'We're just getting started:' Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds elected to her first full-term
In a downtown Des Moines hotel ballroom, Republican supporters were for the most part calm—and at some points mellow— Tuesday night, with their eyes glued to televisions watching national and local races unfold.
It was quiet when news came down that Republicans lost their seats in Iowa's First and Third Congressional districts.
Then in what felt like a cosmic shift, the crowd erupted into cheers.
Around 11 p.m., multiple news outlets had called the Iowa gubernatorial race and declared Governor Kim Reynolds the victor of the top-of-the-ticket contest in Iowa.
Supporters in the room were elated.
"We want Kim!," roared the crowd, cheering for their candidate who just made history as Iowa's first elected woman to the state's highest office. Reynolds has been in office since May 2017, when she took over for then-Governor Terry Branstad, who stepped down after President Trump tapped him to be U.S. Ambassador to China.
"Governor Reynolds proved there is no longer a glass ceiling under that golden dome," said Lt. Governor-elect Adam Gregg before introduced Reynolds on stage.
In her 10 minute speech, the governor gave a long list of thank-you's to friends, family, staff and her campaign. She thanked supporters and voters too, for pushing her over the edge to beat her Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell in a gubernatorial race that was neck-and-neck up until the very end.
She narrowly claimed victory by roughly 40,000 votes, or a 3% margin, according to unofficial numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. There hasn't been a governor's race won by a tighter margin in 62 years.
“This state has taught me the most powerful lesson: if you work hard and dream big, you can accomplish anything," Reynolds said in her victory speech around midnight, echoing a key theme weaved throughout her campaign highlighting her "Iowa Story" of ascending through the ranks of local and state government to be Iowa's first female governor.
The governor highlighted the state’s economy, vowing to continue to keep the momentum of low unemployment and economic growth – cornerstones of her administration and her campaign.
"That's a state that's working," she said.
She's slated to successfully push more conservative policies forward during at least the next two years, with GOP successfully maintaining control of both chambers of the legislature. During her first year in office, she signed into law a sweeping overhaul of Iowa's tax code, a water quality initiative and the strictest abortion law in the country. Bipartisan efforts like mental health reform and Future Ready Iowa, a jobs-training initiative, are among the pieces of legislation she says she is most proud of.
Her Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell said in his speech to supporters at a watch party near by in downtown Des Moines that his wish for the governor is that she be a leader for all Iowans.
"I urged her to represent all of Iowa in her first, full-term and to listen to all of those people who talked about the importance of education, health care and job training and the need to make changes in those areas," he said.
Reynolds said Hubbell called to congratulate her and that she'd like to sit down with him to discuss the needs of voters who rallied behind him.
“To all Iowans—no matter who you might’ve supported or endorsed in this election, I want you to know I want to be your governor, I’m running to represent Iowans in every corner of this state and I’m looking for the opportunity to do that," she said.