DES MOINES — Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared to have argued successfully in convincing Iowans to stay the political course Tuesday, claiming a hard-fought victory over Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell in her first solo statewide election.
Reynolds, 59, became Iowa’s 43rd and first female governor when she succeeded her mentor, Terry Branstad, in May 2017 when he signed on as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to China. She rode the current economic resurgence to a narrow win over Hubbell in a race that came down to a turnout battle on Election Day.
At 11:12 p.m. NBC-TV projected Reynolds would prevail in the closest gubernatorial race in years — and the costliest in Iowa history.
“Thank you, Iowa. What an honor,” Reynolds told her victory party which changed “Keep Iowa Moving” the KIM theme of her campaign. “We had a few polls where we wer down but this team never let up and we never gave up.”
She called Tuesday’s results a “mixed blessing” since some GOP candidates failed to share in the victory. She also expressed a willingness to sit down with Hubbell after a hard-fought campaign and work together on issues moving forward. “I am happy to say that now I will be the first elected female governor of Iowa,” she added.
In his concession speech, Hubbell said he congratulated Reynolds on her victory but urged her to listen to all Iowans as she begins her first full term as governor.
“Even if we aren’t happy with tonight’s results, the fight continues,” Hubbell told his supporters. “We do not have the luxury of giving up.”
Reynolds addressed supporters just after midnight, shortly after Hubbell delivered his concession speech. Reynolds complimented Hubbell for a hard-fought campaign and pledged to sit down with him to discuss issues that were central to his campaign, and she pledged to be a governor for all Iowans.
“To all Iowans, no matter who you might have supported or endorsed in this election, I want you to know that I want to be your governor. I’m running to represent all Iowans in every single corner of this state,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said her administration is “just getting started,” and listed an agenda of growing more jobs and increasing incomes, further reducing taxes, creating better schools, and strengthening farms and small towns.
Reynolds thwarted talk of a blue wave in Iowa for Democrats by garnering 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s unofficial results, compared with Hubbell’s 48 percent, with more than four-fifths of the ballots counted. Libertarian Party candidate Jake Porter received about 2 percent.
In defeating Hubbell, a Des Moines business executive who was making his first bid at public office, Reynolds avoided becoming the second sitting governor in eight years to be ousted from public office. Branstad defeated one-term Democrat Chet Culver in the 2010 governor’s race.
The 2018 governor’s race was the most expensive in state history, with Hubbell raising more than $18 million — padding his contributions with about $7 million of his own money — while Reynolds’ campaign generated about $14.3 million in support with about $5 million coming as a late infusion from the Republican Governors Association to keep Iowa in the red column.
Reynolds also got help energizing the Republican base from two visits by Trump as well as campaign stops by his daughter, Ivanka, Vice President Mike Pence and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Democrats generally steered away from making Trump an issue in Iowa’s 2018 midterm but drew help from outsiders like Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and a parade of other 2020 presidential wannabes as they pressed a message of change and inclusion. Former President Barack Obama endorsed Hubbell, but did not campaign for him in Iowa.
Reynolds appealed to rural interests and her conservative base by focusing on her small-town roots and working-class values that enabled her to raise a family while scaling the political ladder, first as a Clarke County treasurer, then as a state senator and finally as Branstad’s lieutenant governor for six years.
Hubbell was winning in metro areas including around Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Ames, but was losing in most counties.
Both campaigns bombarded the television airwaves with a mix of commercials showing positive images of Reynolds romping with her grandchildren and Hubbell looking relaxed and fatherly talking with Iowans of all ages — as well as hard-hitting messages that challenged Reynolds’ handling of Medicaid privatization and Hubbell’s forthrightness in disclosing his wealth and his plans to change Iowa’s tax policy.
For his part, Hubbell touted himself as a change agent that would halt the sharp right turn that Statehouse Republicans had taken in the past two years to undo the state’s public sector collective bargaining law, revamp the workers’ compensation program and enact what is viewed as the nation’s most-restrictive abortion law — a law that is being challenged in state court.
The scion of one of Iowans wealthiest families, Hubbell campaigned on a theme of getting Iowa moving in “the right direction” after two years of GOP underfunding of education, cutting taxes in a way that favored the wealthy and switching Iowa’s Medicaid system to management by private out-of-state insurance companies without public input.
Hubbell drew on his experience as a past chief executive of the Younkers department store chain and Equitable of Iowa Companies and his brief government stints as head of the Iowa Power Fund Board and interim director of the state Department of Economic Development to make the case that he was better equipped to be the chief executive of state government.
Midterm elections — which normally favor the party not in power at the White House — drew unusually high interest this year with more than a fourth of the 2 million-plus Iowans who registered to vote taking advantage of the 29-day early-voting window to cast their ballots before Election Day, eclipsing the previous record set in 2014.
SIOUX CITY -- Rep. Steve King, an eight-term Republican congressman who spent the final days of his campaign defending his outspoken remarks about diversity and support for far-right political candidates, has survived in Iowa's 4th District.
King edged Democrat J.D. Scholten by in the sprawling district, the most Republican of the state's four congressional districts. With 36 of the 39 counties reporting, King led 50 percent to 47 percent, according to the Iowa Secretary of State website. Libertarian candidate Charles Aldrich, of Clarion, had nearly 2 percent.
In his victory speech, King said his political opponents launched an onslaught of attacks in an attempt to "Kavanaugh-ize me, like this state has never seen, and like maybe America has never seen."
"[Leftists] were throwing a tantrum with all the money they had," " King told the cheering crowd at the Stoney Creek Inn. "All of the allegations...they got nothing. It's manufactured, distorted....this is a threat to the USA if a Congressional seat can be bought with lies...'cyberbullying.'"
King also took aim at fellow Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio. As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Stivers, in a tweet, condemned King for "completely inappropriate," actions and remarks, saying "We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms." The NRCC also cut off campaign funds to King.
Stivers "was derogatory...about something that I never said," King told the audience. He "legitimized everything my opponents said about me...still we hung on."
Scholten, a Sioux City native who played college and professional baseball, surprised most everyone with a dogged campaign as he sought an unprecedented upset that would have reverberated nationally.
Scholten, 38, said he "was so damn proud" of his campaign team and for pushing the race to the point King was on the defensive.
"No one gave us a shot when we started," Scholten said.
The Democrat again pointed out his two political heroes, former Northwest Iowa congressman Berkley Bedell and former Sen. Tom Harkin, both lost their first races.
"You haven’t seen the last of J.D. Scholten!” Scholten said in a tweet.
With 36 of the 39 counties reporting, King led 50 percent to 47 percent, according to the Iowa Secretary of State website. Libertarian candidate Charles Aldrich, of Clarion, had nearly 2 percent.
Scholten won his home county of Woodbury by nearly 3,000 votes, 53 percent to 44 percent. It was the first time King had lost the district's most populous county since he first ran for the House in 2002.
King built a successful earth moving company in Kiron, then won a state senate seat in 1996. He said Republican control of all facets of government in 2017-18 have proven beneficial.
In the last 16 years, King rarely faced a serious challenge as he espoused conservative positions on fiscal and social issues. His closest scare came in 2012 when he outdistanced Christie Vilsack, 53 percent to 45 percent.
In the 4th District, 191,540 voters were registered as Republicans as of Nov. 1, compared to 121,079 registered Democrats. Another 174,008 voters list no party, and 2,617 are registered as Libertarians.
King, 69, drew widespread criticism for his endorsement in October of Faith Goldy, a white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto. Last week, he again defended his recent overseas trip to meet with members of a right-wing Austrian group with historic ties to the Nazi Party.
King, who argues Judeo-Christian traditions laid the foundation for Western Civilization, pushed back against a chorus of critics who claimed he was racist and anti-Semitic. He also overcame a huge campaign finance disadvantage against Scholten, who raised millions of dollars as a first-time candidate. Scholten aired campaign commercials for weeks, while King also got on the air on Friday, four days before the election.
A first-time candidate and paralegal, Scholten said the three top issues he talks about are the health care, the economy and reducing the role of special interest groups in politics.
Scholten, 38, has taken a methodical approach by working through the 39-county district three times by late October. Scholten asserted voters are increasingly upset with King's frequent travels overseas, support for right-wing politicians from other nations and inappropriate comments.
More than 100 people filed into the King watch party starting around 8 p.m. It was decked out in red in anticipation of Republican red in the polls.
Dick Williams, of Sioux City, said his chief issue is the economy, adding that King's prior running of a construction business gives him a big advantage over Scholten.
King's team banned the Des Moines Register from his watch party, saying the state's largest newspaper and "any other leftist propaganda media outlet" were not welcome. The Journal sent a reporter and photographer to the party.
Scholten's party, at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn, drew more than 125 supporters. Monique Scarlett, of Sioux City, said she hoped to see more Democrats win county government seats, plus she boosted Scholten, who came out to meet people a few minutes later.
"I am holding my breath for J.D. especially...We have to dethrone 'The King,' " Scarlett said early in the evening.
-- Tim Gallagher contributed to this article.
WASHINGTON — Democrats seized the House majority from President Donald Trump's Republican Party on Tuesday in a suburban revolt that threatened what's left of the president's governing agenda. But the GOP gained ground in the Senate and preserved key governorships, beating back a "blue wave" that never fully materialized.
The mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Trump's young presidency underscored the limits of his hardline immigration rhetoric in America's evolving political landscape, where college-educated voters in the nation's suburbs rejected his warnings of a migrant "invasion."
Blue-collar voters and rural America embraced his aggression.
Still, a new Democratic House majority would end the Republican Party's dominance in Washington for the final two years of Trump's first term with major questions looming about health care, immigration and government spending. The president's party will maintain control of the executive and judicial branches of U.S. government, in addition to the Senate, but Democrats suddenly have a foothold that gives them subpoena power to probe deep into Trump's personal and professional missteps — and his long-withheld tax returns.
"Tomorrow will be a new day in America," declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would be in line to become the next House speaker.
There were signs of extraordinary turnout in several states, including Georgia, where voters waited hours in the rain to vote in some cases, and in Nevada, where the last voters cast their ballots nearly three hours after polls were scheduled to close.
The road to a House majority ran through two dozen suburban districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats flipped seats in suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver.
Trump sought to take credit for retaining the GOP's Senate majority, even as the party's foothold in the more competitive House battlefield appeared to be slipping.
"Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!" Trump tweeted.
History was working against the president in the Senate: 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.
Democrats' dreams of the Senate majority, which was always unlikely, were shattered after losses in many of the top Senate battlegrounds: Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas.
Trump encouraged voters to view the 2018 midterms as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, the national survey of the electorate, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.
Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good. Twenty-five percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election.
Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.
The president bet big on a xenophobic closing message, warning of an immigrant "invasion" that promised to spread violent crime and drugs across the nation.
The president found partial success despite his current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era.
Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, were laser-focused on health care as they poured hundreds of millions of dollars onto surging anti-Trump energy to break up the GOP's monopoly in Washington and state governments.
While Democratic losses were expected, particularly in the Senate, some hurt worse than others.
In Texas, Sen Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke, whose record-smashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.
Democrats' fate in high-profile governorships in Georgia and Wisconsin were at risk as well.
In Indiana, Trump-backed businessman Mike Braun defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. In Missouri, Josh Hawley knocked off Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. And in Tennessee, GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin won re-election. And in New Jersey, Democrats re-elected embattled Sen. Bob Menendez, who, less than a year ago, stood trial for federal corruption charges. The Justice Department dropped the charges after his trial ended in a hung jury.
Tuesday's elections also tested the strength of a Trump-era political realignment defined by evolving divisions among voters by race, gender, and especially education.
Women voted considerably more in favor of their congressional Democratic candidate — with fewer than 4 in 10 voting for the Republican, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and about 20,000 nonvoters — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
In suburban areas where key House races were decided, voters skewed significantly toward Democrats by a nearly 10-point margin.
SIOUX FALLS — Republican Rep. Kristi Noem overcame an unusually strong Democratic challenge to win the South Dakota governor's race Tuesday, becoming the first woman elected to the office in the state's history.
Noem, a four-term congresswoman, didn't play up her gender against Democratic state Sen. Billie Sutton. Instead, she drew on her farming and ranching background and congressional achievements — including passing GOP tax cuts — to claim the historic victory.
After a strong win in the June primary, Noem acknowledged it would be "incredibly special" to be the first woman elected to the post. But Noem said then that she believed people were supporting her for her qualifications.
Sutton's strong campaign gave Democrats rare hope in a statewide election. He cast himself as a moderate, with pro-gun and anti-abortion stances that made him palatable to many Republican voters, to push Noem hard to the finish. His unusual life story — former rodeo cowboy who turned to politics after a paralyzing injury — brought him added attention.
Noem replaces replace term-limited Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Sutton — a self-described "pro-life and pro-Second Amendment" moderate — cast himself as an anti-corruption crusader who would buck the status quo in the wake of financial misconduct scandals that grabbed South Dakota headlines.
Noem reminded voters that Sutton is a Democrat and tried to tie him to 2016 Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She also asserted — over Sutton's denials — that he backs a state income tax for South Dakota, one of seven states without it.
"If Billie believed everything that he said in this campaign, he'd be a Republican, but he's not. He's a Democrat," Noem said during a late October debate.
She's promised to protect state residents from tax increases and more government regulations, improve state transparency and fight federal government intrusion.
Sioux Falls Republican Sam Tyrell said he voted for Noem because he likes her conservative platform and her "record speaks for itself." He said it would be good for South Dakota if she became the state's first female governor.
"I think especially just showing that ... it doesn't matter your gender, race, if you run on a conservative platform and you're a strong candidate we'll vote for you," said Tyrell, an auditor.
Noem, who has roots in ranching and farming, brought major strengths to the race: a nearly 100,000-voter GOP advantage, experience running statewide campaigns and support from the state's dominant political party and its top officials. She also significantly outraised and outspent Sutton.
For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics