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The Scarlet & Black

Saints Rest owner Sam Cox runs for Iowa state Senate

Cox+plans+to+take+a+grassroots+approach+to+her+campaign+for+state+senate.+Photo+by+Ariel+Richards.
Cox plans to take a grassroots approach to her campaign for state senate. Photo by Ariel Richards.

Sam Cox is a tenacious small business owner who cares deeply about her community – and now she’s running for a position in the Iowa state Senate. Many know Sam as the boisterous owner of the local coffee shop, Saints Rest. She squeezed me in for an interview at 7 a.m., chatting in between customers. She knows the Saints patrons well, addressing all by their first name, chatting with them about their lives and serving their drinks without them having to tell her their order.

Despite her busy life, when Cox found out that there was no Democratic candidate in her district for state Senate, running was a no-brainer.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn a lot of new things,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to become more politically savvy, to be more involved and just learn a lot more about the process.”

Having lived in Iowa since she was just a few months old, Cox has deep ties to the community. She began thinking about an office seat eight years ago, first considering running for city mayor. However, she decided that her family friend and beloved community member Dan Agnew was not someone she wanted to run against. When the opportunity to run against Dave Maxwell came up, she didn’t feel like it was the right time for her, but she now feels ready and excited to run for state office.

“I do really think that it’s everyone’s civic duty, really, like why not? Once in your life, run for something that has to do with your community, or your, county or your state. Why not get out there and try to represent the people that are your friends, your family, your neighbors?”

Cox’s candidacy will be no small task, as she is running as a Democrat in a county that is 64 percent Republican.

“It’s a huge hurdle. It’s one of those ones that you wonder if it’s going to be insurmountable, and how long it’s going to take for the Democratic Party to come back into play in Iowa, and if that is ever going to happen,” Cox said.

However, Cox hopes that party politics will not define her candidacy.

“I’m really not running my campaign based on being a Democrat, I’m running my campaign based on being me. I want to be more than a letter behind my name. For me, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democratic person or Republican person. I’d like you to get to know me as a person and understand my ethics, how hard I work to do the things I want to do, how hard I would work to serve the people around me and really find creative ways to solve our problems.”

Cox is no stranger to speaking with the other side of the political spectrum. Many of her family members, clients, friends and even her husband are members of the Republican party, she said.

“I love having conversations, and you have to be tolerant. You can’t be angry; you have to learn to let it go. I just understand it’s everybody’s right to vote the way that they want to, and believe the way that they want to believe. I’m never going to debate you on the fact that you want to vote that way. I’d love for you to vote for me anyway. If you get to know me on a personal level, if you think that I can do what I say I’m going do. I’d love to have your vote. But if you don’t want to vote for me, because there’s a D behind my name, I think that’s a shortcoming.”

Why not get out there and try to represent the people that are your friends, your family, your neighbors? – Sam Cox

Cox will need to work hard for her candidacy, something she’s very familiar with.

“I work really hard. That is not my opinion. That is a fact,” she said. “You could ask anybody. You can see me driving my mower across town to go mow somebody’s yard. You can see by the amount of paint on my bibs, how many times I’ve painted somebody’s house, inside or out. … I took a job last year as a custodian in the school district, which is why I have a lot of firsthand knowledge about what’s going on as far as the buildings and how hard I see those educators working to do their jobs in order to support myself and my family because the business was closed.”

While there are many things she cares passionately about, including small businesses, the number one platform that Cox will run on is education.

“I feel very strongly that we do not fund enough education,” she said. “There is not enough funding out there to prepare our schools and keep our schools running in an efficient and safe way and feel like our educators are not compensated enough monetarily. I feel like they are not granted enough respect and credit to do their jobs. I feel like we want to interfere too much in the curriculums that are out there. I don’t feel like it’s my place, as a private citizen, to be judging what those people are teaching my children. I get very frustrated when it gets very invasive. And I feel like they went to school, right? They have degrees. That’s their job, right? Like we’re not paying for them to be degraded and disrespected. Give them give them their space and let them do what their job is just like people give me space.”

Cox’s campaign does not officially launch until April 28. Cox plans to go grassroots and hands-on for her campaign, spending most of the time talking to people and going door-to-door. 

She plans to put a volunteer page together and create a more definitive plan of action towards the begging of the summer when she has completed her candidate training.

Whether she wins or loses, Cox firmly believes that she will learn a lot from the experience and is excited to become more involved in the Iowan community. Anyone who has been to her coffee shop knows that Cox loves to talk, something she plans to continue to do on the campaign trail.

“It’s really just about meeting people. I get to go out and meet people from counties that I’ve never been to, I get to go out there and find people that are like minded. I get to network. And I also get to talk to just everyday people that want to talk to me. I’ve already had conversations about, health care and how it’s affecting people, just a random conversation. Like this is what’s going on with me for healthcare and I thought you’d want to know, I’ve had conversations with people over eminent domain. It’s really interesting to have these in-depth conversations, from people on different personal levels.”

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About the Contributor
Millie Peck, Opinions Editor
Millie is a fourth-year English and psychology double major. Despite stewing on a witty bio for the better half of a year, she has failed to think of anything good, so will instead just lean into the fact that she is living the liberal arts dream: sharing a rainbow polka-dot house with seven roommates and a cat. peckcami@grinnell.edu  
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