Government

Iowa City Democratic stronghold not blue enough, rival for Iowa House seat says

Veteran lawmaker in House 85 Vicki Lensing faces primary challenger Christina Bohannan

Law professor Christina Bohannan will face incumbent Rep. Vicki Lensing in the Democratic primary election for Iowa Hous
Law professor Christina Bohannan will face incumbent Rep. Vicki Lensing in the Democratic primary election for Iowa House District 85. The primary is June 2.

There aren’t many issues that Rep. Vicki Lensing and her June 2 primary election challenger Christina Bohannan don’t agree on.

In a League of Women Voters forum, the two candidates in the Democratic stronghold of Iowa House District 85 in Iowa City strongly backed state support for education at all levels, especially higher education, including the University of Iowa where Lensing earned her degree and Bohannan teaches.

They agreed Iowa has more tax credits than it can track and that perhaps it’s time to determine if those credits are accomplishing what they were intended to do.

Looking at whether the master matrix for regulating livestock feeding operations needs to be revised is another area of agreement. They agree on the need for having more child care, protecting Iowa workers and preserving Iowa’s land and soil.

The differences between the two Democrats is in attitude.

Lensing, who is involved with her family’s funeral and cremation business, was first elected in 2000. She’s been in the majority just four of her 20 years in the Iowa Legislature. Being in the minority just means you have to fight harder for your priorities, she said.

“I’ve advocated for fair treatment for workers in Iowa. I worked on equal pay for equal work and whistleblower protection,” Lensing said at the forum. “I fought for open government through meetings and records laws. I keep working on voting laws and accessibility for voters. I’ve been part of several investigations which resulted in legislation protecting Iowans from further abuse both by government and by business.”

Bohannan, a UI law professor, thinks Democrats have been on the defensive too long and should be more aggressive. And, she adds, Democrats have to know when it’s time to make a change.

Democrats should be grateful for Lensing’s 20 years of service, she said.

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“But there are times when, with no disrespect to anyone who’s gone before, we realize that what we’ve done in the past isn’t working for our future,” Bohannan said. “With everything going on in our country and in our state, with all of the challenges we currently face, I believe this is one of those times.”

In what some local Democrats say is unprecedented in a primary race, Bohannan has lined up the endorsements of several local Democratic elected officials: Johnson County Supervisors Rod Sullivan, Janelle Rettig and Lisa Green-Douglass, Iowa City Council members Mazahir Salih and John Thomas as well as former Mayor Jim Throgmorton and council member Rockne Cole, and school board members Charlie Eastham, Ruthina Malone and Lisa Williams.

“One thing that’s been very clear to me as I’ve gone around talking to people throughout the district is that they believe that this office is about way more than just how you vote,” Bohannan said. “They believe that a representative of Iowa City, the bluest district in the state, should be a leader in the party to raise money to support Democratic candidates all throughout the state and make the case for progressive legislation.”

Lensing has the endorsement of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, based on her 100-percent voting record according to the organization.

The primary is June 2. There is no Republican running in House 85.

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

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