Government

Eric Gjerde ready to run again in Iowa House 67

CEDAR RAPIDS — Eric Gjerde feels like he’s starting his campaign for an open Linn County seat in the Iowa House ahead of where he was when he ran two years ago.

It’s not just the experience he gained as a candidate and the organization he built, but the district — House 67 — seems to be more favorable in the 2020 election cycle.

Gjerde, 40, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School teacher who lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife, Amy, and their three daughters, lost to Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, 52 percent to 48 percent. However, since then, at least in terms of voter registrations, “it’s certainly trending in our direction,” he said.

Although “other” is the largest bloc of voters in the district that includes Hiawatha, Robins and parts of Marion and Cedar Rapids, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed. In 2016, the GOP advantage was nearly 1,000 voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The July 2018 report showed it had narrowed to 720, and this month’s report shows the gap is down to 529 voters.

“I think that this district is ready for ready for change,” Gjerde said Monday. “I think the district is ready for a legislator that is certainly transparent about the votes that they take and not afraid to show up to things and address the voters.”

Hinson is not seeking reelection. Instead, she’s running for the 1st District U.S. House seat held by Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Dubuque Democrat. Two other Republicans are running in the district.

Gjerde will kick off his campaign at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Karma Coffee Cafe, 1725 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha.

Gjerde said his goal in running in 2018 was to get Iowa working together “and that still hasn’t happened.”

There’s been no change in the revisions the Republican-controlled legislative majority made to collective bargaining, K-12 schools are underfunded and class sizes are increasing while the number of electives available to high school students is decreasing, and the mental health system in public schools is really non-existent, Gjerde said.

“One of the big issues that we ran on last time was ensuring that everybody has access to quality and affordable health care,” Gjerde said. “We have some of the best medical facilities and physicians right here in our state, but if people cannot access it, it does everyone little good.”

So far, no Republican has announced in House 67, an area that has been represented by a Republican for decades, however, a party spokesman said a few people have expressed interest.

Republicans, who hold a 53-47 majority in the House, expect to hold the seat. Although voter registration numbers show some slippage, the party points out that in 2018, Hinson carried the district 52 percent to 48 percent, a 661-vote margin. In 2016, with Donald Trump on the top if the ticket, Hinson ran her first campaign and defeated Mark Seidl by 4,499 votes. In 2012, with President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, Rep. Kraig Paulsen defeated Seidl by 951 votes.

Voter registration numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State show there are more Republicans than Democrats in the district, but non-aligned voters are the largest bloc. The most recent active voter numbers show 6,600 Democrats, 7,129 Republicans and 8,710 other. Compared to July 2018, the active other has increased by 500 voters, Democrats are up 110 and Republicans are down by 81.

State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $25,000 a year plus a daily food and lodging stipend.

For more on Gjerde, visit ericforiowa.com.

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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