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College community members face-off for State House seat

Looks like next year’s Iowa State House of Representative race could be between Grinnellians, on both the Democratic and Republican side.

On Monday night at the Poweshiek County Republican headquarters, Larry Wilson, ex-manager of the Spencer Grill and current Poweshiek County Supervisor, announced his candidacy for the the 76th district in the Iowa State House. If Wilson secures the Republican nomination during the primaries—against fellow Republican candidate David Maxwell—he will be running against the Democrat candidate, Rachel Bly ‘93, Director of Conference Operations and Events for Grinnell College and Grinnell City Council Planning Committee Chair.

The possibility of the 76th district race between two people affiliated with the College presents an exciting potential, given Grinnell College’s progressive reputation, according to Sam Mulopulos ’14.

“I think it’s fantastic to have a very Grinnell-oriented race, and the key point is that we have a Republican running who is affiliated with the college.”

Wilson decided to run for the seat after the 2010 redistricting that merged Poweshiek and Iowa Counties and opened a seat in the State House.

“I wanted this seat to be Republican so the people of Poweshiek County and Iowa County can be represented,” Wilson said.

Wilson seeks greater accountability in the state government, shift away from funneling money to new jobs and instead expand current businesses through tax cuts for Iowa industries.

Before working as a manager at the College, Wilson worked as a data analyst at GTE, Verizon, and Iowa Telephone for over 24 years, along with 13 years on the Grinnell Board of Education, experience that he believes will help him in the State House.

Another candidate from the Republican party, Maxwell is an owner of a tiling business in Gibson, IA and will run against Wilson and Bly for the open House seat. He was inspired to run after what he believed was prostate cancer turned out to be an autoimmune disease, a sign he interpreted as a calling from God.

“If God gave me a few more years to live, I thought I should spend it doing something other than working for myself,” Maxwell said.

If elected, Maxwell wants to focus on improving Iowa publication, seeking more mental health state funding for lower-income individuals, and providing better support for veterans and their families.

“A lot of people in the National Guard and the military are being overworked now, and we need to take care of them,” Maxwell said. “When we have troops deployed two or more times in five years, it’s hard on them as individuals and their families.”

Once Maxwell and Wilson collect 200 signatures each and submit them to the Secretary of State, they will compete for the Republican nomination, and then the winner will face against Bly to represent the 76th district in the State House in 2012.

“Whichever one of these guys gets the nomination, it’s going to be a tough election for Rachel,” said Dan Bunnell, previous Poweshiek County Republican Chair. “Once you get outside of Grinnell, it gets pretty Republican.”

On the Democratic side, Bly is excited to have another member of the Grinnell College community run in the District race.

“I am excited to hear that Larry Wilson has entered the race,” Bly wrote in an e-mail to the S&B. “I know that Larry will be a worthy opponent if he is chosen in the Republican primary and that it will be a fair and clean campaign.”

For Mulopulos, the local elections open a space to discuss political conservatism at Grinnell College, an underrepresented view on campus.

“I think that there has been a history of not tolerating different political viewpoints on campus,” he said, referring to the perceived liberal bias on campus.

“I hope that the fact that a Conservative affiliated with the College is running in the race will spark some substantive debate about what it means to be a Conservative at Grinnell and what it means to be a Conservative as a whole.”

Joe Wlos ‘15 contributed to this report.

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    MickeyNov 20, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    The “perceived liberal bias on campus” can be demonstrated with the surveys on file with college administration. This would be a great opportunity to hear other voices!