Nov 7, 2023 - Politics

It's time to vote: Here's what we're watching in Des Moines

Illustration of I Voted stickers, piled on top of one another.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

It's Election Day.

Why it matters: The outcomes will influence the metro's direction for decades.

  • On the ballots are council and school board members, as well as a public measure that could allow Polk County's government to issue $350 million in bonds for a new airport terminal.

Zoom in: These are not "ordinary, sleepy" local races, former DSM Register political columnist David Yepsen tells Axios.

  • There are lots of candidates because voters are angry or motivated, including about issues like abortion or censorship that don't typically play central roles in local elections, he says.

Here are three things we're watching:

Mayoral race

DSM will have a new mayor next year for the first time in two decades.

State of play: Council members Josh Mandelbaum and Connie Boesen, plus community organizer Denver Foote and security guard and musician Christopher Von Arx are running.

  • Mandelbaum and Boesen could remain on the council regardless of tonight's outcome because their seats are not up for election this year. (If either is elected as mayor, they would vacate their council seat for the higher office.)
  • But even a loss tonight could still help elevate a candidate's public status and make it easier to potentially seek a higher office in the future, Yepsen says.

A potential change of guard

Four of six City Council seats are on today's ballots with incumbents seeking re-election in three of them.

  • And a fifth could be left vacant until voters select a replacement next year if Mandelbaum or Boesen win as mayor.

Why it matters: It could mean a nearly all-new city council with potentially new goals and directions for Iowa's largest municipality.

Plus, if incumbents lose, it's an indication people are not happy with the way things are going in their neighborhoods.

Suburban school boards

Johnston and Ankeny's school board elections are especially partisan this year with candidates openly backed by local Democratic and Republican groups.

What we're watching: In 2021, conservative candidates overtook these two school boards, but there may be backlash following the Legislature's sweeping education reform last session.

Read more: Our candidate guides for Mayor, Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 4 and at-large


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