The Iowa House District 2 Republican Primary came down to Clay County voters for candidates Megan Hess and Josh Davenport Tuesday evening.
Hess earned 743 of her 1,139 votes in her home county to secure nearly 54 percent of the vote, while 515 of Davenport's 979 votes came from Clay County voters.
"I'm really excited," Hess said. "We ran the best campaign we possibly could have. Waking up this morning, of course there were some nerves, but we worked our tails off. We felt good about everything we did and we ran a good, clean campaign."
The district's Democratic Primary featured Steve Bomgaars as the lone candidate, and he claimed a total of 937 votes.
While the contested race featured two Spencer residents, Davenport's advantage came in Palo Alto County, where he won by 67 votes, and Dickinson County, which he claimed by a mere vote.
"I think Clay County was probably the epicenter of this race because of the population here," Hess said. "In saying that, there were sheriffs races going on in the other two counties. We figured turnout in Palo Alto County would be lower because the sheriffs race brought more voters to the Democratic side."
"It's exactly what I expected as far as Palo Alto and Dickinson counties and the rural areas," Davenport said. "I knew, coming into the campaign this late, certain areas were going to be tougher to win because most of those peole were already committed to a candidate."
He stopped short of regretting his March entry into the race.
With 160 votes ultimately separating the two Spencer precincts proved decisive for Hess.
While she lives in Ward 5 of Spencer and won 92 to 56 there, it was her 131-vote advantage in Ward 4 that sealed the deal.
"That's the precinct it really came down to," Hess said. "That's the last precinct that came in and pushed us over the edge. We went door to door and tried to meet as many people we could. I had done some work in Ward 4 previously. That just happened to be where we focused a lot of our efforts in the end and it ended up working well for us."
Though Davenport came up short of the nomination, he thanked everyone involved with his campaign.
"I want to make sure I thank all my supporters and voters and volunteers that helped with the campaign," he said. "I believe the fact we were able to raise over $13,000 and amass about 1,000 voters in three months shows there's still room for conservatives within the Republican Party."
With June 5 behind her, Hess is now focused on Nov. 6.
"I look forward to Republicans uniting and working to beat Steve Bomgaars in November," Hess concluded.
Bomgaars called Hess to congratulate her on the win Tuesday evening, and also visited with Davenport Wednesday.
"I'm really excited about the race," he said. "I think, now knowing that we do have an opponent and who it is, I think we're able to offer the voters in House District 2 a very clear choice between the two candidates."
He attributed his high number of votes to "a great core team of volunteers," and also several contested Democratic races in Palo Alto County "that ginned up the turnout."
Bomgaars, a lifelong Spencer resident, has been a Spencer High School government and politics teacher for more than 30 years.
Hess is a former student of Bomgaars, who went on to study Law, Politics and Society and Business at Drake University before graduating from William Mitchell College of Law.
Both candidates have political experience.
Hess began working as a page in the Iowa Legislature in 2005, worked for the chair of the Public Safety Committee until college graduation and spent time working in the White House Office of Public Liaison and Office of Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs. She has also spent time in the offices of Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Steve King, both of Iowa, and worked for the Minnesota House research staff while in law school.
Bomgaars has served on the Spencer City Council since 2004.
"That has allowed me the experience to work toward consensus on issues," Bomgaars said. "I've worked on budgets, listened to constituents, provided open forums for them to air their concerns and work through those."
"I really think there's going to be a spotlight on this race, primarily because I was his student at one time," Hess added. "But I believe, with the Republican voter advantage and the environment that we have now, people are tired of gridlock and are waiting for a candidate who can get stuff done in the legislature."
* Russ Mitchell of the Dickinson County News contributed to this report.