Zach Nunn is fond of the words “practical” and “pragmatic.”
It’s perhaps fitting for an Iowa state senator, which Nunn is. Midwesterners lean toward affability and whatever your favorite antonym for “polarizing” happens to be. But Nunn’s demeanor isn’t all that typical for Republican House candidates in competitive contests. Usually, Republicans in his position — Nunn is challenging Rep. Cindy Axne (D) in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District — burn President Joe Biden at the stake, and their Democratic opposition along with him, rhetorically speaking, of course.
Not Nunn, at least not in his Friday interview with the Washington Examiner.
“It’s not just about winning on Election Day, it’s about delivering on the first day, highlighting an agenda that 70% of Americans agree on,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do on Day One to help the American people.”
Nunn has a detailed to-do list of priorities he would like a hoped-for Republican House to unify around and tackle immediately: reducing inflation, improving public safety, balancing the federal budget, restoring energy independence, and asserting Congress’s constitutional powers to rein in the proliferation of executive orders from the Biden White House. With Biden retaining control of his veto pen and the GOP likely to fall short of winning a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority this November, every bullet point on Nunn’s list could fall by the wayside. Either that or House Republicans could face a choice that confounded past House GOP majorities: compromise and accept incremental change or make no change.
Nunn is optimistic that any new House majority seated in January 2023 is in a better position to score legislative victories than was, as it turned, the House majority seated in January 2011 after the big GOP wave of 2010. Maybe Nunn’s confidence is a product of the success he has enjoyed as a Republican member of the Iowa Legislature since 2014, although he has had the benefit of operating with a government under full GOP control. But Nunn is optimistic, nonetheless.
“I’m hoping we have a majority that is far more focused rather than this — politics is much more habitual — let’s spend the next two years arguing with the other side,” he said. “I don’t just want to go to Washington, I want to deliver something to the people who sent me there.”
Nunn, 42, is married with four children and two foster children. An Air Force veteran who has continued to serve with the National Guard, Nunn and his wife jointly operate a firm that sells merchandise online. The prospects of him landing a new job this fall appear bright, as Biden’s job approval ratings continue to sink and the political environment for Republicans continues to rise. The newly configured 3rd Congressional District might also favor Nunn. The Southwest Iowa seat, anchored by Des Moines, is officially a swing district but was drawn to give the GOP a slight edge.
In an internal Nunn campaign poll, Nunn was tied with Axne, with each garnering 43%. But the Republican is pleased, noting the survey was conducted after the Democratic incumbent unleashed nearly half a million dollars in attacking advertising against him. Meanwhile, neither Nunn nor GOP groups that support the party’s House candidates have responded, with plans to wait until after Labor Day to target Axne. However, the congresswoman has one potentially significant advantage in this race: She entered July with more than $3 million in cash on hand to spend on the general election. Nunn, who had a primary, reported just $302,000 and will have to play some serious catch-up.
“It’s always an underdog situation when you face off against an incumbent,” he said.
Nunn said a key part of his strategy is appealing to independent and moderate voters. He also believes he can attract the support of a significant share of Democrats, explaining that he succeeded in turning his state Senate district red “because people were getting frustrated with a leftist, progressive agenda that even many Democrats don’t agree with anymore.” And Nunn does not anticipate the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, eliminating federal protections for abortion rights, to be an impediment to his political strategy.
“The folks that that’s their No. 1 issue — there’s no moving them on it,” he said. “But overwhelmingly, the people in my community are worried how are they going to fill up their tank and put food on the table. That is their burning question, and they don’t see any relief in sight.”