Republican Amy Sinclair and Democrat Dick Schrad have launched campaigns in the new Iowa Senate district 14, an open seat in south-central Iowa. Former Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley lives in this district but decided not to seek a fourth term.
Follow me after the jump for a district map and background on the two declared candidates.
Iowa Senate district 14 covers a large area: Clarke, Decatur, Lucas and Wayne County, most of Marion County except for the Pella area, and a small portion of Jasper County:
Republicans take a voter registration advantage into this race. As of April 2011, Senate district 14 contained 12,299 registered Democrats, 12,921 Republicans and 14,401 no-party voters. Following the Iowa caucuses, the GOP edge has no doubt expanded, but I don't have updated figures.
Wayne County Supervisor Amy Sinclair, who lives and works on a century farm, was the first to enter the Senate district 14 race in early December. Since then, she has been meeting voters around the district. From her campaign announcement:
Sinclair has served two terms on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. She and her husband Boyd, who is a fifth-grade teacher at Wayne Community Schools, have three sons, and farm near Allerton.
"I understand the issues southern Iowans face every day as I have lived, worked and raised my family in Wayne County for more than 17 years," Sinclair said. "Iowans deserve a State Senator who is an experienced leader tempered with faith and strong family values. I am that candidate."
Education is a top priority for Sinclair, who said she will be watching the education reform discussions in the upcoming legislative session with great interest. As the next State Senator in District 14, she will advocate for strong local control of schools; improved teacher, student and parent accountability; and renewed pre-eminence for Iowa's educational system.
Spending nearly the last two decades in southern Iowa, Sinclair has witnessed high unemployment rates, and struggles facing small business owners and the agricultural community.
"I firmly believe in giving our best to lift up our community," Sinclair said. "I will do that to make southern Iowa and our great state flourish. It is vital we reduce the cumbersome regulations that inhibit economic growth. I believe a government that governs least is the best and that the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people."
Sinclair has held numerous leadership positions on boards and committees such as the Iowa County Engineers, Service Bureau, South Iowa Area Crime Commission, Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa, Chariton Valley Transportation Planning Affiliate, South Central Iowa Community Action Agency and Wayne County Farm Bureau.
Judging from this lengthy interview on KNIA/KRLS radio in Knoxville, Sinclair is well-spoken and knowledgeable. She described herself as a strong supporter of "home rule," letting local governments and school districts (as opposed to state or federal government) make decisions on the most important issues.
The biggest obstacle Sinclair faces is Wayne County's small population base. Wayne has fewer residents than the other counties in the new Senate district 14. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see other Republicans join this race before the filing deadline in March. Sinclair mentioned here that her sister lives and works as an elementary school teacher in Knoxville, and she also talked about business connections (selling cattle) with people in Marion County.
The first and likely only Democratic candidate in Senate district 14 is Dick Schrad, the former Knoxville city manager. Excerpt from his press release:
"My experience in the private and public sectors gives me the right perspective at this critical time for Iowa," said Schrad. "Like most Iowans, I'm sick and tired of the political games in Des Moines. That's why my number one priority in the Iowa Senate will be to ensure that the state partners with the private sector to create good jobs, expand and bring new businesses in to Iowa, and create new opportunities for Iowa high school and college graduates."
Schrad said that in addition to improving the state's business climate, he will focus on ensuring that Iowa schools are preparing our children for the best 21st Century jobs.
"I'm a fiscal conservative who believes we have to tighten our belts in tough times, but not at the expense of our children's future. If our kids ever hope to compete in a global marketplace, they must have the opportunity to get a world-class education. And last year, politicians in Des Moines slashed the budgets of our public schools. Many critical programs suffered, and we lost some great teachers. That's not a formula for success for our kids or our state and it must change."
Dick Schrad, a Democrat, grew up in Carroll, Iowa and retired in April 2011 as City Manager of Knoxville. Prior to managing Knoxville's municipal government, he managed the City and Municipal Utilities for Tipton, Iowa. Dick also served as the economic development director for Preston, Iowa and before that partnered with his brother to own and operate a corporate and museum exhibits company for 32 years. Dick is a Vietnam War veteran; he earned his bachelor's degree from Creighton University and a Master's degree in Business from the University of Iowa. He and his wife Pat are members of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Knoxville. They have two grown sons and three grandchildren.
Schrad was a member of the Knoxville Rotary Club and is a current member of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. His wife Pat is a retired school teacher and now does part time consulting work developing curriculum for the Iowa Center for Disabilities at the University of Iowa. Pat is also active in the Marion County Arts Alliance, manages the annual Marion County Artists' Studio Tour, and leads the Knoxville Ambassadors, a Chamber of Commerce organization dedicated to welcoming new businesses.
"Pat and I have raised our kids and now we dedicate ourselves to our community," Schrad added. "I think it's important to be active to ensure that the future is bright for the next generation. Over the next 11 months I'm going to knock on doors in Senate District 14 and meet as many people as possible. I'm going to listen to what people have to say and then I'm going to do my best to make sure their concerns and ideas are heard up at the State Capitol."
The new Senate district 14 contains one open House seat and one Republican-held House seat. First-term State Representative Joel Fry lives in the new House district 27, and to my knowledge he does not yet have a Democratic challenger. In the open House district 28, Democrat Megan Day Suhr faces Republican Greg Heartsill. Like Schrad, Suhr has a natural base of support in the Knoxville area, so GOTV in Knoxville has to be the top priority for Marion County Democrats this fall. With a population of about 7,300, Knoxville is the largest city in the new Senate district 14, followed by Osceola in Clarke County (about 4,600), Chariton in Lucas County (about 4,300), and Lamoni in Decatur County (about 2,400).
Schrad and Suhr are unlucky that Iowa's new map of political boundaries put the Senate district 14 counties in the second Congressional district. Three-term Representative Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, will focus his GOTV efforts on other parts of the new IA-02. If Senate district 14 were in the third Congressional district, down-ticket Democrats might be a little better off, because Representative Leonard Boswell has represented all of those counties in Congress before. Boswell's family farm is in the Lamoni area of Decatur County.
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