Voter’s Guide: Poweshiek County 2022 Midterms

Eleanor Corbin, Staff Writer

Campaign commercials and yard signs can only mean one thing: the 2022 midterm elections are quickly approaching. The hope for this guide is that you—as a voter or resident in Poweshiek County—will look at your ballot and know each name and what they stand for.  

All information regarding candidates’s platforms and issues was sourced from their personal campaign websites and the Iowa state legislature’s website. So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know going into this year’s election season: 

Governor’s race: Reynolds (R-I) v. DeJear (D) 

Kim Reynolds, the incumbent gubernatorial candidate, has just completed her first term. Her top priorities are education, mental health reform and tax cuts. In her tenure, she has instituted substantial tax reform through cuts and created a Children’s Mental Health Board in Iowa. 

Reynolds runs on a strict pro-life platform and has been working to institute a six-week abortion ban in Iowa. Her website reads, “She will never back down in protecting every human life, including the unborn child.”  

Her challenger, Diedre DeJear, is currently a business owner running Caleo Enterprises, a company that assists new businesses start up in Iowa. She also co-founded a non-profit called “Back 2 School Iowa,” which provides school supplies to local students.  

DeJear’s platform is largely related to education and job stability in Iowa. Her campaign issues include increasing education funding with Iowa’s surplus budget, protecting collective bargaining for workers, reinstating a loan forgiveness program for educators and expanding abortion access. 

U.S. House, Iowa District 2: Hinson (R-I) v. Mathis (D) 

Representative Ashley Hinson, the incumbent in this race, is just finishing her first two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to holding this position, she reported on the KCRG-TV9 news broadcast and served in the Iowa House of Representatives.  

Hinson’s platforms include cutting taxes, opposing Medicare for All, reducing foreign oil dependency and holding China accountable. She also is outspoken about her opposition of Biden’s immigration policies, believing they have allowed a surge of illegal immigration.  

In her time in the House, she served on the Appropriations Committee and Budget Committee, where she introduced legislation meant to increase childcare access in Iowa and to enact federal lobbying bans. 

Her challenger, Liz Mathis, is currently representing Iowa’s 34th district in the Iowa state Senate. Previously, Mathis has reported for news organizations KWWL and KCRG. She has also worked as a leader for several nonprofits including Horizons, which specializes in elder care and meal delivery, and Four Oaks, which provides family and childcare.  

Mathis supports the Affordable Care Act and an increase in Iowans’ access to health care. Her platform also includes supporting farmers through infrastructure, combating climate change and protecting small businesses. 

In her time in the State House, Mathis has served as a ranking member of the Human Resources Committee, sponsored legislation that funded future preschool programs and sponsored bills relating to incorrectly denied or underpaid claims by Medicaid organizations.

U.S. Senate: Grassley (R-I) v. Franken (D) 

Incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley has held the position of U.S. Senator for 64 years, first entering the U.S. Senate in 1981, making him the longest serving senator in Iowa history. He previously served in the Iowa House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to his entrance into politics, Grassley was a farmer and a machinist.  

Over the course of his tenure, Grassley signed the 2015 letter to Iran condemning Obama’s decision to make a deal without congressional approval. He also participated in the 2013 filibuster regarding the Obama administration’s policies on drones. More recently, Grassley has released statements critiquing the current level of federal spending from congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration. He has also encouraged mental health vigilance as a means of curbing mass shootings. 

Admiral Michael Franken is Grassley’s challenger this election cycle. Franken served in the U.S. Navy as the first commanding officer of the U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill and has since worked for the Pentagon. 

His platform includes elder care through social security, Medicare expansions and the spread of democratic ideals in the U.S. and abroad. Universal and affordable healthcare is also a priority in his platform.  

State Senate District 27: Sweeney (R-I) v. Cox (D) 

Incumbent Annette Sweeney is completing her second term in the Iowa State Senate, following two terms in the Iowa House. For her work, she continues to run a third-generation cattle farm and previously worked as a teacher.  

Much of her political work is focused on agriculture, as she is on the International Board of the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association and formerly served as executive director of the Iowa Angus Association.  

Sweeney’s challenger, Sam Cox, is a Grinnell business owner, running Saint’s Rest Coffeehouse and founding Lucky Cat Coffee located in downtown Grinnell.  

Cox’s platform includes protections for small businesses and local farms, increased funding to education and support of rural communities. She also considers herself an advocate for animal rights, often fostering animals and doing community outreach for local shelters.  

State Representative District 53: Fisher (R-I) v. Smith (D) 

Dean Fisher, incumbent candidate for the Iowa State House of Representatives, is currently in his fourth term in office. Prior to his political career, Fisher worked as an engineer, businessman and cattle farmer.  

Fisher is a member of several organizations, such as the National Rifle Association, the Farm Bureau, the Iowa State Trapshooting Association and the Iowa Firearms Coalition. Some legislation he recently sponsored includes prohibiting COVID-19 vaccination requirements in schools and an exemption of retirement income from individual income tax. 

Challenger Sarah Smith currently works as director of Program Outreach and Events right here at Grinnell College. She serves on the board of UnityPoint Regional Medical Center and the Grinnell-Newburg School Foundation. 

Smith’s areas of focus are family support through prenatal care and childcare access, ending labor shortages and rural development. She additionally supports mental health crisis training and background checks for firearm ownership.  

Other races on the ballot 

In addition to the seats up for reelection mentioned above, several other offices will also be on the 2022 ballot. Republican Roby Smith will be challenging incumbent Democrat Michael Fitzgerald for the position of state treasurer. Fitzgerald has served nine terms so far, first elected in 1982. 

Republican Todd Halbur is running against incumbent Democrat Rob Sand for state auditor. The Iowa state auditor is often referred to as the “Taxpayer’s Watchdog,” as they are responsible for governmental financial transparency. 

The race for agricultural commissioner is between incumbent Republican Mike Naig and Democrat John Norwood. Iowa’s agricultural industry is stuck in a drought, making water quality and soil health key issues for some voters this election. 

Additionally, incumbent Attorney General Democrat Thomas John Miller is running against Republican Brenna Bird. Both candidates want to keep a handle on crime: Miller said he helps prevent crime and Bird said she helps keep criminals off the street. 

Finally, incumbent Republican Paul Pate will be challenged by Democrat Joel Miller for the position of secretary of state. Despite their ideological differences, both candidates consider fair and accessible elections a state priority. 

How to get involved 

With 18.8% of Grinnell students coming from abroad, not every student will be eligible to vote in Poweshiek County elections. Even those who are able to change their voter registration from their home state to Iowa may opt to vote in their home state or county as well. As such, engagement in the elections comes in many forms besides voting in Poweshiek County. 

Professor Barbara Trish, political science, is teaching a two-credit course this semester discussing that very topic, titled Practicum: Politics. Within this class, Trish has created a non-partisan practicum to encourage civic engagement on campus. Dissemination of information plays a huge role in this effort. 

“Part of it is looking at the kind of mechanical things you need to know in order to participate,” Trish said. “As you know, it’s complicated.”  

The practicum already has plans to arrange rides to farther voting stations and groups to walk to local polls. Trish cites this as an example of a way for those not voting in Poweshiek County to still help increase engagement.  

Students can also keep an eye out for future visits from candidates in Grinnell and Poweshiek County. DeJear spoke to students on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Harris Center, and a group of other candidates including Franken, Mathis and Cox attended an ice cream social in Grinnell on Sunday, Sept. 18. 

Those who have an Iowa driver’s license or ID can register to vote online. Otherwise, a voter registration form must be printed, filled out and mailed to County Auditor Missy Eilander. Trish said she would be happy to collect registration forms to turn into the Poweshiek County auditor for those with difficulty mailing.  

When filling out the form, student filers must use the address of a residence hall, project house or off-campus residence. The address of an individual mailbox will be deemed invalid. 

Trish encouraged anyone interested in getting involved in this year’s election to begin as soon as possible.  

“Act now,” she said. “If you’re registered to vote and you’re registered at the same address you live at now and you show up on Election Day with appropriate ID, then that’s straightforward. But there’s a lot of steps that have to be met in order for that to happen, so start early.”