Axne: 'They want me out'

Jan. 27—OTTUMWA — Representative Cindy Axne says the negative ads about her aren't true. She's going to rely on the roughly three dozen voters she met with in Wapello County on Wednesday to spread the word.

Axne, a Des Moines Democrat first elected to the U.S. House in 2018, stumped in Ottumwa and other southern Iowa towns that are new to her congressional district Wednesday. After the once-a-decade redistricting process, Axne finds herself running for re-election this year in the newly-defined Third Congressional District. It now includes Wapello, Appanoose, Davis and Monroe counties, formerly of the district currently represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks, in southcentral Iowa.

Axne told voters at Pallister Brothers Brewing Company that she's the U.S. House's most bipartisan representative and was the most accessible freshman member of Congress before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not long after she was re-elected in 2020, the attack ads began again. Axne says her seat will be the nation's most hotly contested race as Republicans try to win back control of Washington, D.C.

"I've already had millions of dollars spent [against me] in advertising already," she said. "They want me out of the seat because I'm doing a good job for the state."

Axne touted the Biden Administration's accomplishments on infrastructure (expected to bring about $5 billion in funding to Iowa) and the American Rescue Plan Act, among others. But, she took a positive outlook on other campaign initiatives of Biden's, like the Build Back Better Act, that have faced stalls in Congress, in part due to members of the President's own party.

"We're at a point where it's going to get broken down, most likely, and we're going to look at pieces that we know we can move through," Axne said of the Build Back Better Act. "I'd encourage you all to touch base with the Senators and just say, 'We need this.'"

Axne said voters should support her campaign, and help ensure Republicans do not get control in 2023, but still hailed moments of bipartisanship last year.

She championed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans' Mental Health Act, named after a Davenport veteran who took his own life after being turned away from help due to a lack of resources. The bill, sponsored by Axne with backing from Republicans of the Iowa delegation in the U.S. House, provides for expanded mental health services to rural veterans. It passed the House overwhelmingly, and by unanimous consent in the Senate. Biden has since signed it into law.

"We got it through to make sure that our veterans who come back to our rural communities ... and make sure that those veterans have the mental health services they need," Axne said. " ... I have taken this job to heart because it is what we need to be doing. This job is to represent the people that you serve."

Axne says she avoids the national spotlight, focusing on communicating directly with her constituents, holding town halls and focusing her appearances to local and state media outlets.

"I don't benefit any of you by going on national TV," Axne said. "When you see some of our representatives doing that, I really wonder who the heck they're working for."

But Axne said there are downright lies being spread by political opponents about her and the Democratic party. Asked by a voter how Democrats can get their message out in times of political divisiveness, Axne said it's rural Iowans talking with each other and being accessible so people can get to know her.

"I'm coming out to make sure everybody gets to know me, and they understand I'm not what they're hearing on TV," Axne said. "... Those lies have unfortunately created ideas in people's minds about who the Democrats are. If they haven't figured out yet, I am not Nancy Pelosi — I'm a foot taller, I'm from a different state, I don't wear five-inch heels. I'm focused on issues important to Iowa."

Axne also hosted public events in the towns of Jefferson, Chariton and Centerville on Wednesday.

Nicole Hasso, Gary Leffler and Zach Nunn, are currently seeking the Republican nomination in the June primary to run against Axne for the seat. Axne is currently unopposed among Democrats.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.