District 25 stays red: Sweeney fends off Democratic challenge in state senate special election

At left, Republican State Senator-elect Annette Sweeney (right) speaks with a group of farmers during a Meet and Greet event at Snittjer Grain in Wellsburg last Thursday, and at right, Democratic candidate Tracy Freese embraces a prospective voter while doorknocking in Grundy Center on Saturday. Sweeney won a special election on Tuesday with 56 percent of the vote. (Left photo by Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register; Right photo courtesy of Tracy Freese) 

State Senator-elect Annette Sweeney faced the daunting task of mounting a special election campaign in just three weeks after the resignation of former Majority Leader Bill Dix, but she also held a pair of key advantages: built-in name recognition and an almost two-to-one ratio of registered Republicans to Democrats. The former state representative and USDA Director of Rural Development captured 62 percent of the votes cast in Grundy County on her way to a relatively easy win over Dike small businesswoman Tracy Freese, a first time candidate with no prior experience in elected office.


“I never count my chickens before they hatch, and I was so pleased by how the voters turned out. The team we had on the ground was absolutely incredible,” Sweeney said. “I think it stems from me advocating for rural Iowa—not just the farmers, but also everyone else.”


Sweeney, who celebrated the victory at Babe’s Steakhouse in Radcliffe, won handily in the mostly rural counties of Butler, Grundy and Hardin that comprise District 25, while her opponent carried the more suburban areas of Story County that include Nevada, Roland and Huxley surrounding Ames. In all, the GOP candidate received 4,742 votes to Freese’s 3,726, a 56 to 44 percent spread.


Republican Hardin County Supervisor and Grundy Center native BJ Hoffman, one of Sweeney’s most vocal supporters, expressed a cautious sense of relief upon learning of the outcome. 


“At this point in the political climate, if you’re caught on your heels, it’s not going to be good,” Hoffman said. “As a Republican, I’m happy with the results tonight, but I wouldn’t say I’m going to sleep easier until after the midterm election.”


During an interview with The Grundy Register, Freese, who serves as the chairwoman of the Grundy County Democrats, pledged to stay active and fight for her party’s agenda before the midterm election in November, when she plans on challenging Sweeney again.


“I don’t think the mood around here is sad. We aren’t sad,” Freese said. “Somebody’s going to lose, and it’s an election that you didn’t ever expect to have to be in… Special elections are a crash course. I’m not a career politician, so it’s been an absolute learning experience on all counts.” 


Read the full story in this week's edition of the Grundy Register. Subscribe by calling (319) 824-6958 or clicking here.