Two-term State Representative Sally Stutsman will not seek re-election to Iowa House district 77, the Iowa House Democrats announced this morning. A separate press release sent less than two hours later announced that North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen will seek the Democratic nomination in the district Stutsman is vacating. I enclose both statements below, along with a map of the district covering a large area in Johnson County (but not Iowa City or Coralville).
To her credit, Stutsman announced her retirement more than a month before the filing deadline for statehouse candidates (on March 18 this year). Too often, Iowa legislative incumbents in both parties have kept their plans secret from all but a few insiders until a day or two before nominating petitions must be submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State's office. Fairness calls for giving everyone in the district a chance to weigh the pros and cons of running for the legislature. Lots of people who would not challenge an incumbent would seriously consider competing for an open seat.
Nielsen's quick announcement indicates some insider support, and her base in the rapidly-growing North Liberty area should boost her candidacy. Nevertheless, I would not be surprised to see another Democrat or two seek the nomination. Both Stutsman and Nielsen endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, while Johnson County was among the strongest for Bernie Sanders on February 1.
For reasons I don't fully understand, many Iowa Democrats have an allergic reaction to primaries. I see no harm in a good, clean competition between two or more people who are focused on the issues. Johnson County has seen some bitterly contested Democratic primaries, though; I hope that dynamic doesn't develop here.
Incidentally, Zach Wahls told me today that he has no plans to run for Stutsman's seat. He lives in Johnson County but not in House district 77.
I am not aware of a declared Republican candidate in the district. Stutsman easily defeated a GOP opponent in 2012. Republicans did not field a candidate here in 2014 but will surely compete for the open seat. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, House district 77 contains 7,043 active registered Democrats, 5,213 Republicans, and 7,727 no-party voters. President Barack Obama won more than 58 percent of the vote in the district in 2012, and Bruce Braley outpolled Joni Ernst by 9 points here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. The winner of the Democratic primary will be favored to replace Stutsman in the legislature.
House district 77 covers much of western and southern Johnson County, including the cities of North Liberty, Oxford, Tiffin, Swisher, and Shueyville.
Iowa House Democrats press release, February 10:
Rep. Stutsman To Retire from the Iowa House
Des Moines, Iowa -- After over 20 years in public service, State Representative Sally Stutsman of Johnson County said today she will retire from office next year to spend more time with her family.
"It's been a great honor serving the people of Johnson County on the Board of Supervisors and in the Iowa House over the last 21 years," said Stutsman. "I've deeply enjoyed my time in public service, but it's time for my husband and I to travel, relax, enjoy retirement, spend more time with our granddaughter, and pursue other opportunities."
Stutsman grew up in Fort Dodge and met her husband, Roger, while in college. They moved to his family farm in Hills where they still live and farm today. Sally is a social worker and worked for many years at the Iowa Dept. of Human Services as an adoption investigator.
Rep. Stutsman's public service included countless boards and commissions, volunteer organization, and economic development initiatives.
“I have so appreciated the people of Johnson County who were willing to trust me to make good decisions for them. I had so much enjoyment working with many persons in our area. It has been extremely rewarding and satisfying to me, and I have had wonderful experiences and conversations that will always be with me,” added Stutsman.
House Democrats press release, sent less than two hours later on February 10:
North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen Announces Run for State Representative in Johnson County
North Liberty, IA -- North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen announced today that she will run for State Representative in House District 77, which encompasses Western and Southern Johnson County, including the cities of North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, Swisher, Shueyville, and Lone Tree.
“As a graduate of Iowa City Public Schools, and a parent of three children currently enrolled in those same schools, I know firsthand how important a world-class education is to our state’s future,” said Nielsen, a Democrat. “I’m deeply concerned that some in Des Moines are shortchanging our children by refusing to invest in Iowa's public schools.”
First elected Mayor of North Liberty in 2014, Amy has worked to expand public services and build infrastructure including public transit – to the city’s growth areas. As mayor, she has brought increased attention to the diverse population of the community and pushed for additional programming for seniors and translation services for non-English speakers.
“I pledge to be open and accessible as your Representative, and to serve Johnson County by seeking input from residents to ensure their voices are heard in Des Moines,” added Nielsen. “Continuing in the tradition of Representative Sally Stutsman, I will fight for a better Iowa by working to raise the minimum wage, championing the adequate and on-time funding of our schools, and encouraging economic development throughout our district.”
Amy has been involved in numerous community activities, including serving on the Board of Directors for the North Liberty Community Food Pantry and heading up the Garner Elementary Walking School Bus program. She is also in the Iowa City Blue Zones Project, and serves on the Iowa City Community School District’s Equity Advisory Committee, as well as the Community Education Districtwide Advisory Council.
“You can measure a community and state by how it treats it's most vulnerable population,” added Nielsen. “We can work to better address the needs of seniors, those suffering with mental illness, and families living in poverty."
Nielsen and her husband Jason have three children in the Iowa City Community School District School – the same schools system of which she is a graduate.