a few times and said we’re going to have a beer after this and I’m going to hold him to that. We were close on everything except the tax and spend.”
In the other races at the county level, U.S Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa’s 2nd District beat Dr. Christopher Peters 6,482 to 5,558 and went on to win the seat. Businessman Fred Hubbell led Gov. Kim Reynolds through the night’s reporting and took Lee County 6,353 to 5,949. Again the margin of defeat was in early voting with Hubbell holding an 809 vote advantage, but only carried the county by 404.
Secretary of State Paul Pate carried Lee County with 6,184 to 5,924 for Deidre Dejear. DeJear held a 642 vote lead in early voting. County Democrats carried Democrat Rob Sand 6,180 to Mary Mosiman’s 5,861. Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (D) carried the county 6,487 to 5,609, while Secretary of Agriculture Tim Gannon (D) carried the county 6,021 to 5,879 in a very close county vote.
Democrat Tom Miller carried Lee County in a landslide with 8,063 votes to Libertarian Marco Battaglia’s 2,694. Local democrats Ross Braden, Nancy Booten, Chris Spann, and Rick Larkin all were re-elected unopposed.