Candidates need to help sew the fabric


Well, the political landscape is becoming very active.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in town Saturday getting a Wallyburger at the Fort Diner.

A bunch of people gathered around the iconic tiny restaurant located just off the riverfront in downtown.

DeSantis was in town as part of a heavy, but nonchalant, barnstorm of southeast Iowa. Rumor had it that the Republican was in town as a favor to Iowa Sen. Jeff Reichman, after Reichman threw his political weight behind the Florida governor.

Riechman pulled his support of former President and 2024 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump after Trump made some disparaging comments about Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Trump said if wasn’t for him, Reynolds wouldn’t be Iowa’s governor. His claim isn’t without merit as Reynolds was in a tight fight for election after being appointed by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

DeSantis gained national attention for his handling of Florida’s recovery from hurricane Sandy, and most recently Idalia.

Trump has been flying in and out of Iowa for the past six months, planning to skip all the regular party debates and instead letting his ego dictate the campaign. And being pretty effective at it.

I had a chance to stop and chat with some of the campaign officials after DeSantis made a stop at Catfish Bend Casino Saturday night. The staff stopped at the Broadway in West Burlington for a tenderloin and a beer.  I was there with some family.

I told the group that Facebook’s algorithms were starting to be the bane of my existence and they needed to take a harder look at AI, but I’ve been there and done that.

Then I went off on a tangent about how there is a large swath of Democrats who could be motivated to move slightly to the right, if the right candidate hopped along. A couple things needed to happen for that to take place. No. 1, the top concern was that our next leader not have for his or her top priority, the creation of a legacy. The legacy will come from great leadership. I said I could vote for a conservative if that person brought the right credentials, had some running experience and whose concern was to bring this country together. They need a special insight into the electorate that can help heal a divide. Stop creating more emotional instability in the country and provide stability, have a tremendous sense of pride in the people and ancestors who built this country, had an effective sense of humor, and most importantly relished our role on the world’s stage – not just flaunting our record of success over the past 250 years.

So bring on the debates and the stops at sandwich shops to shake hands in casual attire before the campaign itself whittles down the field and the attire gets more and more buttoned down.

The campaign has also ratcheted up on the local scene. Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld will take on Rodney Hoskins and Jerry Reuther. Hoskins is becoming a perennial candidate and we can see him around town getting in congratulations lines at football games and showing up at City Council meetings.

The thing is this. We don’t seem him much elsewhere. We don’t see Jerry Hamelton around city circles either. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen more about his travels in Prague than I have about his travels around Fort Madison. My point is this, Hamelton and Hoskins and Reuther can all put their names on ballots. But Fort Madison is in a growth mode and we need people to keep up with that growth.

Rusty Andrews can be found at almost any worthy city event usually working the event from the ground up. Councilwoman Donna Amandus has moved mountains to get dog parks and pickleball courts built. New councilman Dustin Yager helped get the Mexican Fiesta off the ground this year, Councilman Kevin Rink is a mainstay of this community and can be seen volunteering time for the Moose, or the Knights of Columbus. Those types of volunteer efforts that help keep this community moving forward are critical foundations to any political ambitions.

Yes, almost anyone can put their name on a ballot by the rules of Iowa and the federal government. But that doesn’t guarantee an even footing in campaigning. These folks need to remember that there’s more to running for office than campaigning. There’s a thing called serving. Hamelton has been on a few boards and commissions, but he’s not very visible. Hoskins is incredibly visible – physically, basically, and regularly, but his foundation is soft. When I asked several people who Jerry Reuther was, many of them, including me, had no clue who he was. Not a great place to jump off on a campaign. But that does not mean any of them aren’t solid candidates.

What I’m saying is that you can just campaign, and you can win with a good campaign, but if you’re not part of the fabric of the community – and that means doing some of the sewing – your shouting at the rain has less potency.

I’ve always wanted to run for office, but this great job I have gives me the chance to chronicle it. That is a critical part of the fabric of Fort Madison, and I do help sew that fabric. The important thing is someone needs to chronicle it and someone needs to help create the dialogue around it.

We will certainly take on that role again this year, But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, opinion, sunday, editorial, chuck vandenberg, candidates, national, state, local, Pen City Current,


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