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Residency called into question in race for House District 76

Wulf

With less than a week to go before the Nov. 8 General Election, recent reporting from the Cedar Rapids television station KCRG has raised questions regarding the residency of Derek Wulf, a rural Hudson resident running on the Republican ticket for the newly created Iowa House District 76.

Following redistricting, House District 76 was redrawn – no longer including the residence of current sitting Rep. Dean Fisher of Montour, while incumbent Rep. Dave Williams of Cedar Falls elected to retire – leading to an open race for the new seat.

Wulf, a young farmer and rancher, chose to throw his trademark cowboy hat into the Republican race for the seat – triumphing over Cedar Falls resident Tony Chavez in the June primary – alongside Kate Wyatt, also of Hudson, who won the uncontested Democratic primary.

Beginning with the 90th General Assembly in January of 2023, the winner of the Nov. 8 race will represent Clark, Perry, Geneseo, and Buckingham townships in northeast Tama County, three rural townships in northwest Benton County, and the Black Hawk County areas surrounding and including Hudson, La Porte City, Gilbertville, Evansdale, and Elk Run Heights, as well as much of Cedar Falls proper.

Per KCRG reporting on October 25 – supported by Black Hawk County Assessor records accessed online by the North Tama Telegraph on Oct. 31 – Wulf is the deed holder along with his wife Dresden to a rural Hudson property located at 9212 Holmes Road, for which he claimed a Homestead Credit in 2020 and 2021.

A screengrab of 9212 Holmes Road, Hudson using the Iowa Legislature’s redistricting interactive online tool that places the address outside House District 76 which lies on the right/east side of the line, while House District 54 lies to the left/west of the line. House District 76 candidate Derek Wulf is listed as a deed holder for the Holmes Road address along with his wife.

The issue, according to KCRG’s reporting, is that 9212 Holmes Road is located outside the district boundaries for the new House District 76 and is part of neighboring House District 54.

Maps show 9212 Holmes Road, Hudson to lie just west and south of the zig-zagged House District 76 boundary.

While Dresden Wulf is registered to vote at the rural Holmes Road address, Wulf is not.

As part of the KCRG reporting, Wulf’s voter registration indicates his residence is 8719 Hawkeye Road, Waterloo – part of the new House District 76 – and has been since April of 2022.

In the state of Iowa, candidate qualifications for those running for the Iowa General Assembly include being a U.S. Citizen at the time of the election, having resided in Iowa for one year at the time of the election, and having resided 60 days in the district at the time of the election.

Registering to vote in Iowa – or to change where you are registered to vote – requires no supporting documentation.

As part of its reporting, KCRG states the Iowa requirement on candidates living in the district for which they are running is “virtually unenforceable because nobody is checking to ensure candidates live in their district.”

County auditors are required by law to “assume the information” on a voter registration form is correct, per KCRG’s reporting.

It is the spirit of the law, therefore, that ensures voters actually live and thrive at the address they claim on their voter registration, something which KCRG has drawn in to question not just for Wulf but also for Republican state Sen. Jack Whitver of Grimes.

The Telegraph contacted Wulf for comment regarding KCRG’s reporting.

“As confirmed in the story, I am a resident of the district that I’ve worked and raised a family in pretty much my whole life,” Wulf said. “While I had to move a few miles away to reside in the district that I hope to represent, it was worth it for me to do [so] in order to make sure our area is receiving the right representation at the statehouse. I continue to live and work in my community, and my kids continue to attend the great school that I attended in Hudson.”

Indeed, Wulf has had a strong presence in the Tama County portion of the new House District 76 since before the primary, attending many local events across Traer, Dysart, and Buckingham including school board, city council and county supervisor meetings, football games, and local town celebrations and parades.

His children – daughters Aubrey, 11, and Claire, 7 – attend Hudson Community School District, which is part of House District 76.

While Wulf lives and is registered to vote in Black Hawk County, he runs a “significant amount” of his cows on pasture between Buckingham and Dysart in Tama County.

It would be hard to peg Wulf as a modern-day ‘carpetbagger’ politican – a term first coined to negatively describe a person from the North who ventured to the Southern states following the Civil War in order to profit financially and/or politically during Reconstruction – which the KCRG reporting seems to imply.

Based on Wulf’s community ties coupled with the fact that he legally does reside in the district according to his voter registration, the charge did not stick for several voters the Telegraph spoke to in the days following KCRG’s reporting.

The word most often used to describe their reaction to the news was ‘disappointed’ but that it would not necessarily affect how they voted on Nov. 8.

The Telegraph also reached out to the Democratic candidate Kate Wyatt for comment regarding KCRG’s reporting.

“With less than [two] weeks until election day my focus remains as it has always been, on listening to the needs and concerns of the residents and communities of House District 76 and working hard to get our message out to the voters,” Wyatt wrote. “This has always been about the people, not politics, and I look forward to visiting with more members of our communities during these final weeks of the election.”

Wulf rounded out his comments to the Telegraph in a similar manner to Wyatt’s, writing: “Right now I plan to use any time that I’m not finishing up harvest to knock doors, attend community events, and meet with the good people of District 76 to hear about their challenges and concerns, and hopefully earn their vote on Nov. 8.”

Voting on November 8

Polls will be open on Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Iowa from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For those voting by way of an absentee ballot, county auditors must receive the ballot by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

For those not registered to vote in Iowa, the state has same-day registration that allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day.

Registering to vote in Iowa requires proof of ID and proof of residence. If missing such documents, another registered voter from the same precinct can attest for the person registering to vote.

To find your polling place in Iowa, use the online tool: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx, or call your county auditors’ office.

In Tama County, contact the office of County Auditor Laura Kopsa at 641-484-2740.

In Grundy County, contact the office of County Auditor Rhonda Deters at 319-824-3122.