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In run for HD-76, Sarah Smith bills herself as unity candidate

Smith pitches herself as a candidate who can reach across the aisle. Photo contributed by Sarah Smith.

By Tali Tesar

Sarah Smith, Democratic candidate for Iowa House, calls her candidacy one that will include all voices, even those across the aisle.

“I don’t really want to be someone who only listens to Democrats,” Smith said. She promised that if she is elected, “Everyone [would have] an opportunity to voice concerns and know that I will be listening to those concerns.”

Long held by incumbent Republican David Maxwell, local Democrats have been unable to flip the seat since 2012 despite running a challenger each election cycle. Now, it is Smith’s chance to try her hand at unseating Maxwell this November.

Uniquely, she also faces competition from local restauranteur Kamal Hammouda, who launched his cam-
paign in January. Hammouda, who told The S&B he was wary of partisan politics, is running as an Independent. He is focusing his campaign on similar issues as Smith, including “improved water quality, sustainable farming practices, public education and affordable health care.”

Like Hammouda, Smith is well-known and well-connected throughout Grinnell. Her current role as director of outreach programs and events at the College’s office of community enhancement and engagement has helped her better understand the needs of Grinnellians.

“I started to work in non-profit sectors … and working with community leaders, community members. I [started] hearing their concerns, hearing what they wanted to change in Grinnell and Poweshiek County,” she said.

Listening to these concerns led her to realize her priorities if elected to the Iowa House would be educa-
tion, healthcare and the environment, specifically in ways that address the needs of rural Iowans.

Smith sees issues with the current state of education funding in Iowa. “We need to make sure that teacher salaries are keeping up with inflation … Over the last several years, there have been increases [in funding], but it’s been more in additional programming,” Smith said.

As a former board member at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center,Smith is especially aware of challenges of ensuring quality, reliable healthcare in towns like Grinnell.

“I’ve noticed … how hard it is to recruit physicians to rural areas,” Smith said. “We’re losing mental health physicians and also maternity care. How in the world can we grow if we don’t have maternity care?” To aid rural hospitals, Smith hopes to find new ways to draw physicians to rural Iowa.

Smith has also served as executive cirector of Imagine Grinnell, a local nonprofit which promotes, among other things, sustainability in the community. “I very much care for the water quality in Iowa,” she said. “I also want to think about how we can train a new generation of workforce in how to work in renewable energy jobs.”

A Grinnell native, Smith said her family’s history of community service in the area led her to run for a seat in the Iowa House. “I have grown up in a family that very much believes in public service, whether that’s volunteering, serving on commission boards … that’s what I’ve grown up in and continued in myself.”

Smith knows many Grinnell College students share a similar passion for public service and encourages them to get involved in politics on a local level.

“I was really, really impressed with the turnout at the Darby Gym site for the caucuses and so excited to see how many young voters are out there wanting to get involved … I would love to see that same energy locally,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the length of time you’re actually here. This is your home.”

On Monday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m., Smith will host a campaign launch event at Solera. There, students will get a chance to meet her and discuss issues facing Iowans. They can also reach her at or visit her website to find out how to get involved.

“I think together we can all make huge change for the better, but we need to all be involved in that process for … change to happen,” she said.

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