Ross Wilburn wins Iowa House District 46 special election


Grant Tetmeyer/Iowa State Daily

Newly-elected State Rep. Ross Wilburn addresses a crowd of supporters at Mother’s Pub on Aug. 6. Wilburn won the seat with 97 percent of the vote.

Jake Webster

The former mayor of Iowa City and an Iowa State Extension associate program director, Ross Wilburn, will represent Campustown and the Iowa State campus in the state legislature.

Wilburn, a Democrat, won the special election for Iowa House District 46 with 97.4% of the vote Tuesday, saying he felt “honored and humbled” to be elected. The race was not contested by a Republican Party candidate, and there were only a handful of votes for write-in candidates.

Although he ran unopposed, Wilburn still canvassed the district in the weeks leading up to his election.

“It was important for me to continue to knock doors even though we didn’t get an opponent, because that’s how you all educate me and keep me informed on the issues that are impacting you,” Wilburn said.

Wilburn won his party’s nomination in a June convention. The seat was vacant following the resignation of then-Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, who stepped down to take a seat on the Story County Board of Supervisors.

Wilburn is the fifth person of color to serve in the Iowa House of Representatives and said he plans to continue his commitment to diversity and inclusion at the Statehouse, which Analese Hauber, a senior in English and resident of the 46th District, said she appreciates in a politician.

“That awareness of diversity is something that gets hammered in to students’ minds but isn’t as prevalent in our parents’ generation,” Hauber said. “[Wilburn] is somebody who will bring that perspective and make that a priority.”

The Story County Democrats issued a statement following Wilburn’s victory saying Wilburn “has spent his life serving his country and his community.”

“[Wilburn] has shown his dedication as a member of the Iowa National Guard, a social worker with the crisis center, a city council member and mayor,” the statement said. “The residents of District 46 can rely on Rep. Wilburn to show strength and character in the Iowa House as he works to address key issues like affordable health care, creating green jobs … supporting education and standing up for worker’s rights.”

In his acceptance speech, Wilburn said it’s important for Democrats to take control of the Iowa House of Representatives. The Iowa House, Senate and governor’s seat are all currently under Republican control.

“We’ve got to flip the House,” Wilburn said. “We’ve got to be able to get a majority so we can continue to take action for education, for health care, for the environment, for good union jobs — those are all critical pieces.”

Reporting contributed by Emily Berch.