CORALVILLE -- A powerful conservative group's efforts to sway a normally sleepy city election in Iowa might have backfired, with the mayor-elect on Wednesday calling the election results a victory for locals over outside interests.
Coralville voters elected veteran City Council member John Lundell as mayor and re-elected two incumbent councilors Tuesday, rejecting an aggressive campaign by Americans for Prosperity to blame the trio for the city's $280 million debt.
Residents said the group's mailings, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing and social media ads fueled a backlash as the upper middle-class, Democratic-leaning city of 20,000 residents rallied behind the incumbents. The outcome might strengthen the officials that AFP tried to oust, and the race has led to calls for state-level reforms to force the group to disclose its spending and donors.
"The money spent by the large outside group actually showed that's not what works in local politics. Voters want local candidates that know the issues and speak with honesty and integrity," Lundell said. "The overwhelming margin of victory was very impressive and important. It wasn't that they almost won. We all won by healthy margins, which was important to make a statement to groups like this."