Former local television news reporter and anchor Liz Mathis confirmed today that she will be the Democratic candidate to replace Swati Dandekar in Iowa Senate district 18.
Linn County Democrats will formally nominate a candidate for the special election at a district convention on September 28, but Mathis will certainly be the choice. Here's an excerpt from her campaign announcement:
"People all over are trying to get back on their feet from this lingering national recession," Mathis said. "They need jobs and they need stability for their families, and all we're getting from our government is gridlock. It must change. I pledge to work with Democratic and Republican legislators and Governor Branstad to make a difference for the people in District 18."
Mathis added: "We need new policies that will help our Main Street businesses thrive, bring in business and spur job growth in our local communities. My husband and I have experienced that first-hand in our family's business. That's one of many reasons I'm running. We also need to stop short-changing our educational system and we need to address support of our area's most vulnerable children who are affected by poverty and neglect. I am passionate about those things."
Mathis currently works for a child welfare and juvenile justice agency, Four Oaks, and its affiliates, the Affordable Housing Network and Iowa KidsNet. She is Chief Information Officer, overseeing legislative advocacy, public relations, marketing and development. Mathis currently is an Ohnward Bank Board Director with branches in Marion and Cedar Rapids and sits on the Wartburg College Board of Regents.
Mathis was a news anchor, reporter and producer at KCRG-TV from 1998 to 2007. Prior to KCRG, Mathis spent 16 years at KWWL-TV in Waterloo, where she was an executive producer and first female co-anchor of the evening news. She also taught communication studies and first amendment law at Wartburg College from 1996-1998.
Mathis and her husband, Mark, who owns the advertising agency ME&V, live near Robins and have two children. She grew up on a farm in rural Iowa and is a University of Iowa graduate.
"I've spent my professional career in the communications business," Mathis said. "I've listened to a lot of people in our community tell their stories. I love helping people connect and making things happen. My campaign will focus on reaching out to as many people as I can in Senate District 18. I'm going to knock on doors, meet them and hear what they have to say. I'm running to represent the people of Senate District 18 and I'm ready to go to work for them."
Having worked in front of the camera at KCRG for nearly a decade, Mathis will be a familiar name and face to most voters in Senate district 18. She goes into the short campaign with higher name recognition than any of the currently declared Republican candidates for this race.
I am surprised to see Mathis lead with a bipartisan message (working with Republican legislators and Governor Branstad to "make a difference"). Mathis criticizes gridlock, but gridlock isn't the worst option if the alternative is rubber-stamping whatever comes out of the Iowa House. This election is all about whether the Iowa Senate will or will not continue to be a check on Branstad's agenda. On Monday Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal hammered on that point in a fundraising e-mail blast (excerpt):
Please help us keep our Democratic Majority by donating to the Iowa Senate Democrats today.
In 2010, Republicans took the Governor's mansion and the Majority in the Iowa House. Democrats still have the Majority in the Iowa Senate, but only by 1 seat. If this Special Election in Linn County is won by Republicans, Democrats will lose control of the Iowa Senate and the entire government of Iowa will be steered by the right-wing agenda of Tea Party Republicans.
Help us Keep The Majority by donating $10, $25, $50, $100, $250 or as much as you can afford to the Iowa Senate Democrats today.
Here's just a sample of the legislative agenda Republicans had in 2011 that they will roll out again in 2012:
* SF 111: Would disqualify more than 26,000 Iowa children from receiving quality, affordable health care through HAWK-I, and shifting the burden onto the already strained budget of Iowa middle class families.
* HF 45: Would eliminate Iowa's voluntary preschool program--a direct assault on middle class families who need access to affordable, quality early childhood education.
* HF 525: Would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees--which is an assault on all Iowa workers (not just public workers)--because the effort is designed to chip away at the basic employment rights of every Iowan.
Democrats in the Iowa Senate did our best to stop this outrageous agenda--and we succeeded in protecting middle-class Iowa families from becoming the victims of right-wing legislation.
But the results of this Special Election on November 8th will decide if we are able to keep holding the majority--and keep holding the line against this onslaught of extremist ideas. If Republicans succeed in this special election in Linn County, every one of these outrageous initiatives (and more!) will become the law of the land in Iowa.
The Republican base will be highly motivated for the November 8 special election. Mathis doesn't have much of a political record, and in all likelihood neither will her Republican opponent. If she wants to motivate the Democratic base, she needs to make this campaign a referendum on Branstad and conservative policies like no growth for K-12 education budgets. I don't think a generic message about listening to people and creating jobs is going to cut it.
Share any thoughts about the special election in this thread.
UPDATE: Conservative WHO reporter Gary Barrett used to work with Mathis in Cedar Rapids. He wrote on his blog this week that GOP hopes of taking Dandekar's seat "are probably wishful thinking."
[Mathis] has HIGH name recognition in the area, having been a news anchor at both KWWL-TV and KCRG-TV over the past 30 years. She's still stayed in the "newslight" over the past couple of years due to the projects she's worked with. When we worked together, I know that her "Q", the measure of likeability used in the TV news anchor world, was extremely high in all demographics.
Plus, she's a PR person who's comfortable talking with people AND her husband runs a PR firm. Liz works for an agency that deals with juvenile justice and at-risk kids, so she can articulate that view easily.
None of the announced candidates have any prior government experience, so there's no incumbency advantage. And some are well-known in eastern Iowa GOP circles. But I don't think any of them will score better than Mathis in popularity in the district.