Editorial: Our endorsements

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In political parlance, the Iowa Quad-Cities is seen as a swing area. We aren’t deep red or blue. On the national level, this area has tended to vote for Democrats in recent years, but in legislative and local races it’s been a mixed bag.

Such is the case in the Iowa Legislature. We have a mix of Republicans and Democrats representing us. Some lawmakers do come from deeply red or blue districts, but hardly any of them are so secure that they have not drawn opponents this year.

Only state Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, has no opposition. Today, we will weigh in on the competitive races.

This editorial board has pushed the state legislature for greater investments in education, mental health and water quality. We believe in equity and a fair tax code, as well as a government that incentivizes an economy that works for everybody, not just those at the top.

Some of the legislators who represent us fall short in these areas, even some whom we endorse. But running through our picks for office today are lawmakers who we believe take a thoughtful approach to their jobs, even when they differ with us; legislators who understand and represent the voters in the district that elected them.

With that in mind, we offer our choices.

Iowa Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, is seeking to continue her service in the state legislature. A former counselor and educator, Kurth is a strong advocate for greater K-12 education investments. She’s criticized the state’s COVID-19 response as too lax, and she wants to see a higher minimum wage.

Kurth is running against Republican Sean Hanley, a Realtor, and Jonathan Vance, a director of purchasing. Vance is an independent.

Hanley doesn’t seem overly ideological, saying he believes the legislature can do a better job with taxes and spending. Vance, meanwhile, offers a chance to break out of the two-party dynamic.

We believe Kurth is the best choice. She is a strong advocate for children and families and deserves another term.

This district has flip-flopped over the years. Currently, Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, represents it. He is being challenged by Democrat Jennifer Kakert, an accountant from Blue Grass.

Paustian, a farmer, is an unapologetic tax cutter who wants tight controls on spending. He’s a stalwart GOP lawmaker and chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

A newcomer to politics, we found Kakert an astute businessperson who believes the legislature isn’t adequately funding education and has gone too far to the right. That includes Paustian. She wants to raise the minimum wage, but do it slowly, and invest in infrastructure.

We find Kakert to be the best choice.

We have said this before: Paustian is too partisan for us. In our interview, he was harshly critical of the state teachers union for being cautious about going back into the classroom in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

We believe Kakert would better represent the whole district, which is a mix of urban and rural territory. Her priorities and even temperament would be good for the district. She has our endorsement.

Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, has represented the 93rd district since 2009. She says the state needs to fund its new children’s mental health system, boost K-12 funding and roll back the strict limits put on collective bargaining in 2017.

She also is a member of the legislative Black caucus that played a key role in the bipartisan police reform legislation that passed last session.

Thede faces Republican Mike Vondran, a business owner who has a lengthy list of community activism, including service on the Mississippi Valley Fair Board. He also created the HAVlife foundation, which helps disadvantaged youth.

Vondran believes the Quad-Cities is getting ignored in Des Moines, and that most people in this district don’t know who their representative is. He says he would change that. He believes K-12 education is being adequately funded but the money could be better utilized.

It’s not likely Thede will get her way on collective bargaining, but she is a fighter for many priorities that align with ours. And we don’t believe that she is invisible to her constituents or in Des Moines. She is a hard worker who makes a difference.

We respect Vondran’s dedication to this community. But we believe Thede represents her district well and deserves to continue doing so. We endorse Phyllis Thede.

Rep. Gary Mohr, a Bettendorf Republican, has worked his way up in the Legislature. He‘s the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which is quite an accomplishment for a two-term lawmaker. It’s not just a coup for Mohr, but we also think it helps to have somebody from the Quad-Cities in such a position of leadership.

Mohr is facing Marie Gleason, a retired project manager at Deere & Co., who advocates for greater investments in education and for more local control.

We don’t always agree with Mohr’s votes. We believe the state can loosen its grip on the purse, but Mohr is a good representative for a district that is largely conservative. We find him willing to listen, and he is accessible.

We hope that Gleason stays involved in politics. She has good instincts and a servant’s heart. But, in this case, we believe the best choice is Gary Mohr. He wins our endorsement.

This is a mostly rural district, and state Rep. Norlin Mommsen, a farmer from Clinton County, fits it well.

In our interview with him, he said a top goal this next session will be to improve child care in the state, and that the pandemic laid bare the need for greater broadband availability. We were encouraged to hear that. We were less impressed with his ideas on how to deal with the pandemic; he downplayed the idea of a mask mandate and the need for local governments to have more power in these areas.

Still, we find him better prepared and more suited to the district than his opponent, Ryan Zeskey, who has good instincts when it comes to public school funding and water quality. Still, we did not find him as prepared as Mommsen.

We endorse Norlin Mommsen for this seat.

Four years ago, Mark Lofgren and Chris Brase squared off in what was considered one of a handful of important races expected to determine control of the state Senate.

Brase was the incumbent, but Lofgren won and the GOP took control of the Senate, riding the coattails of Donald Trump’s victory in Iowa.

This year, Lofgren is facing Brase yet again. They come from different backgrounds. Brase is a retired firefighter and Lofgren has worked in investments and real estate.

Both emphasize their ability to work across the aisle, an important attribute in a district like this. Lofgren also has been active on some housing issues that could be good for this area.

To be honest, we were a bit underwhelmed by both candidates. They were vague with many of their answers and left us wishing for more. In the end, though, we believe Lofgren has worked to keep in touch with his constituents and deserves the edge in this race. We endorse Mark Lofgren.

via The Quad-City Times

November 2, 2020 at 09:11PM

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