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Nunn says ‘time was not right’ to jump into a new campaign

Senator drops Iowa’s third district bid, flies to Ukraine to assist elections

Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, announced he would be dropping his bid for Iowa's third congressional district seat.
Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, announced he would be dropping his bid for Iowa's third congressional district seat.

Two months after considering a bid for Iowa’s third congressional district seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, said Monday he would be dropping out of the race and return to representing Iowa State Senate District 15.

Nunn told the Newton Daily News Tuesday that making the decision to both look at a run and ultimately deciding against it was difficult. Preferring to stay in his home district, Nunn cited family reasons as a key factor for dropping the congressional bid.

“Other families have balanced this before — it’s not impossible — but the time was not right for us to just jump into something new,” Nunn said.

The third congressional district does not include Jasper County. Thad Nearmyer, chair of the Jasper County Republican Party, said he’s happy with whatever decision Nunn makes but is also glad he stayed to help the people of Iowa Senate District 15, which includes eastern Polk County and Jasper County.

“I understand that he has to make the decisions that are best for him and his family,” Nearmyer said. “If he had chosen to run, we would have been supportive as much as we could.”

Listening tour

Prior to calling off his bid, Nunn had launched a listening tour across all 16 Iowa counties in the third congressional district in May. During that time, Nunn told the Newton Daily News he would not fully commit to a campaign ahead of his military responsibilities in June. Only then would Nunn take “a very aggressive lean forward” in July to see if Iowans in the district would support him.

Talks with potential constituents during the listening tour offered important takeaways for the Republican senator. Based on the conversations Nunn had, people want more functionality out of their federal-level government and wished that Washington, D.C. would operate more like Iowa.

“People on both sides of the aisle would come together, find a reasonable solution and actually make progress — just progress, in general, was a really big reoccurring theme,” Nunn said. “I think a lot of people are frustrated. No matter who is in charge, not a lot of work gets done. And ultimately it’s the people back home are the ones that suffer for it.”

Nunn voiced his support for former Congressman David Young in a Twitter post the same day the Iowa senator dropped out of the third congressional district race. Young, a Republican, represented the southwest corner of the state and a portion of central Iowa from 2015 to 2019. He was unseated by Axne, a Democrat, in the 2018 U.S. gubernatorial elections.

Flying to Ukraine

While attending to duties in his own senate district, Nunn, who serves as chair of Iowa’s International Relations Committee, will also be assisting an international election monitoring team for the snap parliamentary elections this week in Ukraine.

According to the press release from Nunn, the team is tasked with ensuring free and fair elections “in the wake of Russian-backed separatists” occupying nearly a third of Ukraine. As a former director of cybersecurity at the White House and a current squadron commander within his unit in the U.S. Air Force, Nunn said he wants to help Ukrainians have a clear voice in their own government.

By having an international presence there, he added, the team is hoping to validate the final parliamentary election vote but also deter would-be deterrents from influencing people through misinformation or from stopping people to vote in the election entirely. Describing Iowa as a “pioneer” in the election process, Nunn said the situation in Ukraine also ties back to Iowa.

“It’s a thrilling opportunity,” Nunn said. “I think Iowa, as the first-in-the-nation caucus state, has a lot of experience with high profile candidates, early voting systems … The parliamentary system in Ukraine is ironically a lot like Iowa caucuses. It’s very much party-based and a few people can influence a dramatic outcome. So there’s a lot of parallels here.”

Other congressional district interests?

Considering the upcoming retirement of U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, who holds Iowa’s second congressional district seat, Nunn suggested he is not yet interested in campaigning for his open seat.

“(My family and I have) spent a lot of time in Jasper County. We love Jasper County. I’m honored to serve that constituency,” he said. “And our commitment right now is, hey, our kids are in the Bondurant school district, this is where our home is.”

Nunn added, “Short of congressional districts changing in two years, we’re pretty happy where we are.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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