4 elections in 4 months for Iowa City residents

Voters will pick new Johnson County supervisor Dec. 18

Royceann Porter

Royceann Porter Democrat

IOWA CITY — This month’s special election to pick a new Johnson County supervisor will be the fourth election in four months for Iowa City residents.

First came a City Council primary in September to fill a vacant council seat; the City Council special election in October; the Nov. 6 general election; and now the Dec. 18 special election to pick a new Johnson County supervisor.

The Dec. 18 special election pits a Democratic union organizer championing social justice and diversity and a Republican farmer and business owner emphasizing rural issues and fiscal responsibility.

Democrat Royceann Porter, 52, is an organizer for the Teamsters and has served the Iowa City Community Police Review Board and the Coalition for Racial Justice steering committee, among other city boards.

Republican Phil Hemingway, 58, is on the Iowa City school board and is a second-time candidate for supervisor.

The two are running for the seat that opened with the death of Supervisor Kurt Friese, a Democrat, in October. The term runs through 2020.


Hemingway in his campaign is focusing on a message of rural representation and fiscal oversight. He said that having a Republican voice on the board would better represent everyone in the county.

“Those are the two big ones that are resonating with the public,” said Hemingway, who has farmed in rural Johnson County most of his life. “I think I’ve proved to the community as an elected official that I’m following where the money is going and working to save costs and cut costs where we can.”


Porter said she agrees with much of what the current supervisors are doing, especially the behavioral health access center, which will be an alternative to jail for those going through mental health crises.

She said she plans to “carry that torch” when it comes to continuing Friese’s support of local foods and conservation.

“I feel that we’ll be able to agree on a lot of things that are already going on,” Porter said, adding that voters have liked “knowing that I am an experienced leader who collaborates and gets things done” with inclusion and progressive values.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who may run for president in 2020, recently endorsed Porter in a one-minute video.

low turnout

Special elections typically see low voter turnout.

In the last special election for a supervisor seat in January 2016, voters elected current Democrat Lisa Green-Douglass over no-party Chris Hoffman, 2,015-1,263, for a turnout of 3.6 percent of registered voters.

“It always kind of depends on the circumstances revolving around the special election,” said Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert..

“Right now, with it kind of cold and just coming off the major election back in November, it’s been fairly quiet,” he said. “There are people coming up to the counter and voting (absentee ballots), but it’s nowhere near obviously November-type voting.”


The last time a Republican won a seat on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors was in a March 2013 when John Etheredge won a special election. Voter turnout was 6.7 percent, with 6,113 ballots cast. He lost his bid for a full term in the November 2014 general election.


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The last Republican supervisor to win a general election was Oren Alt, who was elected to the board in 1956.

Johnson County supervisors earn $77,239 a year. Their responsibilities include approving county budgets and levying taxes, entering into contracts on behalf of the county and supervising the secondary roads system.

Whoever is elected Dec. 18 will join Supervisors Rod Sullivan, Janelle Rettig, Lisa Green-Douglass and Mike Carberry, all Democrats, on the county board. Carberry’s term expires at year’s end, with Supervisor Pat Heiden, also a Democrat, taking the seat.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172;


l Weekdays: Johnson County residents can vote early at the auditor’s office, between 7:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. weekdays, now through Dec. 17.

l Dec. 14: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, first-floor Pappajohn lobby.

l Dec. 15: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, 122 S. Linn St.


Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 18. Most voters will go to their regular polling places, but 17 precincts will be combined into eight locations:

l Big Grove, Cedar and Solon: Solon City Hall.

l Coralville 1 and 4: Coralville Public Library.

l Iowa City 19 and 20: Senior Center.

l Iowa City 5 and 11: University of Iowa Main Library.

l Iowa City 6 and 16: Mercer Park Aquatic Center.

l North Liberty 1 and 5: North Liberty Community Center.

l Graham and Newport: Celebration Farm.

l City of Hills and Liberty-Pleasant Valley: Hills Community Center.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.