A Democratic challenger has emerged in the Iowa Senate district now represented by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, the upper chamber's top Republican since 2018. Todd Brady announced on July 21 that he'll run for the seat in Ankeny, a growing suburb to the north of Des Moines.
Brady has a computer science degree from Iowa State University and is best known as the creator of the Vaccine Hunter website, where thousands of Iowans scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations when appointments were scarce in the late winter and spring. Disclosure: in April, that website helped me find an appointment for my older son.
In his campaign's first news release, Brady said,
When the state released their Vaccinate Iowa website, there was an obvious gap between finding a location and finding an appointment. I took action and created Vaccine Hunter, a site that should have been created by our state from the beginning. Jack Whitver played politics during the pandemic, while I actually got things done. We need a senator focused on service, not partisan politics.
Whitver has done little to promote COVID-19 safety measures and was often seen unmasked in public settings last year and during the 2021 legislative session. Republican leaders in the Iowa House and Senate did not require legislators or staff to wear face coverings or report coronavirus infections. However, the Senate did allow lawmakers and members of the public to participate in committee meetings remotely, unlike their counterparts in the lower chamber.
The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration informed Senate and House leaders in April about conditions “that may expose workers to COVID-19 hazards" at the state capitol. Whitver didn't acknowledge the agency's recommendations for "immediate corrective actions" and described the controversy as “a political hit job, trying to get us to not have session and not keep moving the state forward.”
Brady's wife has taught high school in Ankeny, and if elected, the Democrat would prioritize public education funding at all levels: preschool, K-12 districts, and state universities. He also hopes "to protect the right to vote and make it easier for all eligible Iowans to vote," and to "represent all Iowans instead of special interests" with laws that are inclusive regardless of a person's race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Republicans have had a strong base in Ankeny area for a long time, but like many suburbs, the area has become more competitive in recent years. Democrats did not field a candidate against Whitver in 2014, but challenger Amber Gustafson ran strong enough in 2018 for Republicans to spend more than half a million dollars defending the seat. Whitver won re-election in Senate district 19 by a 51.3 percent to 48.6 percent margin.
Like Gustafson, Brady is a Democrat who grew up in a Republican family. He noted in his campaign announcement that he sees "plenty of common ground to get things done, and move Iowa in a more positive direction."
Due to population growth to the north of Des Moines, the current configuration of this Senate district has excess population. The legislative map to be adopted later this year will likely contain a district centered in Ankeny. Based on Iowa's resident population, according to the 2020 census, the ideal population for an Iowa Senate district will be 63,807. Ankeny's population was estimated at 67,355 in July 2019, and the final census number will surely be a bit higher.
Iowa law requires as few cities to be split as possible when drawing legislative maps. But inevitably, some Ankeny households will land outside the Iowa Senate district that covers this area. In other words, it's possible that either Whitver or Brady may not live in the new district. They would then have to decide whether to move in order to run for this state Senate seat.
I'll update this post after a new map has been finalized.
LATE UPDATE: Here's the map of the new Iowa Senate district 21.
Whitver decided to move and seek re-election in a nearby district that is safer for Republicans. State Representative Mike Bousselot (just elected to the Iowa House in September 2021) will seek the GOP nomination in Senate district 21 next year.
Full text of July 21 news release:
Todd Brady Launches Bid for Iowa’s District 19 Senate Seat
Ankeny Todd Brady of Ankeny, creator of the Vaccine Hunter covid vaccination website, will run for the Ankeny state Senate seat in district 19 in 2022. Brady, 37, will run as a Democrat for the Senate District 19 seat in the Iowa Legislature, which is currently held by Iowa Senate majority leader Jack Whitver.
“Everyone complains that there is too much talking and not enough doing in politics,” Brady said.
“When the state released their Vaccinate Iowa website, there was an obvious gap between finding a location and finding an appointment. I took action and created Vaccine Hunter, a site that should have been created by our state from the beginning. Jack Whitver played politics during the pandemic, while I actually got things done. We need a senator focused on service, not partisan politics.”
Todd Brady grew up in Indianola, Iowa, and is a graduate of both Indianola High School and Iowa State University, where he earned a degree in Computer Science. He is a devoted husband and a proud father of two boys. He, his wife Christina, and their 2 sons moved to Ankeny 5 years ago to be closer to family and to be back in Christina's hometown. Christina has been a high school math teacher for thirteen years, and was excited to teach at one of the high schools in Ankeny, where she grew up.
Todd has 3 main objectives he is focusing on in his campaign. First, to prioritize and fund public PreK-12 and regents universities, the second is to protect the right to vote and make it easier for all eligible Iowans to vote. And the third objective is to represent all Iowans instead of special interests and make sure our legislation is inclusive of all people no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“If public schools are prioritized and provided proper funding, it creates a ripple effect of change throughout the state of Iowa,” Todd said. “Our voting rights in Iowa took center stage when the latest bill to attack the vote was passed by the Republicans and signed on March 8, 2021 by our governor.”
He knows this will be an uphill battle, but thinks there is some common ground to build on. “I am running as a democrat, but I come from a family of republicans. I think there is plenty of common ground to get things done, and move Iowa in a more positive direction,” Todd said.
His Iowa state senate campaign website can be found at ToddForIowa.com where you can learn more about Todd and his family, and more about the issues he will be focusing on.