CEDAR RAPIDS — After more than a decade as Linn County’s Democratic Auditor, Joel Miller is dropping the ‘D’ next to his name.
Miller announced Thursday he had changed his party affiliation to “no party” as he plans to lobby Iowa lawmakers for non-partisan elections for county officers in the upcoming legislative session.
With that in mind, Miller said he first wanted practice what he intends to preach.
“You’ve got to walk the talk,” Miller said. “If you’re going to go down and advocate for something, you better not be enjoying the benefits of what you’re trying to basically eliminate.”
That bill, Senate File 101, is sponsored by the Iowa Legislature’s lone no-party Senator, David Johnson of Ocheyedan. Johnson suspended his Republican Party membership last summer in protest of comments made by then-presidential nominee Donald Trump.
If signed into law, Johnson’s bill would make all elections for county officers nonpartisan.
Miller’s argument is that county candidates run partisan campaigns, yet, once elected, must act non-partisan and serve all residents.
“There are very few issues that I have encountered in my almost 11 years which have really been partisan issues, so why are we elected as partisans when we are expected to perform our duties in a nonpartisan manner?” he said.
Miller was first elected Auditor in 2007 and won subsequent elections in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Miller said he received votes from Democrats, Republicans and no-party voters in all those elections.
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With three years left on his term as auditor, Miller said he still is considering a 2018 run for Linn County Board of Supervisors, which drops from five members to three after that vote.
“If I do run for office in 2018 and I get beat because I was not campaigning as a partisan candidate, OK, that’s my loss,” Miller said.
According to the Linn County Auditor’s Office, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 52,000 to 40,000. Meanwhile, no-party voters total more than 55,000.
However, the Linn County Board of Supervisors is made up of four Democrats and one Republican. The other elected seats in Linn County government — Sheriff, Attorney, Auditor, Treasurer and Recorder — are held by Democrats.
So there’s a challenge to running a no party campaign in a dominantly Democratic county such as Linn, Miller admitted.
But he noted that with the elimination of straight-party voting, passed by the Iowa Statehouse earlier this year, no-party candidates no longer can be overlooked with a single checkmark, Miller said.
Miller’s hope would be that nonpartisan elections would draw out more candidates.
“We’re limiting our pool of applicants to people who are of one party or another or who can live with being labeled one party or the other,” Miller said.
“If we would just eliminate the need to declare a party when you run for county office, I think we would eliminate that.”
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