REGIONAL—O’Brien County voters have chosen their next sheriff.

With incumbent sheriff Allen Schuknecht (R-Prim­ghar) not running again for his seat, two candidates emerged to vie for the position’s Republican nomination during the June 2 primary election:

  • Chief deputy Bruce Devereaux of Paullina, who has worked for the Primghar-based sheriff’s office since 1990.
  • Upper Des Moines Opportunity outreach specialist Brenda Collier of Primghar.

According to official election results approved Tuesday, June 9, by the board of supervisors, Devereaux earned 2,204 votes (90 percent) to defeat Collier, who received 245 votes (10 percent). There were 13 write-in votes.

When asked for his reaction to the results, Devereaux said, “It’s what I expected. I’m pleased with the citizens’ choice, of course. I’m glad the citizens saw the difference between experience and no experience. They want a strong sheriff’s office to continue.”

Devereaux’s law enforcement career stretches back to 1987 while Collier has no previous law enforcement experience.

“When an individual has no experience, it would definitely be a challenge, a huge challenge — in fact, in my opinion — impossible to run an office like ours,” Devereaux said. “The people saw through that.”

Collier noted the majority of voters went for who they felt was more experienced and she congratulated Devereaux on his win.

“They chose who they wanted and I’m OK with it,” she said. “At the end of the day, it came down to who they knew more. I’m not new to the area, but I’m new in the community, so people don’t know me and what I can and will continue to do for the community.

“I will continue to do what I do in the community regardless of me being sheriff or not and continue on trying to get the things that I stated in my campaign changed because I don’t need to be a sheriff to get those things changed,” she said.

The 59-year-old Devereaux has worked for the sheriff’s office under Schuknecht and Michael Anderson before him and is planning to run again for sheriff after his first four-year term is up.

He has no Democratic challenger in the November general election.

“They’re definitely some big shoes to fill, but I’ve been working with them for 30 years and I’m sure there are going to be challenges ahead, like with any job, but between myself and the good people that we have working for us, we’ll get through those challenges,” Devereaux said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes,” he said. “When you work 30 years and it finally comes to this peak and you finally are sheriff, it’s going to be interesting to see if it’s what I’ve always thought it was or if it’s going to be something different.”

The other O’Brien County races featured all of the incumbents running unopposed:

  • Auditor: Barb Rohwer (R-Primghar) received 2,347 votes. There were four write-in votes.
  • Supervisor District 1: Sherri Bootsma (R-Sanborn) earned 2,248 votes. There were eight write-in votes.
  • Supervisor District 2: John Steensma (R-Sanborn) received 2,195 votes. There were 10 write-in votes.
  • Supervisor District 3: Nancy McDowell (R-Sheldon) earned 2,230 votes. There were 10 write-in votes.

Out of 9,709 registered voters, 3,020 total ballots were cast for a 31.1 percent turnout for the primary election.

The auditor’s office had processed 2,243 absentee ballots as of Monday, June 8, while 777 ballots were cast in person at the polls.

As far as the in-person turnout, Rohwer noted her first reaction was that it was higher than she expected at the two in-person polling places.

“But then if you look at the total votes, 407 in Primghar — five precincts — and 370 in Sheldon — four precincts — it really was about what I would have expected for Election Day turnout,” she said.

The county had safety recommendations in place at its in-person polling locations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We asked that voters wear masks and did provide them at the doors,” Rohwer said. “We also gave them an ink pen and instructed them that it was theirs to use throughout the process and to take it with them.

“Not everyone used a mask — from what I observed at the Primghar precinct when I happened to be there,” she said. “My officials did their best to keep the social distancing.”


O’Brien County voters also had federal and state candidates to choose from during the June 2 primary election.

Iowa’s 39-county 4th Congressional District saw a contested GOP race with State Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) dethroning incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of Kiron.

The other Republican candidates who ran for the position were Steve Reeder of Arnolds Park, Bret Richards of Irwin and Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City.

The unofficial results of the race were:

  • Randy Feenstra: 36,879 votes overall, including 1,755 in O’Brien County.
  • Steve King: 29,058 votes overall, including 586 in O’Brien County.
  • Jeremy Taylor: 6,327 votes overall, including 84 in O’Brien County.
  • Bret Richards: 6,010 votes overall, including 66 in O’Brien County.
  • Steve Reeder: 2,469 votes overall, including 33 in O’Brien County.

Democratic candidate J.D. Scholten of Sioux City, who came up just slightly more than 3 percentage points of upsetting King in the 2018 general election, also has entered the 2020 race.

Scholten received 45,422 votes overall, including 421 in O’Brien County.

King has held the congressional position since 2003, but Feenstra and Scholten will face off in the November general election for the seat.

The seat of incumbent U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) of Des Moines also was up for election. She ran again for the position.

Ernst earned 224,291 votes overall, including 2,318 in O’Brien County.

Four Democratic challengers competed for the right to face Ernst:

  • Sioux Center native Michael Franken of Sioux City.
  • Kimberly Graham of Indianola.
  • Theresa Greenfield of Des Moines.
  • Eddie Mauro of Des Moines.

Voters in the Democratic primary also found Cal Woods of Des Moines listed on the ballot for the Senate seat, but he dropped out of the race in early May and endorsed Franken.

The unofficial results of the race were:

  • Theresa Greenfield: 130,436 votes overall, including 288 in O’Brien County.
  • Michael Franken: 68,183 votes overall, including 88 in O’Brien County.
  • Kimberly Graham: 40,928 votes overall, including 38 in O’Brien County.
  • Eddie Mauro: 30,006 votes overall, including 33 in O’Brien County.
  • Cal Woods: 3,357 votes overall, including one in O’Brien County.

Ernst and Greenfield will face off in the November general election for the Senate seat.

At the state level, the District 3 seat in the House of Representatives was up for election this year.

For House District 3, longtime incumbent Rep. Dan Huseman (R-Aurelia) did not run for re-election.

Republicans Dennis Bush of Cleghorn, Lynn Evans of Aurelia and Mark McHugh of Sheldon filed for the position.

House District 3 covers Cherokee and O’Brien counties and eastern portions of Plymouth and Sioux counties.

The unofficial results of the race were:

  • Dennis Bush: 2,218 votes overall, including 604 in O’Brien County
  • Lynn Evans: 1,940 votes overall, including 827 in O’Brien County.
  • Mark McHugh: 1,167 votes overall, including 723 in O’Brien County.

Feenstra is the Iowa Senate District 2 longtime incumbent; however, he vacated the position to run for King’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Senate District 2 covers Cherokee, O’Brien and Sioux counties and the far-eastern portion of Plymouth County.

Republican candidate Jeff Taylor of Sioux Center was the only person to file for the Senate seat.

Taylor earned 11,497 votes overall, including 2,135 in O’Brien County.