That’s what all candidates being endorsed by the Clinton Herald Editorial Board have in common in 2016. They don’t necessarily share a party affiliation. What they do share is a common belief in doing what’s best for Clinton County. And they’ve shown us through years of service how they’ve continued to push for the area’s values, whether they serve on the Clinton County Board of Supervisors or in the Iowa Legislature.
After meeting with the candidates for the multiple local positions, the board came to consensus on which candidates to endorse for the 2016 election.
The Clinton Herald Editorial Board is composed of Herald Publisher Ron Gutierrez, Editor Charlene Bielema and Associate Editor Scott Levine, and community members Lanie Lass, Pete Clausen, Dick Kissack, Ann Eisenman, Dick Farwell, Mike Kearney, Bob Holesinger, Jeff Reed, Lori Freudenberg and Heather Bahnsen.
Because the board features community members in addition to Herald employees, not all members were present for each interview.
Each present member scored each interview and those scores were averaged into a final tally for each candidate interviewed.
Two of the three races were unanimous, with a score of more than a point in favor of the endorsed candidate.
All candidates for the upcoming local elections, featuring the Clinton County Board of Supervisors, Clinton County Auditor, and the two local Iowa House of Representatives seats, were invited to participate. David Melchert Jr., a candidate for the Iowa House District 97 race, and Jeannine Eldrenkamp, a candidate for the Iowa House District 98 race, did not attend the interviews.
The Clinton Herald is endorsing candidates for the two Iowa House of Representatives seats and the Board of Supervisors seat. Because the auditor position is not a policy-making elected office, the Herald is choosing not to endorse a candidate.
Iowa House District 98
Mary Wolfe (D) - incumbent vs. Jeannine Eldrenkamp (R)
Endorsement — Wolfe
No candidate we interviewed scored higher than Wolfe in our final tallies. Those tallies aren’t just a product of this seat being historically filled by a Democrat. The interview with Wolfe showcased her knowledge of the Iowa Legislature, issues facing not only the state, but Clinton County, and her ability to work well with others.
Wolfe has shown consistently during her career to work with representatives on the other side of the aisle to try to get things accomplished. She’s willing to work with local officials to get U.S. 30 on the right track, along with getting equitable funding for mental health services in Clinton.
She also has been involved in the process of re-purposing Ashford University, which closed its campus in the spring.
Her main expertise is in the criminal justice field, as evidenced by her profession as an attorney. She’s been active in trying to reform criminal justice in Iowa, something Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has said in the past is a priority. She’s making that a priority, and although it’s a slow process, she should have more time to see those changes through.
Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, Wolfe’s experience as a legislator cannot be debated. She works for Clinton County and the Clinton Herald Editorial Board is putting our full support behind another term for Wolfe.
Iowa House District 97
Jeff Wolf (D) vs. Norlin Mommsen (R) - incumbent
Endorsement — Mommsen
The last few years for Mommsen has been an eye-opening one. Former representative Steve Olson served six terms before retiring in 2014, giving way to Mommsen’s first term.
And after two years, Mommsen admitted he had a lot to learn.
Over time, though, he’s gotten out of his comfort zone of agriculture, and served on multiple committees, including education and transportation. He understands the need for investing in local schools and making that more of a priority, while also balancing the need for better water quality in the state of Iowa.
With his involvement in agriculture, he offers an informed perspective on water quality and how to make sure funding becomes better utilized for that area, while also not draining state monies for schools.
And while Wolf did have multiple ideas, we believe Mommsen’s experience with a broad range of topics gives him the best ability to move Clinton County forward. Wolf focused the majority of his interview on one topic, something not necessarily relevant to Clinton County. When looking at other issues, though, he did offer solid ideas in simplifying the tax code and making sure the state looks at planning in the future.
With more experience, Wolf may be able to make a mark in state politics at some point. But for Clinton County, Mommsen is the best choice.
Board of Supervisors
John Staszewski (D) - incumbent vs. Tom Determann (R)
Endorsement — Staszewski
In our most closest margin of victory, the Editorial Board is siding with Staszewski.
Both candidates bring a wealth of experience to this position. Staszewski is the longest-serving Supervisor, while Determann has been involved in politics for decades and is currently a Clinton city councilman.
So why change what works?
The Clinton City Council is working as a more cohesive unit, while the Supervisors have long been a steady form of government. Part of that steady hand is thanks to Staszewski, who has seen plenty of ups and downs in not only the county, but the city as well.
There are several issues still facing the county, with mental health funding not adequate for this area and a desire for new jobs. Losing out on the experience Staszewski offers would not be a good thing for Clinton County.
With that being said, there was an item that did strike us as a bit troublesome in our meetings. This area can only succeed by the several different government entities coming together and working toward a common goal.
We don’t need just passive agreement. But both candidates expressed frustration with the lack of meetings between city and county officials as a means of enhancing communication.
We hope both candidates will do something to remedy that in the next few years.
Eric Van Lancker (D) - incumbent vs. Laura Kauffman
Because this position does not direct policy in government, the Clinton Herald chose not to endorse a candidate in this race.
We did meet with both candidates, and both offered a strong argument for success as Clinton County auditor.
Van Lancker is seeking his third term as auditor and has been a strong leader in keeping up to date in changing trends in elections. He’s been a strong advocate to make sure people have access to vote and is always looking out for new ways to create a more enthusiastic electorate.
Kauffman also brings experience as an election official and an accountant. She was very well-versed in all aspects of being an auditor, which covers a lot of ground.
For being someone with no experience running for public office, she is a well-qualified challenger.
Both candidates bring solid experience and Clinton County is fortunate to have two quality candidates.