Things to know before voting this November


File photo: Iowa State Daily

It’s important for college students to take time to familiarize themselves with the candidates before voting.

Curtis Powers

As I promised in my last column, this column will cover various local and state elections that affect you.

Mostly, it’s about candidates and elections you probably don’t know anything about other than for maybe the signs you’ve seen around town with names you don’t recognize. That was my experience anyways.

This will cover the candidates who participated in the MICA Poverty Forum last week at Mary Greeley Medical Center. That includes elections for county supervisor, state Senate and state House of Representatives.

Before I get to that, though, there are a few other things on the ballot that you should be aware of.

Ballot Measures

First, three of Iowa’s Supreme Court justices are up for retention. Normally, no one really cares about this.

However, many conservative groups led by former gubernatorial candidate, Bob Vander Plaats, are seeking to oust the justices over the ruling that made gay marriage legal in the state of Iowa — Varnum v. Brien.

I’ve already written about this, so I don’t feel the need to do so again.

The other article of note is the question about whether or not to call a Constitutional Convention for the State of Iowa. Again, this is normally not a big deal. It’s something on the ballot every 10 years that gets little attention. In fact, the last time it happened was in 1920.

However, the Catholic Church is making a push for this in order to disallow gay marriage since this is the easiest route to accomplish this.

Thomas Jochum, a lobbyist for the gays rights advocacy group One Iowa, noted in an editorial to the Des Moines Register that this may do more harm than good for the church in the end. He based this upon its other political positions like immigration and health care which are at odds with other conservative groups.


As for the candidates, if you know nothing else about them, know that they generally hold to the standard positions of the parties they represent.

For example, Chad Steenhoek, the Republican challenger in the race for the 46th District’s House of Representatives seat, wants the government to get the hell out of everyone’s way.

Also know that I generally favor incumbents because they have experience and know how to get things done better. I don’t buy into the theory that outsiders can bring great change to government.

They might be able to down the road once they figure out what’s going on but not right away.

County Supervisors

There are three county supervisors who manage a roughly $40 million budget and are paid around $61,000 a year to do so. Their big budget items are mental health, roads, public safety and administration.

There are two seats up for election this year with four candidates vying for the positions. There are no incumbents.

For the Republicans, there are Rick Sanders and Jason Covey.

Covey is a senior in political science and a student of mine. However, he was not at the forum, so I really don’t know much about him.

For Democrats, there are Paul Toot and Lucy Martin.

Of the three that I saw at the forum, I’d probably be comfortable with any of them. However, since I can only choose two, I’d pick Martin and Sanders.

Martin is probably the most experienced candidate running due to her six years of experience in the New York City mayor’s office and another six with the Story County auditor.

I’d take Sanders because he seems like an energetic leader who’d bring a different perspective to the board due to his entrepreneurial background.

Toot seems like a nice guy, but nothing really stuck out to me that separated him from the other two.

State House of Representatives

There are two House districts that split Ames in half, the 45th and the 46th. The 45th District is in south Ames and the 46th is in north Ames.

The main dividing line on the map seems to be 13th Street, though it weaves as far south as Lincoln Way. You can figure it out by going to and inputing your address.

The 45th District features incumbent Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Democrat, against Republican Karin Sevde.

Wessel-Kroeschell has been in office since 2004 and seems to have a good grasp of the issues and governance.

On the other side, Sevde comes from a business background, but she gave me no reason to think she could govern as well as Wessel-Kroeschell.

The 46th district features Democratic incumbent Lisa Heddens against Chad Steenhoek, a Republican.

Heddens has been in office since 2002 and is assistant majority leader. So she has a significant influence on the legislative body.

That means I really don’t want to remove her unless I have a good reason to, because I want my representatives hold power positions.

She seemed pretty knowledgeable and is a good candidate on the whole.

Steenhoek, on the other hand, seemed genuinely pissed off. It kind of felt like he was taking all of his frustration and bitterness in life out on the government.

I haven’t been around any tea party events, but I feel like he might have provided a look at someone who might typify a tea party supporter.

It was a little scary. Therefore, I like Heddens here.


Our Senate district is number 23. Currently, our senator is ISU economics professor Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat.

Quirmbach has been in the Senate since 2003, and it should be noted that he serves as the vice chair for the education budget committee. So he helps determine how much money Iowa State gets and is a great advocate for Iowa State.

So in my mind, it’d take a great challenger for me to consider anyone other than Quirmbach.

He running against a lawyer, Republican Timothy Gartin.

On the whole, I thought Gartin was probably the best Republican candidate at the forum, though House of Representative Dave Deyoe of District 10 was right there with him.

Gartin was thoughtful and articulate in outlining his main issue, which is the budget. He sees all of the issues that the state is facing coming from potential budget shortfalls.

While I think Gartin would be a great senator, I think we already have one. Therefore, I’m sticking with Quirmbach.

People may think I’m some sort of Democrat from this. But I’m not, I’m a moderate independent. Just ask my wife.

I think it would be great for the state of Iowa if we maintained Democratic majorities in the legislative bodies and elected Republican Terry Branstad to be our governor.

Governing from the center will keep Iowa strong heading into the future.