Iowa House Ways and Means Committee Chair Tom Sands announced today that he will withdraw his name from the general election ballot in House district 88. In a statement, Sands expressed pride in his efforts to be a “strong voice for the taxpayers of Iowa” and support “common sense budget principles.” He added, “Now it’s time to return to my family and put my sole focus back on them.” First elected to the Iowa House in 2002, Sands has chaired the powerful Ways and Means Committee since Republicans regained the majority in the 2010 elections.
For those wondering whether this incumbent bailed out to avoid being dragged down with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, Sands was running unopposed. I do not recall seeing any public statements by him about Trump. He did not endorse a presidential candidate before the Iowa caucuses.
I hope Sands does not have any major health or family problems. The last time an entrenched Iowa House incumbent decided during the summer not to run for re-election, very unfortunate circumstances were in play. (That former lawmaker was eventually acquitted of charges brought soon after he announced his retirement.) UPDATE: Added more comments below from this story by O.Kay Henderson.
Special Republican and Democratic nominating conventions sometime this summer will select candidates for House district 88. Although no Democrat challenged Sands in 2014 and none filed to run against him this year, Democrats will surely find a candidate now. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district contains 5,566 active registered Democrats, 6,397 Republicans, and 6,775 no-party voters. President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here by 50.9 percent to 47.9 percent. Hard-working challenger Sara Sedlacek fell short in her 2012 race against Sands by 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, but it’s almost always easier to pick up an open seat than to defeat an incumbent.
I enclose below a map of House district 88, covering most of Des Moines County outside the cities of Burlington and West Burlington, all of Louisa County, and a large area in Muscatine County, not including the city of Muscatine. Trump narrowly carried all of those counties in the Iowa Republican caucuses, and his supporters may be angry that Sands did not announce his retirement in time for an open GOP primary race to succeed him. On the flip side, West Liberty and Columbus Junction have large Latino communities. A strong anti-Trump turnout there could help the Democratic candidate in the Iowa House race.
UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa,
“I was contemplating not running for reelection this winter, then decided to go forward and run one more time and, if the voters sent me back, would run two more years,” Sands told Radio Iowa.”But after making that decision this winter, I just felt — the entire time after that — that I had made the wrong decision.” […]
Sands, who is 61 years old, is not leaving the legislature for health reasons. Sands is a former banker and real estate appraiser. He is looking for a new job.
“It is definitely not retirement,” Sands said. “I am too young to retire, don’t want to retire, but it is hard to secure employment when I’m in Des Moines six months out of the year.”
SECOND UPDATE: William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register,
As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sands was a key figure blocking medical cannabis legislation from moving forward during the 2016 session and faced pushback from legislators and constituents. He said Thursday that issue had nothing to do with his retirement.
“There wasn’t any one single issue that influenced this decision,” he said. “There’s lots of tough issues. And when you’re in a leadership position that comes with the territory. But 14 years was long enough for me.”
Republican Jason Delzell formally declared his candidacy in House district 88 less than two hours after Sands announced his retirement plans. Delzell’s family
operates a car dealership in Wapello (Louisa County). CORRECTION: Jason Delzell informed me that he is involved with Servpro, not the car dealership.
THIRD UPDATE: Sara Sedlacek indicated she does not plan to run in House district 88 again. Iowa House Minority Leader Mark Smith confirmed Democrats will recruit a candidate here.
Full campaign announcement for Delzell:
(WAPELLO) – Today, Jason Delzell announced he will seek the Republican nomination for House District 88, being vacated by Rep. Tom Sands.
House District 88 covers all of Louisa County as well as portions of Des Moines and Muscatine Counties. The communities of Wapello, Columbus Junction, and Mediapolis make up the main population centers of the district. The district is currently represented by Rep. Tom Sands (R-Wapello), who announced he would not seek re-election this fall.
“I’m running to represent the great people of House District 88 because we need a leader who is going to look out for our future generations,” said Delzell. “I have four children and they’re the reason I’m running for the Iowa House. I want to do everything I can to ensure we leave them, and all Iowans, with a better state than they began with. It would be an honor to represent the people of District 88 and take my message of common sense solutions and fiscal responsibility to Des Moines.
Rep. Sands has been a true public servant to the people of House District 88 and I thank him for his service.”
Jason is a lifelong resident of Wapello, Iowa, graduating from Wapello High School in 2000. He went on to Muscatine Community College where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. Jason has served as Production Manager for SERVPRO of Burlington since 2010.
If elected, Jason will focus his time and efforts on issues that are important to the people of District 88. As a fiscal conservative, Jason will protect taxpayers by looking at the state budget the same way Iowa families and businesses do.
He will also work to retain Iowa’s young people, reform Iowa’s income tax, and protect Second Amendment rights.
“I am determined to stop Iowa’s #1 export, our young people. We are raising our children right, educating them well and then losing them after graduation to other states that offer better jobs and brighter futures.”
Jason has been very active in his community over the years. He currently serves as a member of the Wapello Parks Board and previously served as a Committeeman for the Chief Wapello Days Committee. He served as a volunteer firefighter for the Wapello Fire Department from 2000-2015 and as a member of the Louisa Development Group Board of Directors from 2006-2015.
Jason has been married to Kristyn since 2009 and together the couple has four children: Zoey (age 7), Hayden (age 6), Briztol (age 2), and Virginia (age 1).