Editorial Board: The Gazette's 2016 endorsements

(Gazette File photo) An American Flag flies over Interstate 380 near North Liberty in September 2014.
The Gazette
(Gazette File photo) An American Flag flies over Interstate 380 near North Liberty in September 2014.

Election season endorsements are an American newspaper tradition that goes back more than a century. Here is a roundup of The Gazette's endorsements for 2016: 

About our endorsements: 

We publish endorsements as a service to our readers, to encourage all citizens to educate themselves about candidates and issues and to exercise their critically important right to vote.

Endorsements are written by The Gazette's editorial board. In no way do our endorsements influence The Gazette’s news coverage of candidates and election issues — which are decided upon and written by our newsroom employees, not opinion staff.

To prepare for our endorsements, we research each candidate and invite them in for an extended interview about their experience, philosophy and views. In writing them, we focus on the qualities and issues we feel are most important in that particular race.

Many more views on the election - including some from the candidates themselves - can be found in our Letters to the Editor

More about the process from Opinion editor Jennifer Hemmingsen: Our endorsements for the 2016 election

President: Hillary Clinton is the only responsible choice


"Words come easy for [Republican nominee Donald] Trump, and that has convinced a lot of Iowans that he stands for them, that he believes in them.

That’s a mirage.

There are many fair criticisms to be made of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Revelations from Clinton’s State Department and leaked email exchanges laid bare manipulative strategizing that many find rightly distasteful or morally objectionable. Given nearly any other conceivable Republican opponent in this election, our decision would have been made much more difficult.

As it stands, the only responsible endorsement to make is for Clinton."

Read more: Endorsement: Hillary Clinton for President

See also: The Gazette's presidential endorsements, 1884-2012

U.S. Senate: Chuck Grassley remains best choice


"It was Grassley’s own actions, or lack of actions, that dented his re-election chances this time around. Within hours of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February, Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fell into lockstep with Republican plans to deny President Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint Scalia’s replacement. They would not even grant Obama’s nominee the courtesy of a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.

Failing to buck this partisan ploy and marshal his committee to do its most important job will remain a stubborn stain on Grassley’s record and reputation. And it might have enough for us and Iowans to consider bucking tradition, had Democrats offered this board and the voters a compelling campaign for change.

But Democratic nominee Patty Judge, a former state agriculture secretary and lieutenant governor, has not made that case."

Read more: Endorsement: Chuck Grassley for Senate

1st Congressional District: Monica Vernon will work hard for Iowa


"Vernon’s time on the city council provides her with a pair of advantages, in our view. As part of a non-partisan governing body, Vernon has worked alongside leaders at all levels and from all political stripes to solve problems and accomplish objectives. Her time on the council covered Cedar Rapids’ recovery from the Flood of 2008, which involved intricate, complex dealings with bureaucracies at the state and federal level and two presidential administrations.

That experience, in addition to many years of public service behind the scenes on various community boards and on behalf of many causes, gives her broad and deep knowledge of local issues, problems and needs. She’s been involved with the city’s quest to receive federal flood protection funding from the beginning. She’s been on the front line of efforts to meet social and economic challenges facing not only Cedar Rapids but other metro areas in the region."

Read more: Monica Vernon will work hard for 1st District

Candidate letters: Monica Vernon | Rod Blum

2nd Congressional District: Christopher Peters would be independent voice


"This race pits 10-year incumbent Democrat Dave Loebsack against Libertarian-turned-Republican challenger Christopher Peters. Both men are qualified public servants, committed to serving the people of the 2nd District, but we believe Peters holds a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the issues and their impact on state residents...

Peters is a relative newcomer to Iowa politics (he had an unsuccessful bid for the Iowa Senate in 2010) with the drive and energy the 2nd District needs at this moment in history. He gives credit to his opponent, as do we, for work on behalf of veterans and the middle class, and then explains how his background will enable him to build on those successes and jump-start conversations on a host of other issues important to Iowans."

Read more: Christopher Peters would be independent voice for 2nd District

Candidate letters: Christopher Peters | Dave Loebsack 

Iowa Legislature: 

Senate 34: Liz Mathis

"It’s one of the state’s most-watched Senate races, featuring two quality candidates. We think Mathis’ experience on complex issues gives her the edge, so the incumbent earns our endorsement."


Senate 38: Dan Zumbach 

"Zumbach, a farmer, farm equipment dealer and former school board member from the Ryan area, is uniquely positioned to bring a rural perspective to critical discussions of water quality and education funding. For this, he earns our endorsement in this race."

House 65: Liz Bennett

"The southeast Cedar Rapids Democrat, a member of the economic growth, natural resources and environmental protection committees, is committed to helping solve the problems of water quality and education funding. She is well-versed in the challenges faced as well as the wealth of possible solutions."

House 67: Mark Seidel

"Seidl recognizes the considerable need for new funding to help clean up and protect Iowa’s waterways. He supports a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase to fill the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund created by voters in 2010."

House 68: Ken Rizer

"We like Rizer’s practical approach to issues and his ability to fund routes around gridlock. For example, faced with opposition among House Republicans to the expansion of access to medical cannabis, Rizer is working with the University of Iowa’s Institute on Genetics to create a study on a cannabis derivative that could expand access for sick Iowans. It’s an innovative response to legislative inaction."

House 70: Todd Taylor

"State Rep. Todd Taylor is an effective public servant. In a decade of service as a state lawmaker (first elected in a 1995 summer special election, followed Richard Running), the Cedar Rapids west-side native and Democrat has remained a champion for the middle class and the state’s youngest students."

House 77: Amy Nielsen

"Both candidates bring good and innovative ideas to the table, have led communities challenged by growth and demographic change, and are strong leaders. After much deliberation, we believe Nielsen would be the better representative. In particular, we were impressed with her understanding of Iowa’s K-12 funding and her proposal of tying a guaranteed percentage to inflation rates."

House 95: Dick Whitehead

"Whitehead is a former teacher, coach and superintendent of both Center Point-Urbana and College Community school districts. As such, he gained significant experience bringing diverse constituencies together to solve problems. He has a deep understanding of how the legislature can support schools in their quest to provide excellent educations to all of Iowa’s students, and where legislators should get out of the way."

Read more: Our endorsements for the Iowa Legislature

Linn County Supervisors: Stacey Walker, Ben Rogers and Brent Oleson

"Stacey Walker has done his homework regarding the duties of a county supervisor, and placed thoughtful consideration behind promises of fiscal responsibility, economic development and numerous other campaign buzz phrases.


We are impressed by Walker’s leadership on the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force and believe the information he’s gleaned about poverty and violence can be put to good use at the county level. Through this and other work, he has nurtured a vast and diverse sounding board of citizens — people he plans to consult regularly and encourage to be more active in local government..."

"During the past four years, Linn County District 3 Supervisor Ben Rogers has proved to be a thoughtful, process-oriented county supervisor.

He assisted with the transition from a county-based mental health/disability services structure to a regional system and helped minimize potential negative effects during the county’s transition away from sheltered employment for some workers with disabilities. He’s been the driving force behind a county initiative to apply business strategies to process improvements in order to streamline services and improve customer experiences..."

"Brent Oleson refers to his leadership style as “pushy,” and we appreciate the direction he’s pushed the county on several issues. Soon after joining the board in 2009, he became a leading voice for changing the budgeting process and ending the practice of built-in, automatic increases. Departments now must do far more to explain and justify the need for spending.

Oleson has led the charge to put renewed emphasis on outdoor recreation and environmental protection. We think his push to expand Morgan Creek Park ahead of an expected development explosion along the new Highway 100 corridor was a visionary move. As are his efforts to find more resources for water quality initiatives along the county’s rivers and creeks..."

Read more: Endorsements for Linn County Supervisors 

Linn County ballot issues:  

$40 million Linn County Conservation bond:

"This editorial board could not come to consensus over whether to support a $40 million Linn County conservation bond on the Nov. 8 ballot.

On one hand, we applaud the Conservation Board’s proposal. Water quality clearly is a pressing concern in Linn County, as it is throughout the state. More conservation efforts are needed, and could mitigate future flooding events.

At the same time, we are concerned by a lack of specifics in the ballot language, and would have liked to have seen more organized and aggressive efforts to educate voters about the proposal."

Read more: Linn County Conservation Board has more explaining to do

Size of Board of Supervisors: 

"It’s been just 10 years since voters expanded the board to five members. Back then, the three-member board was comprised of three Democrats from Linn County. Rural interests, including the Farm Bureau, saw expansion as a chance to break the Cedar Rapids lock.

The board now includes a Republican from Palo representing much of rural Linn County and a Democrat from Marion representing Bertram and Central City, alongside three seats held by Cedar Rapids Democrats. Going back to three supervisors, whether they be elected in districts or at-large, virtually guarantees a return to a board with three Democrats from the county’s largest city."

Read more: Vote no to smaller Linn County Board of Supervisors

Linn County Sheriff: Brian Gardner


"Brian Gardner, an incumbent Democrat, knows his office from bottom to top. He joined the Linn County Sheriff’s Office right out of high school. He’s excelled through the ranks since that time, actively seeking experience, training and opportunities to lead.

Gardner’s challenger, Libertarian Rick Stewart, has raised some broad and interesting questions about drug enforcement policy in the U.S., but he doesn’t have the experience necessary to run an agency with nearly 200 employees and a more than $21 million budget."

Read more: Endorsement: Brian Gardner earns another term as sheriff

Marion ballot issue: City Council change

"Under the current city charter, all seven Marion council members are elected at-large, even though four members represent wards. A ballot measure pushed by citizen petition would require that ward members be elected only by voters who live in their ward. Two at-large members and the mayor still would be elected citywide.

This change would help ensure that each area of the growing city has stronger representation. Decades ago, when Marion’s population was below 20,000, and when its ward populations also were much smaller, it made sense to elect representatives at-large. But now, with Marion’s population at 37,000 and growing steadily, ward representation makes much more sense."

Read more: Election change good for Marion voters



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