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The Conservative Reader:

The Candidates

Dan Zumbach (R)  vs.  Nate Willems (D)

Democrat Nate Willems has spent the last 3 ½ years in the Iowa House and is an attorney who graduated from the U of I law School and now specializes in worker’s rights cases.  Dan Zumbach is a farmer who has also served on the West Delaware School Board and is heavily involved in coaching youth sports and leading 4-H groups.

The District

Northeastern Iowa is home to Senate District 48, which consists of all of Delaware, most of Linn, and small portions of Jones and Buchanan Counties.  Republicans hold a slight advantage in registered voters, the numbers shake out like this—(R-12,949) (D-12,355) (NP-18,082) (R+594).

The Race

Like in most political races this one will come down to two things—the candidates and the money they have to spend.  In both areas there couldn’t be much more separation between the two camps.

Dealing first with the money, Willems raised an amazing $180,000 on his own.  A fairly high number is to be expected from a 3+ year member of the Iowa House, but still this is a lot of money.  On top of that the Democrat party tipped their hand that losing this race would be disastrous by throwing in an amazing $237,000.  Zumbach did very well for a first time candidate by raising $90,000 on his own, while the GOP chipped in $23,000.

It is worth noting that the numbers for both are slightly inflated because both gave big chunks of the money they raised back to the Parties who then spent it for the candidates, largely on advertising.  After these transactions are factored in the Democrats spent $97,000 of their own money on Willems, while Zumbach actually gave the GOP $2,000.  The bottom line is that Willems has well beyond a 2:1 money advantage which has allowed him to encompass all media platforms and go very heavy on mailers.

The other thing that jumps out is how very different these two men are.  Willems is the young up and coming Democrat/ lawyer while Zumbach is the community anchored, rugged farmer.  Much of the result here will come down to which type of voter comes out in larger numbers on Tuesday.  Though Willems has clearly proven he has support by being elected multiple times in this general area, both the House districts that make up this Senate District contain more Republicans than Democrats and this Senate District doesn’t resemble his old House District as much as one would expect.  On paper it would seem the obvious advantage would go to the “incumbent”, who also happens to hold a huge money advantage.

The reason I’m not willing to say this race necessarily goes to the winner on paper is that Willems, though a current House member, is running in a largely new district and for a different seat.  Though some of it is because the Democrat Party see Willems as a future big player, I have a feeling the huge amount of cash they injected in this race has something to do with Zumbach running strong and resonating with the voters in District 48.

I will be closely watching for this race as the returns come in Tuesday—if this seat goes Republican not only was this race a bad investment for Democrats…they are in for a bad night.

Further Information

Dan Zumbach –

Nate Willems –


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