Three Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. And while Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer and Mike Sherzan each have a compelling biography, when it comes to policy the differences amongst the trio are nearly nonexistent.
Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District covers 16 counties in the southwest corner of the state. It includes both Des Moines and Council Bluffs, along with many rural communities.
Democratic strategist Brad Anderson says Iowa’s 3rd is always a competitive district. And Democrats see a genuine opportunity since the party’s base turns out in greater numbers during presidential election years and because Republican Congressman David Young has been in office for only one term.
“He hasn’t built that wealth of name recognition and establishment chops,” he says.
Anderson would like to see Adams, Mowrer and Sherzan inspire the Democratic base by finding a distinct voice and setting forth bold ideas. But so far, he says he’s been frustrated by what he calls milquetoast, dated messaging and lack of daylight among the three candidates.
“My fear is that as candidates they’ve kind of played it a little safe in my mind, to date," he says. "In terms of their ideas and their policies. And really their, even the way they’ve packaged them.”
It’s true that while the three candidates might present their positions differently, all are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The trio also supports Israel, transgender rights, stricter gun-control policies and campaign finance reform. Each opposes Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border and all say the scandal related to Hilary Clinton’s email server has been blown out of proportion.
But Desmund Adams says this primary isn’t about issues. At a debate last Thursday, he said it’s about determining who is best suited to win in the general election.
“We all agree on these progressive issues. The bottom line is, 'who can beat David Young? Who can unseat David Young?' And in order to unseat David Young we’re going to have to have broad, built collations in order to do that,” says Adams.
Adams dropped out of high school, and is now a business owner and Drake Law School grad. He says this unique biography has enabled him to build the broadest collation of support.
Jim Mowrer says voters do have distinct candidates to choose from when it comes to each man’s background, record and endorsements. Mowrer worked at the Pentagon for the Obama Administration after serving in Iraq with the Iowa Army National Guard. He’s won the bulk of support from the party establishment.
“There’s a reason that these folks believe in me and trust in me,” he says. “They’ve seen what I’ve done, they know what I’ll do in Congress.”
But Mike Sherzan says endorsements aren’t the be-all and end-all.
“Endorsements are only one vote. And if you don’t live in the district, they’re not even worth that. People, voters they don’t like to be told who to vote for,” says the financial services businessman. “They’re citizens, they make up their own minds.”
Laura Belin of the left-leaning website Bleeding Heartland agrees with Sherzan that endorsements in this primary don’t matter much. That’s good news for Sherzan, since he got into the race after his opponents had already lined up endorsements.
Belin does point out that high-profile endorsements can generate media coverage.
“We haven’t had a competitive Democratic primary in a while in this part of the state,” she says. “So to get people to remember to vote on June 7th could be a challenge.”
Belin adds that regardless of who ultimately wins the nomination, she thinks a competitive primary is good for Democratic prospects in the general election as this also generates media coverage.
She cites the 2014 Republican primary for Senate, which now-Senator Joni Ernst won.
“The Democrats very early united behind Bruce Braley and the Republicans had this crowded field. That meant for months and months there a lot of media coverage of the different Republican candidates out there holding their events, making their case. And there wasn’t as much attention on the Democratic case,” says Belin
The primary is Tuesday, so Democrats still have the weekend to think over their decision and decide if they want a veteran, a businessman or a self-described coalition builder to challenge David Young in November.