Breanna Oxley, Sami Scheetz running for open Iowa Senate seat

A highly competitive primary is shaping up for an open Iowa Senate seat covering part of Cedar Rapids. Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg announced on June 14 that he will not seek re-election in 2022. Two candidates have already launched their campaigns, and more local Democrats are considering.

As currently configured, Iowa Senate district 33 covers most of northeast Cedar Rapids. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin. Hogg has never been seriously challenged since winning his first state Senate race in 2006 and received about 65 percent of the vote against his GOP challenger in 2018.

Iowa won’t adopt new legislative maps until sometime this fall, and there’s no guarantee the seat Hogg is vacating will remain as heavily Democratic as it is now. However, any open Senate district covering part of Cedar Rapids is bound to favor Democrats to some degree.

Bleeding Heartland reached out to several area elected officials on June 14 to gauge their interest in running for the open seat. State Representative Liz Bennett, whose Iowa House district covers half of Senate district 33, declined to comment. State Representative Art Staed, whose House district covers the other half, said he was thinking about a Senate bid but hasn’t decided yet.

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker told me,

Rob Hogg is the exemplar of a statesman. He has served Iowa well with honor and compassion. His stepping down is a tremendous loss for our community, but as he recognized in his statement, there are other capable individuals who are ready to lead. I will not seek to replace Senator Hogg, and instead I look forward to supporting the next generation of progressive leadership.

Public school teacher Breanna Oxley was first to announce she is running for this Senate district. Her campaign launch video, released on June 15:

Oxley’s supporters include former state legislator Swati Dandekar, who represented parts of the Cedar Rapids suburbs in the House and Senate from 2003 to 2011, and the Ironworkers Local 89 labor organization.

Community organizer Sami Scheetz announced his candidacy this morning. Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, he came back to Linn County after graduating from college and worked for Fred Hubbell’s gubernatorial campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party.

Scheetz served as the Iowa Constituency Outreach Director for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, helping lead the highly successful satellite caucus outreach effort that brought thousands of first time working-class voters and voters of color into the political process. During the general election, he served as the Iowa Deputy Coalitions Director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, where he led a successful Made in America press tour highlighting our state and federal governments’ need to invest in Iowa’s workers and buy more American-made products. 

I’ve enclosed below the full campaign announcements from both candidates. If elected, Scheetz would be the first Arab American to serve in the Iowa legislature. Oxley would continue a family tradition of service that includes her grandmother, Linn County’s first woman supervisor Jean Oxley, and her grandfather, former state lawmaker Mike Oxley.

To follow the Oxley campaign: website, Facebook, Twitter

To follow the Scheetz campaign: website, Facebook, Twitter

Bleeding Heartland won’t endorse anyone in this primary but welcomes commentaries by any Democrat running, or by their supporters. Guidelines for guest authors endorsing candidates in Iowa Democratic primaries can be found here.


June 15 news release from Breanna Oxley:

Breanna Oxley is announcing her campaign to represent District 33 in the Iowa State Senate.

Oxley is a Cedar Rapids resident who will be a powerful advocate for everyday Iowans. Drawing from a deep well of professional, personal, and civic experiences, she will emphasize commonsense Iowa values of respect, compassion and pragmatism in addressing the needs of the district and the state.

Oxley has been a public school teacher for nearly ten years in the Cedar Rapids and Dubuque school districts. She understands the multitude of challenges confronting students and their families, which have grown more pronounced during the pandemic.

Oxley is keenly aware that Iowa needs to quickly and effectively navigate a rapidly evolving 21st century economy that increasingly relies on cutting-edge technologies. Education and innovation, Oxley believes, are critical to Iowa remaining in the forefront of a wide-range of fields like sustainable energy sources that preserve the state’s pristine environmental resources and distinctive architectural history.

“I’m passionate about education,” Oxley says. “A strong educational system fosters great ideas that will secure Iowa’s financial future. I see Iowa’s future in the eyes of my students,” Oxley says. “I’m committed to helping them attain that bright future.”

Swati Dandekar, former Iowa State Legislator and former U.S. Executive Director at the Asian Development Bank, gives her endorsement for Oxley, “Breanna Oxley will focus on education and economic development because as an educator, she is truly aware of the importance of keeping our young people in Iowa.”

Oxley’s family has a long history of public service that goes back to her grandmother, Jean Oxley, who was the first woman elected Linn County Supervisor. Her grandfather, Myron ‘Mike’ Oxley, served as an Iowa State Representative and Senator.

“My family is a melting pot of diverse political views grounded in one unifying principle: respect for each other’s beliefs,” Oxley observes.

Oxley regularly gives of her time through various volunteer activities. These activities feature a variety of topics including recruitment and advocacy work.

“Ironworkers Local 89 is proud to endorse Breanna Oxley for State Senate District 33,” said Troy Sauter, Business Manager of Ironworkers Local 89. “Oxley has been a long time advocate for the Organized Labor movement. Oxley will make an excellent addition to the state legislature, as is evident through her activism within her Union, her dedication to her students, and her tireless work for the county party. Oxley has always been, and will continue to be a champion for all the working families across the state.”

Oxley’s goal in representing Senate District 33 is to forge successful collaborative partnerships in the state legislature. She believes they will be crucial to keeping Iowa competitive with the needs of a diverse and modern, tech-savvy workforce by focusing on the following:

  • Educational Excellence, from Pre-K through Trade School or College
  • Accessibility to Quality and Affordable Healthcare
  • Support of Local Businesses that Provide Good Jobs and Expand Iowa’s Tax Base

Oxley has a Master’s degree in Teaching from Morningside College and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Loras College. She holds licensure in Secondary Education and Coaching.

June 17 news release from Sami Scheetz:

Sami Scheetz Announces Bid for State Senate

Scheetz seeks to carry forward Senator Rob Hogg’s legacy of delivering progressive results

Cedar Rapids, IA – Sami Scheetz, community organizer and Democratic activist, announced on Thursday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the Iowa Senate in District 33. The seat is currently held by Rob Hogg, who announced on Monday that he is retiring from the legislature after two decades of distinguished service. 

“I came back to Iowa to fight for working families, and I’ve heard from families across District 33 they feel like the middle class has been shrinking.” Scheetz said. “The state legislature has made it harder and harder for working families to earn a good living and make ends meet. We need new leaders that are intent on changing this reality, making Iowa a place with a strong middle class, where all people can thrive.” 

The son of an Arab immigrant mother from Damascus, Syria, and an Iowan father who grew up in a blue-collar household, Scheetz was born and raised in Cedar Rapids. He credits his own success to the work ethic he saw exhibited by his parents, who didn’t have a lot but worked hard to raise their family. 

Scheetz attended Washington High School and Georgetown University before graduating with double majors in government and history, with a focus in international relations. Utilizing his language proficiencies in Spanish and Arabic, Scheetz worked for the U.S. State Department in Dubai, UAE, while still an undergraduate student at Georgetown. Upon graduation, Scheetz returned to Linn County to lead community organizing efforts for gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell and the Iowa Democratic Party.

“It would be an honor to follow in the footsteps of a leader like Rob Hogg,” Scheetz said. “For decades, he has represented the interests of working families in Iowa, and, if elected, I intend to carry on his legacy.”

Scheetz served as the Iowa Constituency Outreach Director for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, helping lead the highly successful satellite caucus outreach effort that brought thousands of first time working-class voters and voters of color into the political process. During the general election, he served as the Iowa Deputy Coalitions Director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, where he led a successful Made in America press tour highlighting our state and federal governments’ need to invest in Iowa’s workers and buy more American-made products. 

“Iowa used to be a place where if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could make it in life,” Scheetz said. “We know that’s no longer the case, and that is what we must change. Hard-working Iowans deserve a fair shake.”

Should he win, Scheetz would be one of the youngest members to serve in the Iowa Senate. He would also be the first Arab American to serve in the Iowa state legislature.

Learn more about the campaign at www.samischeetz.com.

Top image: Photos of Breanna Oxley (left) and Sami Scheetz provided by the candidates and published with permission.

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