Republican defeats Democrat Rob Sand in Iowa’s chartered accountant race

Iowa will still have a statewide Democrat in office after Republican state auditor nominee Todd Halbur conceded the race to Democratic incumbent Comptroller Rob Sand on Friday.

Halbur said he was dropping his request for a recount because he did not have sufficient resources to submit the requests in all 99 counties, and he claimed the Iowa Republican Party would not help sponsor a statewide recount.

Todd Halber

Todd Halber

Sand led the race with 2,893 votes out of nearly 1.2 million votes cast — a margin of just 0.24 percent — according to the latest unofficial results reported by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

Because the profit margin is less than 1 percent, under state law, Halbur could request a recount without posting bail, with Iowa counties covering the cost.

However, Halbur would have to file papers with each state district auditor within three days of the county election and recruit commissioners to serve on recount committees in all 99 counties.

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“You have to have the flexibility to do a hand count for days and flexibility for a total of 18 days to do the recount,” Halbur said in a statement provided to The Gazette. “My campaign doesn’t have the staff or infrastructure to coordinate this nationwide in such a short amount of time.

“Each county only monitors ballots for the recount board, which my campaign has to put together to do the recount.”

Iowa Chartered Accountant Rob Sand (copy)



Sand is the only Iowa Democrat to win a statewide race in the Nov. 8 midterm election. Iowa Republicans won the election campaigns for the US Senate, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, secretary of agriculture and treasurer – ousting two 40-year Democratic incumbents.

The Republicans defeated the longest-serving Attorney General (Democrat Tom Miller) and the longest-serving Treasurer (Democrat Mike Fitzgerald) in US history.

Sand said on Twitter that he and Halbur had a “friendly and cordial conversation” in which Halbur conceded the race.

“Back to work, Iowa. Let’s do it,” Sand tweeted.

Sand, an attorney, served in the Iowa State Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor for public corruption cases from 2010 to 2017 before being elected state examiner in 2018.

The office is responsible for auditing the financial operations of Iowa state and local governments and provides guidance to CPA firms that conduct such audits.

During his first term, Sand said his office identified more than $25 million in misspent funds and created an efficiency program to help public agencies find new ways to save money.

Republicans have accused Sand of using the Comptroller’s office in partisan attacks, citing audits that focused on Gov. Kim Reynolds. An audit resulted in Reynolds returning $21 million in federal COVID-19 aid that was improperly spent. Another scrutiny alleged that the Republican governor improperly applied in a taxpayer-funded public awareness campaign during the pandemic — a claim the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed.

Sand said he runs his office impartially — appointing a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat to his executive team — and also led investigations that cast the Reynolds administration in a favorable light, like one showing officials accurately reporting COVID had -19 dates in the first year of the pandemic.

Halbur owns a school supplies distribution company and is a licensed real estate agent in Clive. He was also the chief financial officer at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, which fired him in 2018. He was recently awarded $1 million by a Polk County jury as a result of a whistleblower complaint against the division and its administrator for wrongful termination. Halbur said he was fired after raising questions about excessive markups and payments under an inappropriate no-bid contract.

Halbur became the Republican nominee for Comptroller by narrowly defeating former State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa in the June primary. Hanusa was supported by Governor Kim Reynolds and other Republican leaders.

But after defeating Hanusa, Halbur raised little money during the race — less than $50,000 — and state Republicans failed to allocate resources to his campaign, leaving him from Sand, who raised more than $1.8 million -dollars spent on the national race was far exceeded.

In a statement to The Gazette and a post on Facebook, Halbur said the Iowa Republican Party had “failed to provide support and resources to my campaign” for a statewide recount.

“This leaves me with no choice but to abort this recount effort, just as the state GOP organization abandoned my campaign,” Halbur wrote.

He thanked family, friends, volunteers and voters “whose support has shown that a hard-working politician with no career can be a viable candidate in a national race.”

Kollin Crompton, communications director for the Iowa Republican Party, pointed to the party’s efforts to help candidates vote up and down this year by providing “hundreds of thousands of dollars and coordinated grassroots man-hours.”

“At the same time, successful candidates are knocking on doors, attending events, speaking to voters and raising money,” Crompton said in a statement. “Hardworking candidates win elections. We’re proud of the work our team has done this year and look forward to defeating Rob Sand in his next election.”

Erin Murphy of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed to this article.