The longest-serving Attorney General in American history, Democrat Tom Miller of Iowa, was quietly defeated by Republican Brenna Bird on election night after holding the office for four decades.
Bird has managed to avoid the medium-term fate of many of her Trump-backed candidates by remaining focused on local issues relevant to Iowans, she said National Review In an interview conducted days after ousting Miller by more than 20,000 votes, she won the race by nearly two percentage points.
Since Bird launched her campaign in January, she has made a point of prioritizing law enforcement and actively challenging the Biden administration’s overreach on issues like environmental regulations that matter deeply to voters in the agrarian state.
“Our campaign was focused on supporting the blue and holding Biden accountable,” Bird said.
Despite being among the safer states in America, Iowa has not been immune to the nationwide surge in violence. Iowa’s violent crime rate increased nearly 14 percent in 2021. By Election Day, Bird had received the approval of the overwhelming majority of sheriffs in Iowa’s 99 counties, Republicans and Democrats. Bird says those efforts set her apart from her predecessor, who she says overlooked the importance of building deep relationships with county sheriffs.
“What we found, with the assistance of 75 current sheriffs, is that most of them had no relationship with the attorney general at all. That will change when I’m Attorney General,” she said.
In an op-ed published a week before the election, Bird highlighted some of the specific policies she would follow to assist police, including conducting a victim services audit to ensure crime victims receive adequate support , and to start a new cold-case unit to boost the state’s homicide rate.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Iowa doesn’t go the way of Chicago or Minneapolis. These cities are plagued by crime and prosecutors who don’t enforce our law and are looking for any reason to let dangerous criminals back on the streets,” Bird wrote in the Des Moines Register.
Bird also positioned herself as a down-to-earth alternative to a Democratic incumbent, who she said was intent on placating Washington’s Democratic Party leaders.
“I was born and raised on our family farm near Dexter in western Iowa. I was homeschooled. I was in 4-H. I went to Drake University and then to the University of Chicago for law,” she said.
By comparison, Bird has portrayed the Harvard-educated Miller as out of touch with everyday Iowans, citing the high-profile cases Miller prosecuted during his long tenure against Google, Microsoft and Big Tobacco.
Miller has earned a reputation for helping Iowa “beat way, way above its weight,” James Tierney, the former Maine attorney general, told Bloomberg. But that reputation may have left Miller vulnerable to Bird’s messages that glitzy lawsuits distracted him from the issues that matter to ordinary Iowans. Bird repeatedly accused Miller of ignoring Iowans’ concerns about EPA overstretching and more to target big companies to garner party points. She slammed Miller during an October debate for “not doing the work you used to do anymore. They retired from the job.”
Throughout the campaign, Bird took up issues she believes will resonate with her Washington-skeptical Iowa constituents, targeting certain Obamacare regulations and the latest EPA regulations affecting the agricultural state.
“The EPA is out of control and they want to control how farmers do their farming,” Bird said. “It’s not easy being a farmer. I was born and raised on a family farm. My brother is a seventh generation farmer. I know what it’s about and it’s very competitive. . . . Iowa farmers really feed the world.”
Bird cultivated her understanding of Iowan priorities as she worked her way up through state politics over the past two decades. She began her career with Republican Representative Steve King, first as Deputy Chief of Staff and later as his Chief of Staff, between 2003 and 2010. A few years after Bird’s departure, King’s political career imploded, thanks in part to his support for Noxious figures like Faith Goldy, a white supremacist who was running for mayor of Toronto.
Bird’s victory complicates the popular narrative that formed after the Republican Party’s disappointing midterm election. Namely, Trump is a liability and must be dropped quickly if the party is to have any chance of running in 2024.
But Bird is very different from many of the MAGA candidates who burst into flames on election night: Rather than litigating culture war issues or the 2020 election, she used her deep knowledge of Iowa and the issues that matter to Iowa to achieve victory.