ELDORA — Former state representative Annette Sweeney will be the Republican candidate in an April 10 special election to fill the state Senate District 25 seat held by Bill Dix until recently.
Sweeney, of Alden, is a farmer and has been Iowa’s U.S. Department of Agriculture state rural development director for less than a year.
She was one of two people vying for the spot on the ballot Tuesday during a special nominating convention held at the Eldora Public Library. The other was Chad Buss of Parkersburg, a chiropractor who works in Waterloo.
“We have an overwhelming victor,” Andy Cable, a Republican State Central Committee member and chairman of the convention, said after the paper ballots were tallied. Thirty-eight of the Senate district’s 59 delegates attended, giving Sweeney all but 1 percent of the weighted vote.
Iowa Senate District 25 includes all of or portions of Butler, Grundy, Hardin and Story counties. It comprises the same area that makes up House Districts 49 and 50.
“I am going to hit the ground running,” said Sweeney, who represented what was then Iowa House District 44 during her stint in the Legislature from 2009 to 2012. “Thank you so very much for your confidence in me.”
In her nomination speech, she emphasized her rural background, fundraising prowess and the network of supporters maintained since her time in the Legislature.
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“I’m here to help our state move forward by applying traditional common-sense values,” said Sweeney. “I see Iowa poised to lead the whole world.”
Sweeney noted she garnered a lot of support on social media after announcing plans to run. ”The campaign account is already secured with thousands (of dollars) committed,” she said.
Buss attended Drake University in Des Moines for a year before a five-year enlistment in the Marine Corps. While a resident of California, he graduated from chiropractic school in 2005 and later returned to his hometown. He has worked in Waterloo since 2009. This is his first foray into elective politics.
“I want to thank those that did support me,” said Buss, after the vote was tallied. He noted it is an “extremely steep learning curve” and noted “I’ll be around for the primary.”
State law requires the governor to order a special election “at the earliest practical time” if a vacancy occurs while the Legislature is in session. Dix would have been up for election this fall. As a result, whoever wins the special election would have to run again in November.
Both Sweeney and Buss have filed papers to run for the GOP nomination in the June 5 primary.
A Democratic nominating committee Saturday selected Tracy Freese of Dike as its nominee in the special election. Freese is the only Democrat filing to run in the primary.
Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, resigned his seat and position as majority leader on March 12, following release of a video posted by the online political blog Iowa Starting Line in which he appears to be kissing a lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.
“This is an important election, we need to hold onto this seat,” said Cable before introducing Sen. Jack Whitver, an Ankeny Republican who was recently elected the Iowa Senate’s new majority leader.
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“I wish we weren’t here, I wish I wasn’t the Senate majority leader,” said Whitver, referencing Dix’s departure. Aside from passing a tax reform bill, “we have largely accomplished everything we said we’d do on the campaign trail.”
Echoing Cable, he added, “This is a seat we have to win and it’s a seat that will set the tone for November.” With the Senate count at 28 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one independent, he noted that “five or six seats will determine” if the party remains in the majority.
“We’re very excited and optimistic,” said Whitver. “We feel pretty good about where we’re at.”