Bring back the blue

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  • With early voting underway, remember to bring a driver’s license or non U.S. passport when registering to vote.

  • Opinion Columnist Bailey Klinkhammer pictured left is with Sen. Liz Mathis pictured right.

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Midterm elections are in full swing across the U.S. midterm elections as only affecting the federal level, the midterm elections are a vital part of state and local elections as well. In Iowa specifically, the 2022 midterm elections encapsulate a race for a senate seat, the gubernatorial race and four U.S. House seats. All 100 Iowa House seats are up for election, and 34 Iowa Senate seats are on the ballot as well. At all levels, the 2022 midterm elections hold utmost importance to all Iowans. But, the question remains, why should Iowans vote democratic this midterm elections? 

Iowa has historically been labeled a swing state, and while it could be defined as a “fly-over” state, its proximity in the presidential elections make it an important state to cinch. Iowa’s importance in general national elections can’t be underestimated, but Iowa hasn’t voted for a democratic president since 2012. One of the biggest factors in this is the blunt fact that Iowans vote for who they know. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality thrives on the Iowa ballot. Political actors like Sen. Chuck Grassley are all too familiar with this phenomenon. The 89-year-old UNI alumni has been in office since 1980, and looking to serve for a seventh consecutive term. Should he defeat Admiral Mike Franken, he would be 95 at the end of his term. While Grassely is narrowly leading Franken by three points, well within the margin of error, the Senate race could truly go either way. What Iowan Democrats need to unseat the idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a wave of new Democratic voters who believe in Iowa Democrats. Since the 2020 Democratic loss, the state party has weakened across Iowa, but, the 2022 midterms look to turn that around  – bringing young Democrats out of the woodwork to flip Iowa for good. 

On Oct. 20, Democratic nominee for Iowa’s 2nd U.S District Liz Mathis came to UNI to hold a Get Out the Vote rally, and hosted satellite voting in Maucker Union. Mathis proclaimed big goals at her rally, planting firmly in the idea of codifying Roe v. Wade, supporting the Iowa Tuition Grant and standing against the price gouging that has plagued not only Iowa, but the entirety of the U.S. Nominated to represent not only Black Hawk County, but smaller counties such as Chickasaw, Mathis acknowledges the benefits of growing up on a farm to represent a farming district. “Having an agricultural background gives you a leg up on legislation. When you have farmers in these conversations, understanding rural communities and their needs, you’re better equipped to fight for them.” Beyond having an agricultural background, Mathis also promises to fight for public education at the federal level, to benefit the Iowan educators that have long struggled to make do and get by. “Closing the achievement gap, taking care of students with mental health issues and making schools safe, rather than a locked facility, are all things I aim to accomplish as a U.S. Representative.” Treating public education with the respect it deserves is something Iowa needs, and Mathis ensures that at the federal level, it will get taken care of – not just the public school system and its educators, but its students, too, at every level of education. “It’s no secret that tuition is too high. It’s been climbing for years. As your representative, I will work to bring tuition costs back down, directly benefitting not just the UNI students in my district, but college students across Iowa.” Mathis said.

Above all else, Mathis wants to protect the rights of Iowans and ensure that constituents have someone looking out for them in the U.S. House. “(Rep.) Ashley Hinson voted no against the Violence Against Women Act, and she’s fully against a woman’s right to control her own body. This isn’t how Iowans should be treated. I want to codify Roe, and I want Iowan women to feel protected.” Mathis said. Mathis makes her position clear – Iowans are her top priority. 

Deidre DeJear is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, going directly up against incumbent Governor Kim Reynolds. On Oct. 23, DeJear held a rally in Maucker Union. With her were several Democrats running for Iowa House and Iowa Senate. At the rally, DeJear made her position on public education, reproduction issues, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare, student loan forgiveness and the Iowan economy known. Endorsed by the Des Moines Register and the Cedar Rapids Gazette, DeJear and her running mate, Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, solidified their promise to Iowans. “When we talk about democracy, it’s about elected officials fighting for their constituents,” DeJear commented. “Democracy is on the ballot this election.” One of the biggest talking points between candidates right now is public education. Since Gov. Reynolds took office, public education has constantly been under siege from the Iowan government, with bills brought forth by both Reynolds and the Iowan House that constrict public education funding and curriculum itself.

But, to DeJear and Van Lancker, public education and public educators deserve more. “The annual 2% our current governor is giving doesn’t meet the inflation rate. We’re going to increase funding, increase starting pay for teachers, so that when UNI is producing some of the best and brightest educators this world will ever see, they will have the opportunity and the pathway to work in their great state. We hate to see our students get educated here but leave because the opportunities are better in other states.” Loan forgiveness is also a dire subject for DeJear, who wants to expand funding for the Iowa TEACH Grant for educators who serve in Iowa for five years. “We also need to restore the voice of the educator. Everybody who’s working to make our education ecosystem work for our kids, we need make sure they’re being uplifted. We talk about teachers have challenges, we want to make sure teachers can buy homes and provide for their families.” Beyond education, like Mathis, DeJear promises to codify Roe v. Wade in state. “That was the law of the land, when Iowans talk about the women’s right to choose, it’s the foundation. Any legislation that comes across the desk infringing that right, it has to be pushed to the side. It adds no value. Pregnancy has infinite variables, and the idea that we can dictate the process in black and white is irresponsible, undemocratic, and irresponsible. It’s up to us to protect that.” On top of an Iowan’s right to choose, DeJear promises to protect LGBTQ+ Iowans as well, and rebuke the anti-transgender legislation that the Iowan House has seen so much of the past few years. “I want people to feel comfortable and safe in their communities. But, Iowans are in compromising and unsafe situations because of this legislation. But, this isn’t how the law should be treating individuals. That is not normal. I don’t want us to accept this as status quo and normal. The law should protect people.” Van Lancker added, “All Iowans should be treated with respect. We’re all neighbors. That’s something that’s important to me. It’s how I was raised, my parents taught me to respect my neighbors. It’s the Iowa we envision.” 

This November, midterm elections are more important than ever. The notion of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, isn’t enough for Iowa anymore. Candidates like Liz Mathis and Deidre DeJear promise more than what Iowa’s been receiving. Iowans deserve better than who’s currently representing us. Instead of voting for who you know, vote for who will fight for you. A candidate who wanted to represent their constituents, rather than their own self interests and party loyalties. As Iowans, we shouldn’t settle for second best or what gets Iowa by as a state. If there are people who want to put the work in for Iowa, why not let them? Many Democratic nominees on the ballot this November promise more than what past nominees have, and show that given the opportunity, they will work for Iowa the way Iowans need them too. The question of ‘Why go blue this November?’ evolves into a question of ‘Why not go blue this November?’. Many Democratic nominees show that they want to work for not just Iowa, but all Iowans, from public educators who have long been cast aside, to rural farmers who serve as  the beating heart of Iowa’s economy, to LGBTQ+ Iowans who have been villainized by the current Iowan administration, there are candidates who want better for Iowa. It’s the Iowa DeJear and Van Lancker envision, and it’s the Iowa that all Iowans can get behind.