Grinnell residents turned state legislative candidates speak at open panel hosted by Campus Democrats


Nick El Hajj

Two Democrats and Grinnell residents, Sam Cox (left) and Sarah Smith (center), are running for state legislative positions.

Conrad Dahm, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Sept. 22, Democratic Candidates Sam Cox and Sarah Smith, director of outreach programs and events at the College, visited Grinnell College for a panel hosted by the Campus Democrats. Smith and Cox are running for the Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa Senate, respectively. The S&B had the chance to speak to students who attended the event as well as students who hosted the event.

“We are hosting this event so students will feel more connected to candidates and the issues that face them,” said Jane Hoffman `25, co-chair of Campus Democrats.

The Campus Democrats work to do campus outreach with students. According to Hoffman, one of their main goals is to connect students with candidates.

“Events like this help do that,” said Hoffman referring to the Sept. 22 event.

“We are also looking to rebuild the club after quarantine,” said Theo Prineas `24, the other co-chair for the Campus Democrats. “Meeting candidates helps do that.”

Both chairs said that meeting students helps not only the candidates garner support, but it also helps students become aware of the local politics in Iowa and Poweshiek County.

“This was a huge goal for Sarah and me,” said Abbie Herbrechtsmeyer `24, an organizer for Sarah Smith’s campaign. “The Grinnell student body is a huge opportunity to expand her platform.”

Students who register to vote in Poweshiek County can vote in Iowa elections, even if they are not originally from Iowa. The organizers of the event also emphasized the importance of voting in local elections.

“Poweshiek county was an Obama to Trump county. It is a flippable county for the Democrats,” said Prineas. Poweshiek County has a population of 18,391, according to the 2020 Census. Considering this size, the Campus Democrats say that the College has a real ability to help influence elections.

“I have experience in electoral organizing work in New York City, and I want to continue that here,” said Grace Cuddihy `26, a first-year student. Other first years were in attendance at the candidate event, as well, and talked about their desire to meet candidates.

“I am excited to meet candidates because it allows me to gain a wider understanding of their political platform and goals,” said Sage Gladstone `26.

The candidates themselves said they were happy to be able to attend. Both Cox and Smith have strong ties to the Grinnell community and the College itself.

“I was born in Grinnell and am an employee of the College,” said Smith. Smith said she is glad to raise her children in the Grinnell community and loves working with college students.

“I’ve owned Saint’s Rest for ten years. I love to interact with college students,” said Cox.

Both candidates spoke about their specific reasons for running. “I’m running as a Democrat because I care about the people of Poweshiek County and beyond. Rural communities have unique needs and I want to represent them,” Cox said.

“I ran in 2020 and lost my election,” Smith said, “yet this time I have sat down and spent time listening to the people I hope to represent. I care about healthcare and education especially, such as expanding access to rural hospitals and public schools.”

The candidates’ connections to the community are some of the reasons why the Campus Democrats hosted this event, according to Hoffman, but the main purpose is to get students excited about voting. Both Hoffman and Prineas said Campus Democrats hope to hold more events like this in the future, allowing students to meet with candidates and get to know them on a personal level.

Both Cox and Smith also spoke on the importance of Grinnell students voting in elections in Iowa.

“It is your right to vote in this election,” said Smith. “So, register to vote and vote in local elections, especially in elections in Poweshiek County.”

Editor’s note: Jane Hoffman is a staff writer for the S&B. Hoffman was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.