Rachel Junck becomes the youngest woman ever to be elected to Iowa political office

Rachel Junck embraces a member of her campaign team after receiving the news that she was elected to represent Ward 4 on Dec. 3.

Amber Mohmand and Jacob Smith

Rachel Junck, 20-years-old, made history by becoming the youngest woman ever to be elected to a political office in Iowa on Tuesday night. 

Junck received 712 votes, or 54.77 percent of the majority. 

There was a total of 1,300 people who voted in the Ward 4 election, which is 80 more voters than the election in November.

“I am so excited,” Junck said. “It definitely shows that the work that we’ve been doing — not since the first election — but since day one. [It] has paid off, especially with this higher turnout with the runoff election.”

Her opponent, incumbent councilman Chris Nelson, received 587 votes, or 45.15 percent of the vote.

Taylor Blair, senior in industrial design and campaign manager for Junck, said the group spent a lot of time going door-to-door and speaking with students and community members. 

“We knocked doors like crazy,” Blair said. “We knocked — within five days of the [runoff] election — 500 doors. [Between the two elections] we knocked well over 1,000 doors.”

The candidates had about three weeks to reach out to their bases again after the runoff was announced.

“We worked really hard to talk to students the first time around and to really expand it,” Blair said. “This time it was a little bit easier because we talked to them once, theoretically, but because of the break, it was actually harder. The first time we had all this time to talk to people and this time it was hard because we had to get back to people.” 

About 30 of Junck’s family members, friends and supporters filled Jeff’s Pizza Shop, waiting for the results of the election with her.

“Anything really helped us out so much [with the campaign],” Junck said. “Being the lead [candidate] going into the runoff, I think that’s incredible. […] We’ve talked about issues that are so important in Ames, whether that’s local climate action, affordable housing, representation for all people in Ames, quality of life — we’ve brought a lot of these issues into the conversation and had more candidates talking about them than ever before.”

When the results came out, the room erupted in screams.

“We did everything we could possibly do, we worked so hard,” Blair said. “I’m proud of that. I’m proud of how many people we got involved in the local elections who have never been involved in local elections before.”

The Council elections were the first time Junck ran for any political office.

Junck said she believes it is “too early to tell” if she will be running again in the future. 

In the November election, Junck and Nelson failed to reach a sufficient amount of votes — something that hasn’t happened in eight years.  

Junck received the highest number of votes with a total of 604, leaving her seven votes short of winning the election with 49.51 percent of the majority. 

Nelson had a 125-vote difference between him and Junck, closing the distance between them by 60 votes as compared to November’s election.

“The campaign was my third time around, and it was a little bit different this time based on the opponents that decided to run as well, but it was a good campaign,” Nelson said “We had a plan. We actually, I think, executed our plan pretty well, especially for the runoff election. It just wasn’t enough to overcome some of the obstacles that were out there.”

A plan of Nelson was to finish the Ames 2040 plan, a comprehensive 20-year plan which gives a long-term trajectory to where and how the city can expand.

Nelson said this gives him more time to spend with his family.

“I get my Tuesday nights back,” Nelson said. “I get some of my weekends back, and I get a lot of time just to go do things with my kids, spend a little more time on work, and so I’m pretty excited to do both of those things. I’m going to look back on my time on [the] Council as a real positive experience, but there’s a lot of other things to do there, and I’m looking forward to that as well.”

Junck said one of her plans is to make Ames as carbon-neutral as possible, meaning no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The plan also includes decreasing the waste produced by the city and increasing composting and recycling citywide.

“I’ve seen [Junck] pull herself into whatever she’s doing, and I know that she’s a scientist, a chemical engineer,” Blair said. “When [the campaign] happened and she talked about it, she [said] ‘I want to do this’ and I [said] ‘Yeah, because I know that you’re going to put just as much work into City Council as you do everything else,’” Blair said.

Junck said she hopes to overcome people underestimating her as a person and as a candidate by inspiring more young people to get out and vote. She will be one of the two students to sit in on the Council’s meetings, the other being the ex-officio appointed by Iowa State’s Student Government.

“I think it will be exciting to work with the ex-officio, but to be a student with a vote is definitely important,” Junck said “To have that vote on issues that are crucial not only for students, but for the whole community of Ames. So, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what we can do to work together.”

Additionally, Junck’s campaign focused on investing in Ames’ housing market, making it an accessible place where young people want to stay after graduation. 

“Students can have a voice; we’ll have more action on climate-change-related things and will have a voice for students on housing issues,” Blair said. “I think a lot of people we talked to were so excited in seeing someone like themselves in office and that’s important.”

Junck said she was very grateful for everyone who voted in the election.

“We truly couldn’t have done it without your vote and I’m really excited to represent you for the fourth Ward,” Junck said.