Nov 4, 2021 - News
Iowa election: Conservatives win Ankeny and Johnston school boards
Illustration of several versions of the elephant from the Republican Party logo stampeding and kicking up dust.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

School board candidates who pledged to challenge mask mandates and equity standards picked up major seats in the Des Moines metro's north suburban districts Tuesday night.

State of play: In Ankeny, candidates Trent Murphy, Joy Burk and Sarah Barthole — who each campaigned against mandating masks — won seats.

  • They defeated Lori Lovstad, the only incumbent up for reelection. Lovstad had advocated for mask mandates.

Of note: Barthole was endorsed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Meanwhile, voters in Johnston approved three school board candidates who agreed to the "1776 Pledge," which was promoted by former President Donald Trump. The winners are Derek Tidball, Clint Evans and Deb Davis.

  • Candidates who take the pledge agree to "restore honest, patriotic education that cultivates in our children a profound love for our country."

Yes, but: It wasn't a clean conservative sweep across the metro. In Waukee, none of the four candidates supported by a conservative PAC won.

  • West Des Moines and Urbandale didn’t have an influx of conservative victories either.

Between the lines: Des Moines' northern suburbs typically lean Republican, said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University. But this year's school board elections were unique because of the energy behind them, and the personal values at stake.

  • Goldford said partisan media, the handling of the pandemic and a pushback against a negative narrative about the U.S. all played a part.
  • "Angry people get out and vote. Fearful people get out and vote," Goldford said.

What to watch: It remains unclear at this time whether some of these suburbs could see mask policy or curriculum changes in the near future.

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