Herman Quirmbach looks to continue representing Ames in state Senate

Iowa State Sen. Herman Quirmbach is 72 years old and is a retired Iowa State economics professor.

Courtesy of Steve Alexander

Iowa State Sen. Herman Quirmbach is 72 years old and is a retired Iowa State economics professor.

Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach, running for re-election in the Iowa Senate to represent District 25, said the Republican-controlled legislature is failing to support education in Iowa — from kindergarten to university.

The incumbent is running against Libertarian candidate Jordan Taylor, who didn’t respond to the Iowa State Daily’s interview request.

Quirmbach is a retired economics professor from Iowa State University. When asked whether or not the state legislature is doing an adequate job of supporting higher education, Quirmbach said absolutely not.

Quirmbach said, considering inflation, the Republican trifecta is coming up half a billion dollars short in funding education over the last six years.

“That half a billion dollar shortfall was made up in either two ways: either the university has to cut back on the quality of its education or it has to raise tuition,” Quirmbach said. “I think that either one is adversely affecting students’ education.”

Quirmbach serves as a ranking member of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the College Student Aid Commission. In the last legislative session, the governor recommended higher funding levels to the regent institutions than what the legislature approved. Quirmbach supported an amendment bill to at least bring the state allocations to the level of the governor’s recommendations, but this failed.

“Now, was the governor’s recommendation enough? Oh no, not even close.” Quirmbach said. “But as a political statement saying that ‘hey, we at least want you to get up to the governor’s level’ that is a messaging amendment.”

In the last budget cycle, the state granted $5.5 million increase in general aid. Meanwhile, the Regents requested a $15 million increase, which was on top of the $7 million cut the universities saw in 2021 due to the pandemic, according to reporting from the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“If I thought an amendment that I would offer had any chance of being accepted, I would move it [state funding for higher education] substantially higher,” Quirmbach said.

According to reporting from the Iowa Capital Dispatch, the state also has the largest budget surplus in Iowa history, amounting to more than $1.9 billion. Quirmbach said Republicans are celebrating the state surplus, but it comes at the expense of shortchanging education in Iowa.

“You add on top of that all of the money that we have gotten from the federal government for pandemic relief, and the state is sitting on a pile of cash,” Quirmbach said. “Rather than pass a tax cut for the wealthy folks, which is what Republicans actually did, I would have used that money to invest in our young people and their futures.”

What this looks like to Quirmbach is offering greater financial aid to students and funding the regents to help mitigate the cost of tuition.

“We are doing an absolutely terrible job at funding more scholarships for needy students,” Quirmbach said. “We are doing a terrible job at funding the universities in general, and we are sitting on a pile of money that we could use to help out that whole situation.”

K-12 public schools

Quirmbach said he believes public funding should be for public schools. During the last legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a taxpayer-funded scholarship program for students to attend private schools in Iowa. While the legislation passed the Senate, receiving no votes from Democrats, it failed to receive enough support from House Republicans.

Quirmbach said the voucher program is a direct threat to public schools, especially in rural areas.

“You start bleeding kids and dollars out of those rural schools, all that you have accomplished is that you accelerated the process of consolidation,” Quirmbach said. “I’ll tell ya, I have been told by a lot of people from small-town Iowa ‘if we lose our schools, we lose our town,’ and I can’t tell them they’re wrong.”

Constitutional Amendment to Iowa’s gun rights

This election, when voters flip over their ballot, they can vote on whether or not to amend Iowa’s state constitution to include the right to bear and keep arms, which would require the courts to examine alleged gun rights violations under strict scrutiny. Quirmbach said he opposes this amendment and considers it a bait and switch.

The U.S. Constitution already guarantees the right to keep and bear arms through the Second Amendment. Therefore, Quirmbach said, states can not enforce a lesser standard than what the U.S. Constitution ensures.

Quirmbach said Democrats offered an amendment to use the same language as the federal Constitution, but Republicans rejected that.

“They’re not here to protect the Second Amendment because we gave them that opportunity and they voted it down,” Quirmbach. “This is a different beast.”

Quirmbach said the amendment contains some language from the Second Amendment but also excluded the portion that stated a “well-regulated militia” is necessary for the security of a free state. Quirmbach said the Second Amendment does encourage some regulation and the Iowa legislature left that out.

“If there is any vague objection to any gun safety legislation we might propose, then that legislation is going to get knocked down,” Quirmbach said. “If that passes it will be all but impossible for the legislature to adopt laws that limit the spread of guns.”

Quirmbach said he is in favor of hunters, especially to control Iowa’s deer population.

“So, my position isn’t opposed to legitimate hunting weapons, it is against AR-15s that are designed and used to kill lots of people in a hurry,” Quirmbach said. “And certain crazy people whose access to guns should be interrupted.”


Quirmbach supports the precedent set by Roe v. Wade and a person’s right to an abortion before fetal viability. Quirmbach said there should also be exceptions when the life of the mother is at risk or for cases of rape and incest.

The Iowa legislature passed the fetal heartbeat bill in 2018, making abortions illegal after week six of the pregnancy. It was blocked by the Iowa Supreme Court, but Reynolds recently asked the district court to lift the injunction on the bill. Quirmbach said this legislation would basically ban abortions.

Quirmbach said voters who oppose this legislation should vote for Deidre DeJear for governor. If elected, DeJear could block the legislation from passing.

Campaigning and fundraising

Quirmbach has spent this election season campaigning for other Democratic candidates since he has no Republican opponent. Running against Quirmbach is Jordan Taylor, a Libertarian candidate.

Instead, Quirmbach has campaigned for other Democrats, including Story County Board of Supervisor incumbents Linda Murken and Lisa Heddens.

“Who can possibly doubt that education is critical, educated voters are critical to the survival of democracy,” Quirmbach said. “We should have much more bipartisan support for education than we have had. I am trying to build up and defend my team so we can do a better job.”