Elections will be tight races Tuesday


People have been at the door knocking a couple times a week. Democrats mostly, trying to shore up votes. I’m a registered Democrat, but I would have had conversations with foot soldiers of Republican candidates.

I know who I’m voting for in the major races and I believe in the sanctity of going to the polls. I have this huge pet-peeve with people trying to manipulate me. As consumers of all things, we’re bombarded on a daily basis with manipulators, but there’s something about someone trying to convince me to vote early that bugs me.


I’ve had the chance to sit down with each candidate in the local elections. Republicans Jim Steffen, Jeff Reichman, and Joe Mitchell, and Democrats Rich Harlow, Jeff Kurtz, and Jason Moats. We didn’t invite federal legislators to sit down because we are hyper local, but we have an opinion there, as well.

For centuries print news outlets have given their opinion on candidates and it’s a dicey game, unless the readership remembers that it’s just an opinion, albeit, we believe, an educated opinion.

As editor/co-owner of Pen City Current, I spent close to an hour with each of the above mentioned candidates and we’ll get into that shortly, but at the outset, in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, we would support Dave Loebsack to continue to serve in that position. Dr. Christopher Peters didn’t really spend a lot of time in the area, not even close to the amount of time Loebsack spent and continues to spend in our area. That’s a harrowing prognostication of whether we would really be in his sights.

Loebsack has also continued to push for rural connectivity, a very important issue in rural Iowa. He’s also represented well in terms of public safety, Internet safety, and has kept close tabs on economic development efforts for Iowa’s smaller communities.

Locally, I would blacken the oval for Republican Joe Mitchell for Iowa’s 84th District House seat. Mitchell, although just 21 and fresh out of college, brings a more middle-of-the-road approach to politics that’s enticing. He said he wouldn’t have voted for the Chapter 20 overhaul as presented, as he said it went too far. Mitchell also has an unexpected amount of experience in navigating the state capital and has connections, which gives him a head start.

Republicans who toe the party line aren’t of interest to me, because politics is just too polarizing at all levels. Moats’ concerns and efforts are real where mental health and the safety of our correctional officers are concerned, but to me he seems a bit out of touch on important issues like education, privatized health care, and small business advocacy, all crucial elements to rural Iowa. Mitchell just seems a bit more rounded and willing to do what’s best for Iowans despite party affiliation. We just hope he is…who he says he is.

In the Kurtz/Reichman state’s 83rd District House race, I found both men deeply concerned for local Iowans. I was concerned when Democrats Kurtz and Loebsack showed up for a rally with local duck hunters. It seemed as though they were making political hay out of a hot-button issue. Politics has to be more serious than creating opportunities to keep your face in front of voters, especially where you have no standing. It’s no different than showing up at Fort Madison High School to look at the trades program. Clint Kobelt, Jim King, and the rest have a wonderful, state-recognized program there, no doubt. But the timing seemed to be a little politically convenient.  We passed on the event as our fairness doctrine would have required a Republican event to balance. Rest assured we’ll continue to write on the successes of our schools and their respective programs.

However, Kurtz appears to be the candidate who will step up across lines and is willing to look and listen to his better angels and not the demons of party loyalty. He’s certainly from a blue-collar background and understands the importance of collective bargaining, the hassles of privatized health care, and the importance of funding public education, among other things. He also has many years working in the capital on behalf of railroad workers.

I found Jeff Reichman to be engaging, informed, and concerned about southeast Iowa. His push for more funding for vocational programs and taking a hard look at the diminishing value of a college education are attractive stances. But he does appear to be spoon fed a bit on several important issues, like public education funding, IPERS, and privatized health care. He, and Jim Steffen, who I’ll get to next, both had almost the exact same lines on college graduation rates and privatized health care. With all that being said, that race is a pick’em and I genuinely believe both men would represent this part of the state well.

The race between Steffen and Democrat Rich Harlow is one of the most puzzling, but Harlow may seem to be the best choice simply because he’s been at the meetings. Steffen has declined to attend meetings because he didn’t “want to get into that drama” but he said he’s kept up with all the documentation and minutes. But there’s something to be said about someone who doesn’t want to go through the drama of the meeting, until he’s elected. That’s where the sausage is made. You miss a lot not being in there.

Harlow, despite some questionable sign placements that prompted warnings from election officials, will tell you over and over he cares about the people of Lee County and wants to help those people. Anyone running for election wants to help, but he’s shown through actions his commitment. It was election time and people seize opportunities when their name is on the ballot. But it was the only real glimpse we got of the candidates in action.

Steffen’s military record and stories of his tours, as well as Riechman’s decades serving his country, aren’t lost on those of us who live under the blankets of freedoms they helped provide. But politics is engagement, and Steffen missed an important opportunity to show the voters his engagement, despite apparent efforts behind the scenes. Politicians don’t always work behind the scenes.

So cast your ballot, that’s the important thing. Elections have never been more important. Don’t go to the polls because of what is written here, but do some homework and cast your ballot for the person you believe will make dinner table conversations more to your liking.

In case you haven’t been following along, Holy Trinity head volleyball coach Melissa Freesmeier is taking her Crusaders to their ninth straight state tournament appearance. First round starts Wednesday night against a No. 7 Montezuma squad that dismantled New London on Tuesday night. Action starts at 8 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids – but that’s Beside the Point.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5278 Articles
Pen City Current and pencitycurrent.com are products of Market Street Publishing, LLC, a multi-platform media company delivering hyper-local news, sports and advertising information to Fort Madison, IA and surrounding communities.

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