Staff Editorial

The Gazette's endorsements: Clear choices in Iowa House and Senate races

Democrats stand out in Eastern Iowa races

The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

In the seven state legislative races in Linn and Johnson Counties, The Gazette endorses the Democratic candidates.

No local Republican candidates for Iowa House or Senate agreed to meet with The Gazette editorial board. For that reason, they are ineligible for our endorsement.

In most local races, we enthusiastically endorse the Democratic candidate, although a few give us pause. We urge voters to vet the candidates individually, but we would welcome a statewide shift where Democrats take control or make gains in the Iowa Legislature, to provide a balance to Gov. Kim Reynolds and the prevailing era of total GOP control at the Statehouse.

Members of the editorial board asked candidates about the core state policy issues we have been editorializing about since the last round of elections two years ago — including education, health care, child care, drug reform and water quality. Some highlights from their responses are included here.

House District 66

State Rep. Art Staed is seeking a sixth term representing House District 66, which includes neighborhoods north of the Cedar River and First Avenue in Cedar Rapids. Barrett Hubbard is the Republican candidate.

Staed has had a long career as an educator and children’s advocate. Like every other Democrat, he favors higher state funding for Iowa schools, but he is especially mindful of the uncertainty educators face under current leadership. He favors setting a permanent annual spending increase for education, and allowing the Legislature to vote to reduce it if necessary.

Iowans are well served by Staed’s advocacy for Iowa schools.

House District 67

Democratic candidate Eric Gjerde is running for the second time in House District 67, which covers portions of northeast Cedar Rapids and northwest Marion, and all of Hiawatha and Robins. Gjerde faces first-time Republican candidate Sally Ann Abbott.

At the top of Gjerde’s policy agenda is health care access and affordability, informed by his own family’s challenges to secure adequate care for children born with medical conditions. As a public educator, he’s also a strong advocate for education funding and bargaining rights for government workers.

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Gjerde is well suited to flip his Iowa House seat and serve his constituents.

House District 68

State Rep. Molly Donahue won her first election two years ago in House District 68, which includes southeast Marion and a swath of eastern Cedar Rapids. Her Republican opponent is Lou Rogers.

In 2018, this editorial board endorsed Donahue, but noted we were underwhelmed by her depth of knowledge on the issues. After two years in Des Moines, Donahue has earned enough experience to allay our concern. While there are several educators running for local legislative seats, Donahue’s particular emphasis on behavioral health is an asset to the Legislature.

Donahue deserves another term in the Iowa House.

House District 70

State Rep. Tracy Ehlert is running for a second term to represent House District 70 in northwest Cedar Rapids.

As an early childhood educator, Ehlert is a crucial voice in addressing the shortage of affordable child care in Iowa. She favors mandatory registration for home providers and increasing child care assistance reimbursement rates.

Ehlert is opposed by Libertarian candidate Myra Matejka, who has bold and intriguing ideas about criminal justice and property tax reform. While Matejka did not earn our endorsement, we appreciate her willingness to participate in the endorsement process, unlike her Republican peers in nearby districts.

Ehlert is the best choice for House District 70.

House District 73

Democratic candidate Lonny Pulkrabek, who is set to retire as Johnson County sheriff, is making his first run in House District 73, which covers Cedar County and a portion of eastern Johnson County. Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann is seeking reelection.

As a career law enforcer, Pulkrabek has been on both sides of the public employee bargaining process, and he favors reversing restrictions on public sector bargaining rights. He names health care costs and education among his most important issues.

Pulkrabek will do well if he’s given the chance to continue his public service.

House District 95

Democratic candidate Christian Andrews appears on the ballot for a second time in House District 95, to represent Mount Vernon and a large rural area north of the Cedar Rapids metro area. He faces Republican newcomer Charlie McClintock.

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While Andrews is not as deeply informed about the issues as local Democratic incumbents, he has already shown growth since his last run for office. He makes a compelling case for better health care access and restoring rights for government workers.

Christian Andrews deserves a shot in the Iowa House.

Senate District 48

Democratic candidate Eric Green is a first-time candidate in Senate District 48, which includes House Districts 95 and 96. He’s running against Republican Sen. Dan Zumbach.

Green acknowledges he is underprepared to be a state senator, but he agreed to run in order to support the Democratic Party. As a small-business owner, he criticizes the state’s chaotic coronavirus response, and also emphasizes education funding and a phased-in minimum wage increase.

Since the other candidate declined to meet with us, Green earns our endorsement by default.

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

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