State House, Senate races take shape
The state legislative election picture became clearer following the Friday, March 18, filing deadline for candidates to appear on the ballot for the June primary elections for both Republicans and Democrats.
Legislation enacted in 2019 also changed the filing period for independent and other party candidates to March for the general election in November, however, no independent or other party candidates filed for local statehouse races.
The current midterm election cycle marks the first foray into the new legislative districts that were drawn and approved by the state legislature last fall using the 2020 census statistics.
Senate District 27
Within the three legislative districts that occupy portions of the North Tama Telegraph coverage area, the biggest change geographically came with new Senate District 27.
During the previous 10-year district cycle, Tama County was attached with Marshall County in a tidy, two-county footprint for the state senate.
Senate District 27 will now include both Tama and Grundy counties as well Hardin County, Poweshiek County and a small portion of Black Hawk County. This makes it one of largest Senate districts east of Interstate 35 – akin to the sprawling districts seen in much of western Iowa.
Republican incumbent senator Annette Sweeney of Buckeye is the lone candidate vying for the Republican nomination while first-time challenger Sam Cox of Grinnell was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination.
Sweeney will be seeking her second full term in the senate after being elected twice in 2018. In April of 2018 Sweeney won a special election to fill a senate seat vacancy left by the unexpected departure of Sen. Bill Dix of Shell Rock. Later that year the same seat was up in the November general election. Both the special election and general election were won by Sweeney over Democrat Tracy Frese of Dike.
Sweeney works on a family cattle operation and is a former teacher, state representative and business owner.
The presumptive Democratic nominee for the District 27 comes from the opposite end of the district in Poweshiek County.
Sam Cox is a small-business owner from Grinnell, operating the downtown Saints Rest coffeehouse since 2013 and the drive-thru coffee shop Lucky Cat Coffee since 2019.
House District 76
Following redistricting, incumbent representative Dean Fisher of Montour’s current house district was separated into two districts – Districts 53 and 76. The new House District 76 no longer includes Fisher but instead encompasses parts of the current House District 60 in Cedar Falls including the town of Hudson, as well as Clark, Perry, Geneseo, and Buckingham townships in Tama County including the towns of Traer and Dysart, and three rural townships in northwest Benton County.
There are no incumbents residing in the new House District 76.
On the Republican side of the primary, two first time candidates filed to run for the seat including Tony Chavez of Cedar Falls and Derek Wulf of rural Hudson.
Chavez describes himself as a community organizer and political consultant active with the Faith & Freedom Coalition – a nonprofit organization that seeks to “educate and influence voters and politicians to keep their commitment to both liberty and law,” according to the organization’s website.
Chavez, 26, also serves as the treasurer for the Cedar Valley Young Republicans.
Wulf is a farmer and rancher in rural Black Hawk County. He previously spent 15 years working for Cargill as a Swine Nutrition and Production Specialist before working two years as a Global Swine Production Specialist.
Wulf currently serves as Black Hawk County Cattleman President. He and his wife Dresden – an instructor at Hawkeye Community College – are the parents of two young daughters.
Only one candidate filed for the Democratic primary, Kate Wyatt of Hudson.
Wyatt is an insurance agent with Dupaco Credit Union in Black Hawk County and also a Hudson City Council member.
Wyatt serves on the boards of the Black Hawk County Gaming Association and is also a member of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce and the Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber.
House District 53
For the remainder of Tama County, a pair of incumbent house representatives will be facing off in the upcoming June Republican primary.
Republican incumbent representative Dave Maxwell of Gibson and fellow GOP incumbent representative Fisher both filed for election to seek the party’s nomination in the newly constructed House District 53.
The new district includes Poweshiek County and all but the northeastern corner of Tama County.
Maxwell and Fisher entered the legislature at the same time following the 2012 election, Maxwell serving Poweshiek County and part of Iowa County and Fisher serving Tama County and part of Marshall County over the past 10 years.
On the Democrat side of the primary, challenger Sarah Smith of Grinnell has filed to run a second time after a 2020 bid to defeat Maxwell for the Iowa House 76 seat fell short.
Smith, who is running unopposed in the June primary, currently works as the Director of Program Outreach & Events for Grinnell College.
Voters will head to the polls on June 7 to cast their ballot for the party nominations to the November general election.
To vote in the primary election voters must be registered as a member of one of the two political parties. Those seeking absentee ballots for the June primary have until May 23 to turn in an absentee ballot request form.
For voting or voter registration questions, contact the county auditor’s office.