Washington Bureau

06.21.14

Shocking Upset At Iowa GOP Convention

Dark horse candidate David Young pulled a surprise victory on Saturday afternoon to become the GOP candidate in a swing congressional district that will be crucial in November.

To the fifth-place finisher go the spoils.

Former congressional staffer David Young became the Republican nominee for Congress in an Iowa swing district, totally upsetting the conventional wisdom in a topsy turvy political convention in a hot, packed gym of a Christian high school in Urbandale, Iowa. 

Young had finished in fifth place on election night and only led on the fifth and final ballot at the convention. Instead, Brad Zaun, a state senator who had been his party’s nominee in a similar congressional district in 2010, was always ahead throughout, except when it mattered.

With sweat dripping down the faces of candidates, delegates and guests, the room seemed almost like an old-fashioned political convention, save for the lack of cigars and whiskey—not to mention the presence of content filters on the wireless Internet at the Christian institution which kept much of the World Wide Web off limits for attendees. Instead, candidates sneaked back into classrooms as subsititutes for smoke-filled rooms. When Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz met with Young before a crucial ballot when it looked one of them would face elimination, they huddled together in Mrs. Augustine’s vocal music room. Then, once Schultz was eliminated and Young squeaked by, the cherubic-looking 34-year-old Iowa Secretary of State took the stage and endorsed Young. Once that happened, the momentum changed and Young started to surge in the tallies.

Young, who had briefly run for outgoing Democrat Tom Harkin’s Senate seat before dropping down the ballot to run for Congress, was an unlikely winner. He was almost no one’s first choice in the race. He wasn't the establishment candidate or the evangelical candidate or the candidate of any particular faction in the party. But he hadn’t alienated anyone either. As a result, the candidate who had performed magic tricks in his relatively low-fi campaign, pulled the ultimate surprise out of his hat on a hot Saturday afternoon in the Hawkeye State.

The nomination sets the stage for competitive general election in November, where former state senator Staci Appel has already been selected as the Democratic nominee in one of the few GOP-held congressional seats that Barack Obama won twice.