BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Iowa State Sen. Rich Taylor will be banking on his past eight years in the legislature to carry him to re-election, but Keokuk’s Jeff Reichman who rolled in the Republican primary is out to unseat the incumbent.
Both men have military backgrounds with Taylor serving seven years in the National Guard, and Reichmen is a U.S. Marine veteran and a command staff graduate.
Taylor, originally from Mt. Union, is an assistant leader for Democrats in the Senate and is a the minority ranking member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture, Judicial, and Labor and Business Relations committees.
After serving in the National Guard specializing in HVAC and refrigeration, Taylor worked for the Iowa State Penitentiary where he oversaw repairs of the prisons HVAC and refrigeration systems.
Reichman was born and raised in Keokuk and graduated from Southeastern Community College, has a business degree from Iowa Wesleyan College in addition to his long military career.
He now makes his home in Montrose and works in the shipping department at Roquette, while running his own home inspection business, Tri State Home Inspections for the past four years.
Taylor said he had no plans on running for a third term, but said since the Republicans dismantled collective bargaining, among other things, he’s seeking another term.
“I just saw so much destruction done in the past years. I had originally planned on not running for another term,” he said.
“There’s just so much damage that the Republican controlled House, Senate, and Governor’s office has done to the state I just couldn’t leave it like that”
Taylor said collective bargaining was the biggest issue for him and he wants to push that agenda even though he knows the governor will never sign a return to the table for the unions.
Collective bargaining was founded in the state back in the 70s and Taylor said it allowed one voice to speak for 20,000 employees. He hopes the senate can flip back to Democrat control so inroads can be made to put collective bargaining back in two years if a Democrat is elected Governor.
Six Republicans are retiring from their seats in the Senate at the year’s end and Taylor thinks the Democrats have a good chance, not only in those but other contested races, to regain control of the Senate.
“I think we’ve got a good chance of taking 8 to 10 seats if Iowa is paying attention to what the Republicans are doing to them,” he said. “The only group I know that can be happy with what’s going on is the very big businesses. Even small business shouldn’t be happy with what’s going on right now.”
Taylor said he also wants to continue to advocate for Iowa’s public schools. He said the national average for the percentage of state’s budgets allocated to public school funding is about 20.5%, but Iowa’s is only 16.9%.
“That amounts to just over $1,100 per student. If Fort Madison or Keokuk had another $1,100 per student they would be able to pay teachers properly, which the state hasn’t done for years,” he said.
The other problem there, Taylor adds, is that teachers in Iowa are dedicated and are putting up with the underfunding, but how long will that last.
“Older teachers will retire and younger teachers will go to other states where the pay is better,” Taylor said.
Reichman said education is talking point for Democrats.
“It’s a partisan talking point. When they had the majority, they funded it and then pulled millions and millions back out of it,” Reichman said.
“The state has spent more money on schools and it wasn’t just additional money per child. The state realized that rural schools have additional costs related to busing and directly funded additional transportation costs,” Reichman said.
Reichman said is passion for bringing jobs and rebuilding the economy as an ambassador for southeast Iowa is what sets him apart from Taylor.
“I want to go to the senate to represent southeast Iowa. Manufacturing is our backbone and if you look at my agenda, it’s the economy – rebuilding the economy and bringing more higher paying jobs to this part of the state.”
Reichman said another difference is just the party agenda.
“With us, you see a party with lower taxes, less government, looking for people to be self-supporting and not dependent on the government for a livelihood,” he said.
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Government large enough to provide everything you need, is government large enough to take away everything you have.”
He said building curriculum in schools that allows students to explore vocational training will help redevelop a skilled workforce and help fill jobs locally.
Both candidates agreed that the state’s budget is in good shape considering the impact of the COVID pandemic. Taylor said budget analysts are projecting a 6% revenue growth this year in spite of the pandemic.
“For a Democrat I’m very conservative. I don’t buy things I don’t need and I want the state to do that, too,” Taylor said.
“Pay for the police, the fire, garbage pickup. Pay for what we should be paying. But I don’t need a Cadillac, I just want a good Chevy. That’s how I am personally. So when they call us Tax and Spend Democrats, that’s just not true.”
Taylor said military careers like he and Reichman have don’t prepare you for dealing with people on a personal level.
“That will be a big difference compared to Jeff’s military career. He doesn’t understand the people of southeast Iowa like he needs to. I was in the National Guard for seven and a half years and the military didn’t teach me people skills. It taught me other things, but not how to reach people,” he said.
Taylor said the pandemic kept him from being able to go door-to-door as much as he has in the past and he said his misses that interaction and getting to hear from constituents about their problems over a kitchen table.
“Campaign people would get upset with me because I would spend an hour or so at one house. But that’s what I like to do,” he said. “Find out deep down what problems they have and what can I do to help at the state level.”
Reichman said he’s been able to get out and do some of the door-to-door work getting to know people up in Henry County and other areas of the district.
“COVID is still lingering around and still an issue, but the good news is, we’ve been able to get out and knock on doors. I’ve knocked on 1,000s of doors myself,” he said.
“Luckily, we got through the primary without knowing a lot of people in Henry County, but we’re building on those relationships and meeting people and there’s great excitement to see their candidate on the door steps.”
Taylor said other issues that need to be address at the legislature are water quality, fully funding the judiciary, free pre-school, classifying ambulance service as essential in the state, and redemption issues.
“I think the ambulance service thing will be huge his year. I think the virus has taught us we have to something here and I think it’s taught us we have to do something with redemption centers,” Taylor said.
He said the state has to move to make that more profitable and favorable to business operators, or the cans will end up damaging the environment.
“It all kind of goes together. If you’re not recycling, your stuff usually ends up in your water.”
Reichman said redemption plans in the state do need revamped. He said those are 40-year-old regulations and they need to updated to make the process simpler and reimbursements quicker for operators.
Reichman said his transitioning back to southeast Iowa has made him realize how important it is to have representation in Des Moines that reflects the needs of southeast Iowa.
“My family is here and this is where I’m from,” he said. “But I feel my greatest fulfillment is helping and serving a greater cause, and the driving factor in that was my transition back to southeast Iowa.”
Reichman said he could have built a better professional life in other areas, but he wanted to come back to his family and roots.
“I remember my grandfather passing away when I was a young man and as close as we were, you always want more time,” he said. “I just didn’t want to pass up on anymore missed time.”