116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A first-term state representative now vying for the Iowa Senate faces competition from a newcomer in the race to represent much of eastern Cedar Rapids and Marion.
Molly Donahue will face Austin Frerick, both Democrats, for Iowa Senate District 37.
No Republican has filed for the seat, so the winner of Tuesday’s primary will likely be the winner of the Nov. 8 general election.
Donahue was born and raised in the Cedar Rapids area and graduated from Washington High School. She still teaches in the district and is a 31-year veteran teacher.
“There are a lot of concerns that are happening in our district right now because we’ve been in a crisis for the last few years with COVID and then we also had the derecho hit us,” Donahue said at a May Voting Rights Coalition forum. “ … I’ve been there to support the people in my community one-on-one, and I want to make sure I can continue to do that.”
Frerick, 32, is working remotely as deputy director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University, an initiative that encourages research related to competition policy and antitrust enforcement.
Previously, he advised the 2020 presidential campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg campaigns on agricultural policy and served as co-chair of Joe Biden campaign’s Agriculture Antitrust Policy Committee.
He is a Jefferson High School graduate and is the first in his family to graduate from college. Frerick married his husband Daniel last fall in Grinnell after initially planning a May 2020 wedding.
Frerick said he is running to offer a fresh perspective in confronting the challenges that face Iowa today and usher in a “bright, progressive future.” The alternative, he said, is to stand by as waterways become unsafe to use, young and brilliant minds leave the state and multinational corporations run family farmers out of business.
“We are at a crossroads in Iowa,” Frerick said. “ … For Democratic primary voters, especially, I want to say that I’m working to put Iowa Democrats back on offense. We’ve spent too much time being defensive and reactive to whatever the Republicans do, and look at where that’s gotten us.”
In the campaign finance reporting periods spanning Jan. 1 through May 31, Frerick has outraised his opponent. Donahue reported raising $14,401.60 and Frerick reported raising $95,259.20.
Both candidates agree Iowa’s public schools have been underfunded.
Donahue wants to keep public funds in public schools and reduce class sizes, make preschool an increased option for all families, sufficiently pay teachers to recruit and retain more quality educators and expand STEM and technical education options to prepare students for immediate job openings upon graduation.
“If we want good businesses and good jobs here, we have to have great schools,” Donahue said at the May forum.
On the Republican governor’s push for a school voucher program, Frerick said some GOP lawmakers’ opposition to the proposal in the House “shows you how bad of an idea it is.”
“Vouchers are especially bad for our rural communities that are already suffering from declines, where the school is an economic and social lifeline,” Frerick said. “Instead of Kim Reynolds’ attempt to defund education, I think that we need to recommit Iowa to being number one in education by fully funding schools and returning to respect for educators and support staff.”
Frerick also supports more funding for public higher education “so students don’t have to take out massive loans for tuition.”
“The reality is that many students who go to state universities are saddled with debt, and they can’t find many opportunities in Iowa that match their skill set and pay the bills, leading to many of them leaving the state for places like Minneapolis and Denver,” Frerick said.
Donahue, who serves on the environmental protection committee, said she has advocated for the ability to cap the amount of animal feed operations including confinements in Iowa.
“We have far too many animals’ waste being leeched into our waterways, which is why we have so much bacteria in our waters,” Donahue said.
Poor water quality affects all facets of our lives, Frerick said, from being unable to swim in our lakes and rivers to higher water bills, while “multinational corporations and absentee landowners have been polluting our waterways for years.
“I want to fix this problem by putting a moratorium on building industrial hog facilities, adequately fund Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources so staff can enforce existing rules and increase fines for manure spills or over-application,” Frerick said.
To offer good, well-paying jobs, Donahue said she supports rolling back a bill that stopped unemployment benefits to laid-off Iowans after 16 weeks instead of 26. She also wants to restore collective bargaining rights to public-sector unions.
If elected, Frerick said he wants to increase penalties for wage theft and worker misclassification, restore collective bargaining rights and repeal “Right to Work” so that all workers can start a union and build power in their workplaces.
As the Supreme Court looks to overturn Roe v. Wade, both candidates support a woman’s right to choose.
Donahue has emphasized the need for education and Planned Parenthood funding to reduce abortions.
Frerick said he supports expanding abortion protections through legislation, including looking at codifying Roe v. Wade.
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