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Air Force veteran faces state senator in new House district
Democrat Terry McGovern is running against Republican Craig Johnson for NE Iowa seat
A Democratic political newcomer is running against a Republican state senator to represent House District 67 in northeast Iowa.
The Democrat, Terry McGovern, 53, of rural Delaware County, is a business professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He said he is running for office for the same reason he served in the military: “There’s this calling to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”
The Republican, state Sen. Craig Johnson, 59, of Independence, decided to run for the Iowa House seat rather than run against Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, when they both ended up in the same Senate district after redistricting.
House District 67 covers all of Delaware County, the southern half of Buchanan County, including Independence, and Cascade Township in Dubuque County. The district has 7,665 registered Republicans, 4,873 registered Democrats and 7,403 no-party registered voters.
Johnson, who was elected to the state Senate in 2016, did not respond to multiple calls and emails for comment about his campaign.
During this year’s legislative session, Johnson voiced support for a bill that allows 16- and 17-year-old workers at child care centers in Iowa to work unsupervised.
“Workforce shortages have been brought up quite often over the last couple of months, and I think this is a good answer to that,” he said during Senate debate on the bill. “It’s the option (for) an employer to utilize their workforce. … It’s an opportunity for more Iowans to go to work.”
Among the bills that Johnson has sponsored and supported in the Legislature are ones that would:
- Amend the state constitution, saying the constitution does not recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion or require public funding for abortion.
- Prevent school curriculums from including instruction related to gender identity without written parent or guardian consent in first- to sixth-grade.
- Make it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s vaccination status or their decision to disclose or refuse to disclose private medical records.
McGovern served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. While in the military, McGovern said he never voted because it felt like a “conflict of interest.”
Until recently, he was registered as an independent because, he said, he considers the individual candidate rather than his or her political party when voting.
McGovern said he wants to see businesses and “wealthy folks paying their fair share of taxes.” He said this would avoid cuts to programs like snow removal in Delaware County, where he lives.
“They can only plow between 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.,” McGovern said. “I think about the folks who work second and third shifts, the pregnant mom who might need to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. If it’s a blizzard, it’s like they’re driving in a third-world country.”
More funding is needed for mental health programs and to raise reimbursement rates for providers so they can increase the pay for those working in the field, he said.
Children, he said, can avoid a “lifetime of problems” if they have access to mental health care. As a veteran, McGovern said he is particularly concerned about preventing people dying by suicide.
“For every 100,000 people, we should have 24 mental health beds,” McGovern said. “I think in Iowa we have six.”
Education is another priority of McGovern, who said Iowa public schools are “grossly underfunded.”
“We used to be one of the top in the nation for education,” McGovern said, adding that the ranking attracted people to a state that is losing population in more than half its counties. “We were the gold standard for education, and we’ve lost that. Now we’re mediocre.”
McGovern said he is against a proposed program that would shift taxpayer dollars from public schools to scholarships for private school tuition assistance. The proposal, backed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, would only pull more money away from Iowa’s public schools, McGovern said.
The Republican Party, he said, is “out of touch with voters.”
“The most important and valuable investment we can make as a state is in our children because that is our future,” McGovern said. “To do that, we have to properly fund education and respect our teachers.”
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting starts Oct. 19.
Residence: Rural Delaware County
Occupation: Business professor, University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Political office: none
Occupation: Business development manager
Political office: State senator since 2016
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