U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, speaking to the Women’s March attendees at the Iowa State Capitol on January 18, 2019.
Photo Credit: Phil Roeder (CC-By-2.0)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Political observers expect a hotly contested race in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. After Republicans held the seat after redistricting that took effect in 2012, Democratic challenger Cindy Axne upset incumbent Republican Congressman David Young by over 8000 votes in 2018.

Cook Political Report considers the seat a toss-up in 2020 and the National Republican Congressional Committee will target the seat as well.

Republicans held a voter registration edge over Democrats in the district until the October before the 2018 election. Now, Democrats have a slight voter registration edge over Republicans (827) which is up slightly since the election (722 on 12/1/18). (Correction: I erroneously shared voter registration numbers from First District in the original version of this story.) The loss to Axne, as well as losses down the ballot, can be explained by a shift in suburban voters in Polk and Dallas counties.

With the primary a little over 13 months away who will challenge the Democratic Congresswoman from Des Moines?

After hearing from Republican leaders and activists, and speaking with some of the people mentioned as well, Caffeinated Thoughts has identified seven prospective candidates for the Republican nomination.

Zach Nunn

Nunn, 39, a State Senator from Bondurant who represents Iowa Senate District 15 told Caffeinated Thoughts that he considering running for Congress. It is likely that he won’t make an announcement one way or the other until after the legislative session.

Nunn was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2018 after serving for two terms in the Iowa House of Representatives representing Iowa House District 30. While in the Iowa House, he served as House Majority Whip and Assistant House Majority Leader.

He is a veteran active duty Air Force pilot with over 700 combat hours during three deployments for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nunn is now stationed with the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Wing.

An Altoona native, Nunn graduated from Southeast Polk High School. He received undergraduate degrees in political science and international relations from Drake University. He also earned a masters degree from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom in international security.

He also served on the White House’s National Security Council as Director of Cybersecurity, served as legislative staff for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, worked as a military legislative affairs officer for a 4-Star General and is an adjunct professor at Drake University.

Nunn and his wife Kelley have four children and own a small business in Bondurant.

Nunn serves on the board of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement and Drake University’s National Alumni Board. He is a member of Saints John & Paul Catholic Church in Altoona, Knights of Columbus, the Altoona Chamber of Commerce, and the American Legion.

Nunn currently has a lifetime score of 78 percent from the American Conservative Union’s rating of Iowa’s legislators (from 2015-2018). Nunn earned 90 percent in 2015, 57 percent in 2016, 90 percent in 2017, and 76 percent in 2018.

David Young

Several Republican sources told Caffeinated Thoughts that Young, 50, is strongly considering a rematch of 2018 to regain the seat he lost after serving two terms in Congress.

Young, a native and resident of Van Meter, served as chief of staff to Senator Grassley for seven years. Before that, he served former U.S. Senator Jim Bunning as chief of staff from 1998 to 2006.

In 2014, after no one reached the 35 percent threshold required by Iowa law to win the Republican nomination (Young placed fifth), the nominee was chosen at a special nominating convention where Young won on the 5th ballot. (A Caffeinated Thoughts poll of delegates showed Young tied with Brad Zaun, the primary’s top vote earner, and was the top second choice for delegates who responded.)

Young then defeated the Democratic nominee Staci Appel in the general election by just shy of 30,000 votes.

In 2016, he defeated his Democratic challenger, Jim Mowrer, by just over 53,000 votes.

While in Congress, Young was given a lifetime score of 57 percent from Heritage Action and was slightly higher on the FreedomWorks scorecard with a lifetime score of 68 percent. Young also received a 77 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

Jon Jacobsen

Jacobsen, age 58, a Republican state representative from Treynor serves Iowa House District 22. Jacobsen won in a special election in 2017 held after State Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, passed away. He recently was elected to his first full term in 2018.

Jacobsen was a Senior Vice President at Treynor State Bank for 11 years and is currently Senior Trust Officer and Vice President at Security National Bank in Council Bluffs. He received his J.D. from the University of Iowa.

Jacobsen has been married to his wife, Debra, for 31 years, and they are members of St. Cecilia’s Cathedral Church.  They have 3 grown children.

Jacobsen is a member of the Pottawattamie County Republican Central Committee. Jacobsen also co-hosted a political radio program on KMA for three years before the show ended this spring.

He was given a 74 percent rating in 2018 by the American Conservative Union.

Jacobsen would not confirm or deny that he was considering running for Congress when asked by Caffeinated Thoughts.

Jake Chapman

Chapman, 34, a second-term state senator from Adel is considering running for Congress.

He first won his seat representing Iowa Senate District 10 in 2012, is now an assistant majority leader.

Chapman is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and currently serves as CEO of his family’s private ambulance service. He is also a licensed EMT.

After graduating from Adel-DeSoto-Minburn High School in 2003 Senator Chapman served a mission for his church. For two years he worked with and served the people of Norway and was able to learn the Norwegian language. Upon returning from Norway he married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Moore, and they have five children.

In 2008, Senator Chapman earned his associate degree with honors in business administration from AIB College of Business in Des Moines. In 2009 he graduated, again with honors, with his bachelor’s degree in business administration from AIB.

Chapman served as the president of the Young Republicans of Dallas County, which he helped establish in 2010. He has also served as a member of the Dallas County Central Committee. Chapman has been active in the campaigns of numerous Republicans at the federal, state and local levels.

The American Conservative Union gave Chapman the Award for Conservative Achievement in 2018. They have given him a lifetime score of 86 percent with the ACU. Chapman earned from the ACU a 100 percent rating in 2013, a 91 percent rating in 2014, 88 percent rating in 2015, 60 percent in 2016, a 91 percent in 2017, and 86 percent in 2018.

Dan Dawson

Dawson, 40, won election to the Iowa Senate when he defeated former Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstall, D-Council Bluffs, by eight points in 2016 in Iowa Senate District 8. Caffeinated Thoughts confirmed he is considering a run for Congress.

Dawson, an Abraham Lincoln High School graduate, is the third generation from his family to reside and work in Council Bluffs. He and his wife, Chrystal, have two children.

He graduated in 2008 from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb., with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration. Dawson currently serves in the Army Reserves, where he earned his current rank of Chief Warrant Officer. He has served for the past 20 years, mobilizing four times with deployments to Kosovo, Iraq, and twice to Afghanistan.

Dawson worked in the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Council Bluffs Police Department. He currently serves as a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, where he works in the Major Crimes Unit.

He is a member of St Patrick’s Catholic Church of Council Bluffs, Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He has also served as a director in the state police union.

The American Conservative Union gave Dawson an Award of Conservative Excellence in 2017. Dawson earned an ACU rating of 92 percent in 2017 and a rating of 76 percent in 2018.

Sara Kurovski

Kurovski, 34, serves as mayor of Pleasant Hill. Kurovski, serving her second term, was first elected in 2013. She was mentioned by one activist as a potential candidate.

Kurovski did not confirm to Caffeinated Thoughts she was considering a run but did not deny it either.

“This is an exciting time for women seeking and winning elected office. While I am now in my second term as Mayor, I continue to focus my energy every day on protecting and serving Pleasant Hill by engaging and elevating the voices of our residents.  Whether or not that could lead me to seek another public office remains to be seen,” she said in an email.

Kurovski currently works as the Tocqueville Society Director at United Way of Central Iowa. Previously, she held positions at Metro Waste Authority as Operations Program Manager and Kum & Go as Manager of Sustainability.

In 2015, she was added to the 40 under 40 list and was named the Emerging Women of Influence by the Business Record.

Kurovski serves on the Eastern Polk Regional Development Board, Bravo Greater Des Moines Board, Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Management Committee, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Board of Commissioners, Wastewater Reclamation Authority Management Committee, and Iowa Municipalities Worker’s Compensation Association Board.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. and a Master’s in Public Administration from Drake University. She and her husband Todd have two children.

Brad Huss

Huss, 56, a member of the Ankeny Community Schools Board since 2011 serving his second term, confirmed to Caffeinated Thoughts that he will run for the Republican nomination.

He and his wife Shelley have lived in Ankeny for 30 years. They also own and operate Creative Kids Learning Center in Ankeny. They have three adult children. Huss also works as a Software Engineer with American Equity in West Des Moines.

Mary Ann Hanusa

(Update: After publication, two different people contacted me to say State Rep. Hanusa should be included in this list.)

State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, 55, from Council Bluffs represents Iowa House District 16 and is serving her fifth term in the Iowa House.

She was born and raised in Council Bluffs. Hanusa received her K‐12 education in Council Bluffs and attended Concordia Teachers College where she earned a degree in education with majors in history and political science. She later earned a master’s degree in American History from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Hanusa served as an area representative for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, before serving as Director of the Office of Presidential Personal Correspondence in the White House during President George W. Bush’s administration. In 2006, she resigned her position when she was nominated to run for Iowa Secretary of State. Hanusa has chaired the Pottawattamie County Republicans and served on the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.

Currently, Mary Ann works as a School Administrative Manager for the Council Bluffs Community School District. She is also a co‐owner of Hanusa Hardware and Rental in Council Bluffs.

Hanusa and her husband, Charlie Johnson, were married in 2006. She is a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs.

Hanusa has a lifetime rating of 79 percent with the American Conservative Union. She earned an 89 percent in 2012, 90 percent in 2013, 75 percent in 2014, 78 percent in 2015, 58 percent in 2016, 85 percent in 2017, and 79 percent in 2018.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder (CC-By-2.0)

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