Staff Editorial

Our 2018 endorsements in Iowa House and Senate races

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines. (Gazette Archives)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines. (Gazette Archives)
2018 ENDORSEMENTS ARTICLES

12:44PM | Mon, November 05, 2018

12:44PM | Mon, November 05, 2018

08:55AM | Sat, October 27, 2018

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When we started this endorsement process, The Gazette editorial board did not set out to issue all Democratic endorsements.

We considered each legislative contest on its own, with no intention to tilt partisan control one way or another. It’s worth noting we sided with Republicans in one of the three statewide races where we endorsed, and one of the two federal races we weighed in on.

Unfortunately, all three incumbent Republican legislators in races we considered declined to meet with us. Some of the other Republicans and Libertarians we met with were persuasive and well-informed, but we concluded they each face stronger Democratic candidates. We joked in our discussions that if we could gerrymander our own dream districts, a few of those candidates easily would have received our endorsement.

We invited candidates from all 12 legislative districts that include parts of Linn or Johnson counties, and hosted 21 meetings in all. We pressed candidates on a long list of policy questions facing the Legislature, and were mostly pleased with the quality of responses. As you will see here, even candidates we are not endorsing earned our respect in those meetings.

To the incumbents who didn’t bother to visit us, remember a notable quote from legendary athlete Wayne Gretzky — “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Iowans deserve politicians who are willing to engage with the press.

• • • • •

SENATE DISTRICT 33

Edward Bernie Hayes

Rob Hogg

Sen. Rob Hogg has been Iowa’s leading advocate for addressing our mounting environmental issues. Since this editorial board has repeatedly taken on those issues — in particular the need for strong water quality laws — we confidently endorse Hogg for re-election.

It’s clear Republican challenger Bernie Hayes is motivated by sincere convictions about the role government can play in promoting healthy families. While we admire his sincerity, his vision for responding to Iowa’s problems simply doesn’t align with our own.

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Our agreements with Hogg are not exclusive to the environment. He also has emphasized the need for stable education funding, strong voting rights and sensible tax policy. As one criticism, we were underwhelmed by Hogg’s response to the sexual harassment issues that have plagued our state government in recent months. We hope Hogg will recognize the severity and be a reliable voice on the issue, as he has been on several others.

In their own words:

Edward Bernie Hayes

Rob Hogg

• • • • •

SENATE DISTRICT 37

Carl Krambeck

Zach Wahls

The real race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Dvorsky was this past June in the Democratic primary. Democrats hold a sizable voter registration advantage in Senate District 37, and Zach Wahls prevailed in a hotly contested primary. Republicans did not field a candidate, and Wahls now faces Libertarian Carl Krambeck.

Wahls is an Iowa political icon of sorts. Raised by two moms, he delivered an inspiring defense of same-sex marriage to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, video of which went viral online. Beyond his celebrity status, Wahls has developed a broad array of policy expertise and he has put forth a progressive agenda for education, health care and workers’ rights. Even though he’s just 27 years old, he has enough knowledge about the issues facing Iowa to make an immediate impact in Des Moines.

While we endorse Wahls, voters owe the Libertarian candidate honest consideration. Krambeck has run one of the most credible third-party campaigns we have seen in Iowa, focused on pragmatic solutions and building tri-partisan consensus. If Wahls is elected, we hope he will take seriously the perspectives Krambeck is putting forth.

In their own words:

Carl Krambeck

Zach Wahls

• • • • •

SENATE DISTRICT 39

Heather Hora

Kevin Kinney

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In 20 races where the editorial board is making endorsements this year, Senate District 39 was among the easiest decisions. Not only did Republican Heather Hora decline to meet with us — the only Republican legislative challenger to do that — but Sen. Kevin Kinney brings vital experience and perspective to the Capitol.

We were particularly disappointed with a Republican advertisement accusing Kinney of being soft on public safety. As a 28-year law enforcement veteran, he has been an important voice on public safety issues, most notably human trafficking.

Kinney was one of only two Democratic farmers in the Legislature when he arrived, and now serves as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He is a key player in building consensus on agriculture issues. As one example, he and a Republican co-sponsor garnered unanimous support this past session for an industrial hemp bill, which the House did not take up. Because of his policy expertise and bipartisan leadership, we enthusiastically endorse Kinney’s re-election bid.

In their own words:

• Heather Hora declined to participate

Kevin Kinney

• • • • •

SENATE DISTRICT 43

Joe Bolkcom

Patrick Wronkiewicz

In the state’s most reliably Democratic district, we were pleased to see a Republican candidate step up to challenge Sen. Joe Bolkcom this year. Patrick Wronkiewicz, a military veteran and University of Iowa student, has run a thoughtful campaign focused on issues facing fellow students and other young people. He admirably has turned down donations from outside organizations, drawing attention to the influence of special interests in Iowa politics.

Nevertheless, Bolkcom earns our endorsement as a persistent champion of many of the issues this editorial board has prioritized, including medical marijuana, education funding, water quality and the state’s lavish corporate tax credits.

Bolkcom has taken an aggressive stance against the policies advanced under the Republican state government trifecta of the last two years, saying it’s been Iowa’s worst General Assembly from his perspective. Even though we often agree with him on the issues, it’s unlikely Democrats will take control of the Iowa Senate this election, and we urge Bolkcom to find ways to reach out to Republicans and make his mark on bipartisan legislation.

In their own words:

Joe Bolkcom

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Patrick Wronkiewicz

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 65

Liz Bennett

George Olmsted

Rep. Liz Bennett was the only legislative candidate to volunteer sexual misconduct as a top issue, telling us consent education and sex assault response would be legislative priorities for her in the next session. That alone makes her worthy of strong consideration.

But Bennett offers much more than single-issue advocacy. At just 36, one of the youngest lawmakers in Iowa, Bennett has matured into a highly credible leader during her first two terms in the Iowa House, focused on improving Iowans’ wages and retaining young people in the state.

While Republican challenger George Olmstead is delivering thoughtful and measured commentary on a wide range of public policy issues, Bennett has earned another term in the House, along with our endorsement.

In their own words:

Liz Bennett

George Olmsted

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 66

Teresa Daubitz

Art Staed

This is one of the few legislative races where two candidates met with us and both displayed the breadth of policy knowledge we feel is necessary to be an effective lawmaker.

Republican challenger Teresa Daubitz, formerly a community representative on The Gazette editorial board, deserves credit for engaging with constituents to build a strong policy platform, also informed by her experience as a social worker and small business owner.

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However, we endorse Rep. Art Staed, largely in recognition of his commitment to expanding access to mental health services, which we hope is a top legislative concern in the coming session. Staed also has interesting ideas for expanding the state’s bottle deposit law and refocusing Iowa’s economic development efforts.

In their own words:

Teresa Daubitz

Art Staed

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 67

Eric Gjerde

Ashley Hinson

Democratic challenger Eric Gjerde would bring to Des Moines invaluable personal and professional experience. He holds a doctorate in educational policy, and he’s seen the shortfalls of the health care system firsthand as the father of daughters with special needs.

Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson declined to meet with us, which was especially disappointing since Hinson has at times appeared to be a moderate voice on issues where we think other Republicans go too far.

If Hinson had met with us, this may have been among our more difficult decisions. Since she didn’t, it’s an easy one. Gjerde gets our endorsement as a unique candidate who can make significant contributions on his first day in the Legislature.

In their own words:

Eric Gjerde

Ashley Hinson

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 68

Molly Donahue

Randy Ray

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With the retirement of Ken Rizer in one of Iowa’s most competitive House districts, we were hopeful for an impressive match-up for this open seat. However, we ended up underwhelmed by Democrat Molly Donahue and Republican Randy Ray.

Both candidates are educators — Donahue a current special education teacher, Ray a retired teacher and coach — and could offer some valuable input on education issues. Yet both candidates lacked specificity in other areas, and faced too many questions they weren’t prepared to answer thoughtfully.

In the end, we endorse Donahue because her positions on several key issues — including raising the minimum wage and repealing this year’s fetal heartbeat law — align more closely with this board’s. If elected, we urge Donahue to dive into policy research on a wider range of issues.

In their own words:

Molly Donahue

Randy Ray

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 69

Joshua Henderson

Kirsten Running-Marquardt

Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt is a rarity in politics. She’s an effective champion on issues important to her district, most notably health care access. But unlike many of her House colleagues, she seldom seeks public attention or credit for her work. She simply wants to make a positive difference for her constituents.

Perhaps just as important as Running-Marquardt’s work in Des Moines is her advocacy in Cedar Rapids, where she unflinchingly and vocally disagrees with county, city and school policymakers, many of whom share her party identification. We endorse her, because every district deserves such a committed representative.

We admire no-party challenger Joshua Henderson’s campaign to bring attention to issues he’s passionate about, including medical cannabis and veterans care. We hope he will find other ways to be involved in state and local policy discussions, and we urge Running-Marquardt to incorporate his policy points into her own legislative work.

In their own words:

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Joshua Henderson

Kirsten Running-Marquardt

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 70

Tracy Ehlert

Myra Matejka

Democratic candidate Tracy Ehlert’s expertise in early childhood education is much needed in the Legislature. Since this board has repeatedly emphasized the need to invest in Iowa’s children, we enthusiastically endorse Ehlert’s statehouse bid.

Libertarian candidate Myra Matejka is offering radical and new ideas for fundamentally changing the way state government works. Even though we found several of those proposals intriguing, we don’t think she has a wide enough range of policy expertise to effectively represent the district.

Like several other first-time candidates, we think Ehlert will need to study up and expand her knowledge of some policy issues, but her educational background positions her well to do that.

In their own words:

Tracy Ehlert

Myra Matejka

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 73

Jodi Clemens

Bobby Kaufmann

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who this board has endorsed in the past, declined to meet with us this cycle; he did not bother to respond to our news department’s candidate survey and has skipped some legislative forums this year. In our view, he is unfit for re-election.

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Fortunately, there is a qualified and passionate candidate running to replace Kaufmann. We endorse Democratic challenger Jodi Clemens, who brings professional experience in health care administration that will prove vital as the state works through problems with Medicaid and other health programs.

While many candidates told us they will work in a bipartisan manner in Des Moines, Clemens sounded uniquely genuine, drawing on her personal experience with friends and family members of differing political backgrounds. She advocates progressive policy positions, but we’re confident she won’t be blinded by ideology.

In their own words:

Jodi Clemens

• Bobby Kaufmann declined to participate

• • • • •

HOUSE DISTRICT 95

Christian Andrews

Louie Zumbach

Democratic challenger Christian Andrews told us he was motivated to run in part because of state government policies restricting collective bargaining for public employees. As a municipal public works employee, he clearly is dedicated to labor issues, along with expanding access to health care and education.

Rep. Louie Zumbach declined to meet with us, saying he wouldn’t get a fair shot, since his votes often are out of line with our staff editorials. We disagree. Our conversations, even with candidates we disagree with, helped us to provide nuanced takes in each race.

While we endorse Andrews, we found some of his answers to questions outside his passion areas to be lacking in specifics. We hope Andrews is prepared to take on the Legislature’s steep learning curve and work on a wider range of issues.

In their own words:

Christian Andrews

Louie Zumbach

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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