Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland's analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa's first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

First, a look at the new legislative maps. Here's the Iowa House configuration (click here to find maps of individual districts):

And here is the new Iowa Senate map (click here for individual district maps):


Deidre DeJear will make history in June as Iowa's first Black major-party nominee for governor. Nicole Hasso, one of three Republicans who filed in the third Congressional district, could become the state's first Black major-party nominee for a U.S. House seat.

The Iowa House currently has six Black members, tying the record set in the 2009-2010 session. Five are seeking re-election: Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad (House district 34), Ruth Ann Gaines (House district 33), Phyllis Thede (House district 94), Ross Wilburn (House district 50), and Republican Eddie Andrews (House district 43).

Gaines and Wilburn are unopposed. Abdul-Samad's only opponent is RJ Miller, an independent candidate who is also Black.

Thede has a Republican opponent, and her district could be competitive, but as a seven-term incumbent, she has a good chance to be re-elected.

Democrat Ras Smith is not seeking re-election in House district 62. The only candidate to file for that seat is Jerome Amos Jr., who is also Black.

Two Democrats filed in Andrews' district: Tiara Mays, who is Black, and Suresh Reddy, who is Asian American. So the residents of House district 43 will certainly elect a person of color in November.

Other Black candidates to file for state House seats:

  • Vergarie Sanford, one of two Democrats to file in House district 19
  • Mary Madison, one of two Democrats to file in House district 31
  • Jaylen Cavil, one of six Democrats to file in House district 36
  • Tony Currin, one of two Democrats to file in House district 89
  • Esperance Hope Ikora, one of five Republicans to file in House district 46

Also worth noting: Ikora immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, she told Bleeding Heartland. If elected, she would be the first immigrant to serve in the Iowa legislature since Anesa Kajtazovic, who served two terms and did not seek re-election in 2014.

Only one Black person has ever served in the Iowa Senate: Tom Mann, who was elected twice during the 1980s. This year, Izaah Knox is one of two Democrats seeking the nomination in Senate district 17. ToyA Johnson is a Libertarian who filed in Senate district 17.

Democrat Mary Kathleen Figaro is running in Senate district 47.

Two Black Republicans are competing for Iowa Senate seats: Shad Clayton is one of two GOP candidates in Senate district 16, and Edward Bernie Hayes filed in Senate district 39. However, Democrats will be favored to win both of those seats in November.


Although Democrats nominated more Latino candidates for Iowa legislative seats over the past decade, Republican State Representative Mark Cisneros became the first Latino to serve in either chamber after winning in 2020. He is seeking re-election in House district 96.

At least one other GOP candidate identifies as Latino: Tony Chavez, one of two Republicans seeking the nomination in House district 76. UPDATE: Robert Nazario, one of two GOP candidates in House district 54, confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he is Latino as well.

Two Latino candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in solid blue districts: Gabe De La Cerda is among the six candidates in House district 36, and Adam Zabner is one of three candidates in House district 90.

Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz has filed as an independent candidate in Senate district 17 and will appear on the general election ballot. No Latino candidate has ever been elected to the Iowa Senate.


Republican State Representative Henry Stone became Iowa's second Asian American state legislator after winning in 2020. (The first was Democrat Swati Dandekar, who served from 2003 to 2011.) Stone is seeking re-election in House district 9.

Megan Srinivas is one of two Democrats to file in House district 30, where the nominee will be strongly favored in November. Suresh Reddy is one of two contenders for the Democratic nomination in House district 43, where the winner will face Eddie Andrews.


Only one current Iowa lawmaker currently identifies as LGBTQ: Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett. She opted not to seek re-election to the state House and is is one of two Democrats running in Senate district 39.

Austin Frerick is also part of the LGBTQ community and is one of two Democrats running in Senate district 37.

Residents of House district 89 will certainly elect an LGBTQ representative, since both Democrats (Tony Currin and Elinor Levin) are out, and no Republican qualified for the ballot here.

Elle Wyant was the only Democrat to file in House district 91 and serves on the board of directors of the LGBTQ advocacy organization One Iowa. If elected, she would be Iowa's first transgender legislator.

UPDATE: Jeni Kadel, Libertarian candidate in House district 40, is also transgender. I forgot to mention that Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz, the independent running in Senate district 17, is nonbinary.


Since Kajtazovic left the legislature, Abdul-Samad has been Iowa's only Muslim legislator as well as the only one who identifies with a religion other than Christianity.

The last Jewish person to serve in the Iowa legislature was Ralph Rosenberg, a member of the House during the 1980s and the Senate through 1994. At least three Jewish candidates are running this year: Elinor Levin in House district 89, Adam Zabner in House district 90, and Janice Weiner, one of two Democrats to file in Senate district 45. No GOP or independent candidates are on the ballot in those districts, so the Democratic nominee will be elected in November.

To my knowledge, the only other legislative candidate who is part of a non-Christian faith tradition is Megan Srinivas (House district 30), who is Hindu.


Though many Iowa lawmakers have had health conditions that might qualify as disabilities, few have identified as part of the disability community.

Two Democrats running for the Iowa House this year would bring that perspective to the statehouse. Josh Turek (House district 20) has competed in four Paralympics, bringing home three medals, and has also played professional wheelchair basketball in Europe. According to a news release announcing his candidacy, he "currently works at Numotion, providing mobility devices and complex rehab technology to physicians, hospitals, clinics and other health care providers," and "is a volunteer director with the Ryan Martin Foundation providing access to adaptive sports to children with disabilities."

Michelle Servadio Elias (House district 96) chairs the Iowa Democratic Party's Veterans Caucus. She is a 100 percent VA rated disabled veteran and has also been active in the party's Disability Caucus.

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