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Iowa City engineer joins 2nd Congressional District Democratic race

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa 2nd District congressional hopeful Newman Abuissa wants to build the infrastructure for the new economy and pay for it by ending wars that have cost this country thousands of lives and trillions of dollars over the past two decades.

Abuissa, an Iowa City transportation engineer, said Monday he will seek the seat held by a fellow Democrat, Rep. Dave Loebsack, who is not seeking re-election in the 24-county district that includes Johnson and Scott counties.

Abuissa joins former state Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland in seeking the Democratic nomination. One Republican, Osceola teacher and Mayor Thomas Kedley, also is running.

Croken drops out

Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken, who had been eyeing the race, has decided not to run and endorsed Hart. An interparty challenge would be a “distraction” that would “serve no worthwhile purpose,” he said.

“It is critical that Democrats retain this seat,” Croken said, adding that Hart “is uniquely well qualified to do so.”

An additional factor in his decision was his wife’s recent breast cancer diagnosis, Croken said.

Abuissa eyes long-range infrastructure changes

For Abuissa, “watching the American infrastructure deteriorate in front of my eyes and seeing my country involved in endless wars where we are spending tons of money at the rate of trillions of dollars” has motivated him to run.

Abuissa, 58, has lived in Iowa City since he became a U.S. citizen 25 years ago. He came from Syria about 35 years ago. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Dakota State University, he went to work for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“It’s time to refocus on rebuilding the country,” he said. That means building the infrastructure for the new economy, not just roads and bridges, but the infrastructure to accommodate artificial intelligence, data-driven decisions and automation in general, Abuissa said.

“Our economy is changing at a fast rate,” he said. “Yesterday’s jobs will not be tomorrow’s jobs.” That means planning not for the next two or three years, but the next 40 years, he said.

Education, health care are among his priorities

The human sector will be critical, so education — K-12, higher education and the current workforce — must be a priority for government, Abuissa added.

He also supports universal health care with an option for people who want to pay for private insurance.

Abuissa expressed concern that the United States is losing its leadership position in the world, especially as China invests its wealth in expansion with its Belt and Road Initiative to connect to the West.

He proposed a “Spice Road” from India to the rest of the world to counterbalance China.

Abuissa’s agenda will come at a cost, but he would shift the millions being spent on Mideast wars to investing in the domestic agenda.

In short, he said, he’s looking for “what is best, what is doable.”

Abuissa and his wife, Kristi, have four children. He is involved in the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights; is treasurer and former president of CIVIC, the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities; and is chairman of the parish council at St. Raphael Orthodox Church in Iowa City.

The Quad-City Times contributed to this report

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

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