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Prospect of pipeline motivates Jessica Wiskus to run for Iowa Senate
Lisbon woman seeking Democratic nomination in Linn-Benton district
LISBON — Fighting to stop a proposed carbon pipeline that could pass through or near her rural Linn County home was the catalyst for Jessica Wiskus to run for the Iowa Senate.
Wiskus, who also has been organizing against the Navigator CO2 Ventures carbon pipeline after learning her property was in the corridor, is running as a Democrat in Senate 42. The district covers rural Linn County, wrapping around the Cedar Rapids metro area, and eastern Benton County. There is no Senate incumbent in the district.
Bruce Gardner, a Garrison Democrat, also has filed for the seat, setting up a June 7 primary contest. Three Republicans are competing in a GOP primary in Senate 42.
“It was never my personal ambition to run for political office, but fighting the carbon pipelines has made me realize how important it is to stand neighbor-to-neighbor and make sure that rural values are honored in Des Moines,” Wiskus said.
“When a need arises, people in my community have always stood up and supported each other. That’s how our families have survived here for so many generations — we help each other, and we stand for something greater than just ourselves as individuals.”
Being in the half-mile-wide “pipeline corridor,” Wiskus said she began learning about the project and organizing with her neighbors very early on.
“But now that I know more about the CO2 pipelines, I am committed to fighting them wherever they are, because in a very real sense every Iowan is a neighbor who deserves to be treated better than this,” she said.
Wiskus, 46, grew up in the Lisbon area and received a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Iowa, a master’s degree in music and another in musical arts from Yale University and a doctorate in musical arts, also from Yale. She worked at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh before returning to Iowa in 2019 with her husband, Larry Collins, and their daughter.
“My parents and grandparents instilled in me traditions of helping out in my community,” she said. “It was really important for me to come back to the farm and raise my daughter here. I value the solid work ethic and the outstanding schools that make our small towns great places to raise a family.”
Wiskus volunteers as a catechist and serves on the Social Justice Committee at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Mount Vernon. She is a board member of the Southeast Linn Community Center in Lisbon. As a Master Gardener intern, she also contributes to garden-related projects that benefit local food production and pollinator habitat.
Her campaign is about more than the pipeline, Wiskus said.
“It’s about the future of rural Iowa,” she said. “I feel that the company’s actions failed to respect us — failed to respect our lives.”
The potential use of eminent domain “put the safety of our families and neighbors, the integrity of our land, and the vitality of our small towns at risk.”
“We need legislators who are on the side of hardworking Iowans, who respect the dignity and rights of all Iowans, and have a vision for our rural communities,” she said.
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