Republican Zach Nunn ousts Cindy Axne to flip sought-after Iowa district

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) is expected to be defeated by Republican Sen. Zach Nunn, flipping a seat that GOP leaders had viewed as one of their best opportunities to pick up the cycle.

The Associated Press called the race Wednesday at 3:25 p.m.

Iowa’s 3rd congressional district includes the heavily Democratic Des Moines, but it wasn’t enough to ease Axne’s economic fears — particularly about inflation — that plagued voters ahead of the polls.

Nunn, like Republicans across the country, had placed this issue at the heart of his campaign, accusing President Biden and the Democrats of exacerbating inflationary tendencies with an influx of new federal spending, including legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that Biden had enacted in his first few weeks in office.

Nunn said he would fight inflation by cutting spending and slashing taxes — two popular ideas in the right-leaning district, though economists of all stripes have warned the latter will only make inflation worse.

Axne — first elected as part of the 2018 blue wave that gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives — had tried to counter those attacks by pointing to the numerous benefits passed in Biden’s first two years. That list included proposals to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, boost domestic manufacturing, expand access to healthcare and help businesses deal with the pandemic.

She’d also played up the Supreme Court’s decision that year to abolish federal protections on abortions, noting that Nunn has unfailingly supported an abortion ban — a position she says empowers the government to override the health choices of Americans and their doctors to put.

But history was not on Axne’s side, as the party that controls the White House has routinely suffered losses during the president’s first term. To make matters worse, Biden’s approval has been under water for more than a year. And Axne also seemed hurt by the new congressional map, which dumped a number of rural counties in the southern part of the state into the 3rd Circuit.

Money also played a role. While Axne had raised far more campaign money than Nunn over the cycle — $6.6 million to her opponent’s $2.3 million, according to OpenSecrets — outside spending had poured into the district and helped push Nunn to the finish line.

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