BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Two southeast Iowa Republicans will be battling for the right to take on State Sen. Rich Taylor in Iowa’s 42nd District in June.
With a campaign season crippled by state restrictions on gatherings and social distancing, fundraising and getting out to voters will be difficult. Jeff Reichman, of Keokuk, and Nancy Amos, of Mt. Pleasant are both looking at different campaigns for the nomination to the general election against Taylor.
Both candidates said that boils everything down to digital media and phone contact during the primary.
Amos is on her first ballot, but has extensive experience in southeast Iowa Republican committee. She said she’s ready to represent the district in Des Moines.
“I’m constantly talking to people and posting different articles every day and phone banking,” said the Mt. Pleasant wife, mother, and grandmother. “I was planning on the door-knocking and fundraisers and that’s kind of been put aside.”
Amos has a degree in psychology from Iowa Wesleyan College, is a teacher, former drug counselor and advocate, and said she has a unique perspective on mental healthcare in Iowa.
“That’s my top thing. We lost MHI in Mt. Pleasant and we need more beds and dual diagnosing programs in this area. People need things accessible to them to get the help they need and that’s not happening right now.”
Amos referenced the West Burlington suicide where the man was suffering from mental health issues and drug abuse.
“That man could have benefited from better programs.”
Amos said she would also advocate for additional law enforcement funding to help increase training for mental health situations they encounter every day on the street.
“My thing is criminal justice and keeping our highways safer from sex trafficking. We need public awareness on what to do – not get involved but know what to look for,” she said. “We need additional funding for officers and better training. A lot don’t know how to respond.”
She said growing up on a farm, the state’s one-cent tax to help fund natural resource efforts was also a good idea and supports continuing that program. Her website can be found at www.nancyforiowa.com. She also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Nancy-Amos-for-Iowa-Senate-2073222812743400/
The pro-life advocate is also a small business owner operating an over-the-road semi trailer with her husband, and said impacts of the coronavirus will be long-lasting on small businesses.
“I think more businesses, especially small businesses, are going to need help to stay in business, I know we’re doing loans and bailout packages, but I’m not sure I agree with all they are doing,” she said. “I’m glad this is a temporary relief package because sometimes this make it easier for people not to go back to work.”
She said she would like to see funds targeted at small businesses and no-go to things like, “the Kennedy Arts Center”.
“And we need to be careful that it doesn’t go to people and businesses who will turn around and fire people after they get their money,” Amos said. “I think this had to be quick but more thought out.”
Reichman was born and raised in Keokuk and graduated from Southeastern Community College, has a business degree from Iowa Wesleyan College, and is a Marine Corp Command staff graduate. He now makes his home in Montrose and works in the shipping department at Roquette. He also runs his own home inspection service, Tri State Home Inspection.
Kurtz is making his second run for public office after losing to Rep. Jeff Kurtz (D-Fort Madison) for Iowa’s 83rd in 2018.
Reichman said this campaign will be different having already canceled two fundraisers and meet and greets. He said he learned a lot from the last campaign.
“You take a step back and think about a lot of things – what you could have done better and what we should have done differently,” he said. “But then I get approached to run for the Senate this time. They said I ran a good campaign.”
Reichman said this primary, and a possible general election campaign will be a huge challenge for making that connection with people and moving them with layoffs, the economy, the virus duration, and then getting people to donate in the first place.
His platform hasn’t changed much since 2018, and he says past trade agreements have been devastating to the blue collar small town demographic of southeast Iowa. He said President Donald Trump’s United States – Mexico-Canada Agreement has been good for the economy.
“The USMCA has already brought billions back into the economy and we will continue to see that growth,” he said. “Big industries are coming back and they will need feeder operations because that place getting parts from China is no longer feasible, so they could look to get those in the Midwest.”
Reichman also wants to advocate for additional high school trade programs to help fill some of the job vacancies in southeast Iowa.
He said Scotts Miracle Gro in Fort Madison was advertising for more than 100 people and ConAgra will be looking for people as well with their expansion. But he said this problem has been brewing for decades.
“It’s been a 30-year problem that’s been snowballing. We have the ability to change that. We’ve seen some grants down here as we move forward,” he said. “There are a lot of counties doing much better than those in southeast Iowa, but there’s targeted legislation to look at better grants for different counties and zones that need different help, too.”
Reichman said Iowa is going to stay a Republican majority after this year’s election and the party needs a senator at the majority table.
“I’ve was doing some door-knocking but that came to a screeching halt. But what I’m seeing is an aging population,” he said. “We really have got to give the kids growing up here a reason to stay, or a reason to come back or we’re going to continue to see population diminish here.”
He said groups like Keokuk Economic Development Group and Lee County Economic Development Group are making strides to program with that focus, but schools need to a better starting point.
He said college preparation in schools is still taking too much of the education resources.
“We need to close the gap on jobs and workers with the right skill set to fill those jobs,” he said. “We’re spending too much on curriculum for college prep and the stats when that’s not the right way. Sixty percent of kids go to college, but only twenty-five percent finish. So we’re spending eighty to ninety percent of our budget to benefit twenty-five percent of the students.”
He said that transformation is taking place but not at a quick enough pace.
“Too many kids are still being prepped for college that may not really want to go or could have a better career somewhere else. What are we doing with those kids in high school?” Reichman said.
The state is still bleeding too many of its residents to other parts of the country and he’d like to be involved in budgeting at the state level to help stem that tide.
“I think somebody like myself whose been in the private sector and worked and with budgets can help that cause,” he said.
Reichman said he’s been through a lot in southeast Iowa, including layoffs and being unemployed, and that gives him a better understanding of what the people of southeast Iowa need than other candidates.
Reichman also wants to contribute to the discussion of rural broadband access in southeast Iowa. He said some infrastructure is in place, but it’s not moving at the pace it needs to .
“Throughout the nation, the system hasn’t supported enough growth to have private entities do it, and it’s being helped along by the government. It’s something we’ve all talked about it at all levels. But that’s just it, there’s a lot of talking and not much doing.”
One thing the state is doing well, Reichman said, is managing its finances. He said because of the surplus from last year, Iowa will weather the storm of the coronavirus better than most states.
“We’re definitely in a better place than a lot of other states. (Gov. Reynolds) had a budget surplus, and there were calls to spend that and throw money at everything to make sure we used it, but it sure was good that we didn’t because now we’re gonna be down some revenue.”
He said he would have preferred more of the money go to small businesses and not so much to special interests. He said people are spending more online now that they are cooped up at home and that should help a bit, but the revenue lost, will be lost.
“You won’t make that money up. What’s lost is lost. But I’m really kind of upset with people for putting special interest money in the relief bill and disappointed in those who voted for it. I don’t think that hits the target as much as it should.”
More on Reichman’s candidacy and issue platforms can be found on his Facebook page at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Reichman-for-Iowa-Senate-279201999287923/