Today’s editorial – the first of five that will take a look at local candidates running for election on the Nov. 3 ballot – examines the race between District 98 State Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, and her challenger Joma Short, a Republican from Clinton.
Wolfe, an attorney, has served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2011 and is seeking her sixth term. Last session, she served as a ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, and on the House Agriculture Committee, the Government Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with all things tax-related.
Short, who has a teacher’s license, has been a nonprofit developer, a television producer for a cable TV show, is a youth pastor and minister, and is the founder and director of the Upper Room, a creative and performing arts center that also is a house of prayer. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in youth ministries and pastoral studies with a minor in biblical studies and adolescent psychology and counseling. She has lived in Clinton for 2 1/2 years.
Short told us that government has always been important to her, that she expects things to be run well and to have leaders that have clarity and conviction. What she sees in Clinton, she says, is a lot of empty buildings, a need to create things for teens to do, and a lot of potential. She also is concerned with government having too much control in people’s lives.
She said that led her “to take responsibility for my town and my region” and to want to be a voice. She kicked around the idea of city level participation and whether to run for the Iowa Statehouse or Congress. She decided the Statehouse race was right for her.
Her top focuses would be economic growth and development, quality of life for young people and families, and jobs. She doesn’t think one person has all the answers and said she would first listen and speak with county supervisors and the mayor, city and county government, community leaders and parents.
Wolfe wants to be re-elected as she works to bring balance to state government. When she was first running for the seat in 2010, she said, Democrats had control of the House, Senate and Governor’s office. Then the House majority and Governor’s office flipped to Republican. In 2017, the Senate followed.
She points out that for the last four years, and really the six years prior, the Republican party has controlled the agenda. Whenever there are big issues that come up, “we see over and over again, they are put together behind closed doors with input from special interest groups and no input from a lot of the groups my colleagues think should be included,” whether they are bills related to taxes, public safety or natural resources.
Democrats make up almost one-half of Iowa’s voters and there’s a problem when Democrats are not allowed a seat at the table, she said.
She said that lack of balance is affecting everything from collective bargaining rights and education funding (a portion of the state’s $300 million surplus in fiscal year 2020 could have helped increase and equalize school funding across the state, she says), to abortion rights and the Governor’s Invest in America plan that would raise the sales tax by one cent. She said Democrats fear money raised through that sales tax would go for income tax and property tax cuts. Her colleagues, she said, have a concern lawmakers would be taking a very regressive tax that would hit the elderly and others harder and use it to decrease, to some extent, the few progressive taxes the state has.
She said that to give Democrats a voice, the goal is to flip the House; all that is needed is a four-seat gain to do it. She said that would allow discussion to get things done, like directing more funding to rural and border counties to spur economic development. Four-laning U.S. 30 is paramount, she said, but she doesn’t think that will happen under Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration.
She points out that House District 98 is a purple-ish district, which makes it important to find common ground and be able to take a more moderate viewpoint.
During our interviews with both candidates, it’s easy to see both are passionate about the Clinton area. What it comes down to for area voters is whether they want a candidate who is new and will fall in line with the Republican majority, or one who has experience, and knows that the long-time Republican trifecta needs to be dismantled for representation of all Iowans.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of editorials exploring how local and state candidates’ policies would impact the Gateway area. The Clinton Herald will not be endorsing a candidate in these races. These editorials are designed to help voters decide which candidate would be better for their interests as individuals and their interests as part of a broader Eastern Iowa region.