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Dollars and Absentee Ballots - November 2, 2018

With less than one week until the election, leaders are making their final bets and candidates are giving it all they have left in their tank. Campaigns are in the final push to mobilize voters and everyone is hoping for maximum turnout of their voters on election day. 

Our last two blog posts focused on data points that provide indications of election outcomes. Today, we track two more metrics of vital importance to campaigns:

  1. Money
  2. Turnout


Campaigns are like small businesses that operate for a brief period whose only purpose to is to turn out more votes than the campaign of their opponent.  Like any small business, a campaign needs operating capital which comes both from the candidate as well as donors, large and small.  The campaigns in these elections are no different. However, there are aspects of the money that are different and/or noteworthy this cycle. Note that we track “Contributions” and “Cash-on hand” (COH).  Using these two figures we can tell how much of what was contributed has been spent and how much is still available to be spent.  A high cash-on-hand amount at this point in the election calendar typically indicates that a party or a candidate still plans to run additional advertising or that they feel the election is won and they are keeping a war chest for the next election or for other candidates that need support.




Cash-on-hand (COH)

Iowa Democratic Party (IDP)

$5.86 million

$1.37 million

Republican Party of Iowa (RPI)

$4.67 million

$1.47 million

  • The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) and the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) have roughly the same COH but IDP outraised RPI by almost $1 million. 
  • IDP has spent more this year but given the total amounts being spent by all campaigns this year, these numbers are roughly comparable. 
  • Different this year versus past election cycles is that the Democratic party was able to fundraise on par with the Republican Party.

Statewide Candidates

There are two very notable points to pull out of the below data:

  1. The challenger in the Governor’s race, Fred Hubbell, raised an immense amount of money in this election cycle.
  2. Several the down-ballot races realized unprecedented fundraising totals.



Cash-on-hand (COH)

Gov. Reynolds/Gregg (R)



Hubbell/Hart (D)



Porter/Gentry (L)



  • Hubbell/Hart outraised Reynolds/Gregg by almost double but both have similar COH.  Due to a competitive primary, Hubbell/Hart started TV advertising almost a year ago, and has burned through a significant amount of their money raised. Reynolds/Gregg did not begin TV advertising until the late summer.  Nonetheless, the fundraising total is impressive for Hubbell/Hart even factoring in sizeable personal contributions from Hubbell to the campaign.

Secretary of State


Cash-on-hand (COH)

Secretary Paul Pate (R)



Deidre DeJear (D)



  • This race has drawn national attention as DeJear has campaigned aggressively and is a newcomer to politics.
  • The Secretary of State’s office changed hands in 2006 (Michael Mauro won an open race), 2010 (Matt Schultz defeated Michael Mauro), and 2014 Paul Pate won the open race created by Matt Schultz retiring and making an unsuccessful run for Congress.
  • DeJear has not only significantly outraised Pate; she has raised a very impressive sum for the Secretary of State’s race.

Auditor of State


Cash-on-hand (COH)

State Auditor Mary Mosiman (R)



Rob Sand (D)



  • Mary Mosiman faces her first real challenge this election cycle but has not raised enough to mount a serious defense of this office. She is using the “only CPA in the race” argument that worked very well for her Republican predecessor (David Vaudt) who won his first election in a down year for Republicans (2002).
  • Rob Sand has raised money comparable to a Congressional candidate in a race that has never seen this level of fundraising; this has allowed him to be on TV continuously for about a month.  This might be a game changer for him.

Treasurer of State


Cash-on-hand (COH)

State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald (D)



Jeremy Davis (R)



  • This race has drawn little attention as Treasurer Fitzgerald is a long-time incumbent without a strong challenger

Secretary of Agriculture


Cash-on-hand (COH)

Sec. Mike Naig (R)



Tim Gannon (D)



  • The Republican incumbent Michael Naig was appointed by Governor Reynolds when then Secretary Bill Northey resigned mid-term to take a position with the USDA.  As such, this is Naig’s first time up for election.  He won a contested primary as well. 
  • Naig has the support of the commodities groups and the agribusiness community generally. 
  • Gannon has raised an impressive amount for this race and by all accounts is running very close with Naig.

Attorney General


Cash-on-hand (COH)

AG Tom Miller (D)



Mario Battaglia (L)



  • AG Tom Miller does not have a Republican opponent and is very likely to win this race easily. 

Legislative Leadership





Cash-on-hand (COH)

Transferred to Party


Minority Leader Mark Smith





Speaker Linda Upmeyer


$1.18 million


Majority Leader Chris Hagenow



  • In recent cycles, the House Republicans have had a large advantage in fundraising.
  • While the House Republican leadership team outraised the House Democratic leadership team, a combination of outside money and aggressive fundraising by rank-and-file House Democrats put the House Democrats on par with House Republicans in spending this year.





Cash-on-hand (COH)

Transferred to Party


Minority Leader Janet Petersen

Minority Leader Petersen is not required to report these numbers because she is not on the ballot

 Minority Leader Petersen is not required to report these numbers because she is not on the ballot

Minority Leader Petersen is not required to report these numbers because she is not on the ballot


Majority Leader Jack Whitver




President Charles Schneider

President Schneider is not required to report these numbers because he is not on the ballot

President Schneider is not required to report these numbers because he is not on the ballot

President Schneider is not required to report these numbers because he is not on the ballot

  • It is difficult to compare Senate Democratic and Republican fundraising at the leadership level this year given that statutory reporting requirements do not mandate the filing of fundraising reports for candidates who are not on the ballot.  In this case, neither Minority Leader Petersen, nor President Schneider are on the ballot, however both were very active fundraisers.

Notable Legislative Races

In addition to the leadership teams of both parties in both chambers raising money for their races and that of their caucus members, individual candidates are called upon to fundraise locally to take the pressure off of leadership to fully fund races and also as a demonstration of genuine local support for the candidate.  For a look at selected legislative races, see last week’s post about media buys.

Campaign disclosures were reported to the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB).  These contribution and cash on hand figures are from the July 15-October 14 reports that were filed with the IECDB on October 19.


Money is so vital to a campaign because it is spent to drive voter turnout.  From yard signs to TV advertisements to digital media campaigns, the whole point is to get your voters to turn out and to turn out new voters.  The only empirical data we have at this point about turnout is that of absentee ballots requested and received.  Democrats have historically outperformed Republicans with absentee ballots while Republicans have typically relied on heavier turnout on election day.  Over the past few election cycles, Republicans have closed the gap on absentee ballots, but the Democrats continue to be more successful. 

As is reflected below, the Democrats are outpacing both their own 2014 performance as well as the Republicans this year.  The Republicans are currently behind their 2014 pace.  As an interesting side note, Libertarian requests have tripled since 2014.  When reviewing the daily absentee totals, turnout is on pace with the 2014 election, though we can probably expect a boom in the days leading up to the election and the 2018 turnout totals will surpass the 2014 totals.  Earlier this year, Iowa busted the voter turnout record for a June primary with 279,124 ballots cast across the state; the previous record was 233,090 in 2014.

And of course, absentee totals are just a glimpse of the whole picture.  Typically in Iowa, around 60% of the total ballots are cast on election day.

At the close of October 2018, here are the statewide absentee ballot totals:













No Party









By comparison, here are the absentee ballot totals from the last midterm election (2014).  Note: These numbers reflect the total absentee ballots cast for the election, whereas the numbers above are merely a snapshot of the totals as of 10/31.













No Party









Important Election Dates/Reminders

Monday, November 5  

Absentee Ballot In-Person Deadline, 5:00pm-Last day to request and vote an absentee ballot in person at the auditor's office or satellite voting station.

Absentee Ballot Postmark Deadline-absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than the day before the election and must be received by Tuesday, November 13.

Tuesday, November 6  

General Election Day-Polls open 7am until 9pm.  On election day, you will need to go to the polling place for your precinct to vote.  Find your polling place by entering your zip code on the Secretary of State’s website.

The Secretary of State has provided additional tools to ensure that every Iowan is voter ready.