Nielsen prevails in area House race

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Nielsen prevails in area House race

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Two mayors had vied to move up the political chain, taking their leadership of their respective communities to the Iowa Legislature, and Democratic candidate North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen came out on top Tuesday night.

Nielsen defeated former Tiffin Mayor Royce Phillips, the Republican candidate, with 57.8 percent of the vote with all of the district’s precincts reporting. Phillips received 42.2 percent of the vote. The tallies are unofficial until the canvass.

The legislative district comprises parts of western, southern, and northern Johnson County, including North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, Swisher, Shueyville, and Lone Tree.

Phillips campaigned on his approximately 30 years of experience serving on various district and state committees. Nielsen was elected mayor of North Liberty in 2014.

Phillips did not respond to phone calls or emails from The Daily Iowan.

Rep. Sally Stutsman, D-Riverside, previously occupied the seat. She announced in February she would retire after serving two terms.

At her watch party at Rocky O’Brien’s in North Liberty, the atmosphere was calm, her team confident in the moments leading up to the announcement of Nielsen’s victory.

During her time at the helm of North Liberty’s municipal government, Nielsen advocated for an increase in Johnson County’s minimum wage and said she supported adequate housing options.

In addition to her experience as a mayor, Nielsen most notably championed the Johnson Community ID project.

“I think having been an elected official in municipality gives me kind of a unique perspective and unique knowledge that other representatives aren’t going to have if they haven’t worked in a municipality,” she said. “I was really surprised how much work we do depends on what happens at the state level. I hope to make it easier for cities to take care of their residents.”

As a state representative, Nielsen said, she will primarily focus on providing local governments with enough funding to build and maintain infrastructure, improve access to mental-health support systems, and ensuring public schools receive sufficient funding.

Amy Johnson, 45, a resident of North Liberty and Nielsen’s best friend, said she will build on Stutsman’s efforts of working for the people of Johnson County and the state in mind.

“Amy is carrying on a good, healthy tradition of what Sally Stutsman started,” Johnson said. “I think Amy will do an excellent job with continuing on with that same mentality and push it even further than what Sally did.”

Regardless of which way the majority swings in the state House, Nielsen said she hopes to work together with people no matter their political party identification to make progress in Des Moines.

“It’s all about just learning to get along with people and listening to their points of view,” she said. “Everyone is representing people in their district.”

Johnson expressed confidence in Nielsen’s ability to bring Republicans and Democrats together in the state House.

“I think Amy has good relationships across the board,” Johnson said. “She does a great job of working with everyone with all kinds of views to get her goals accomplished.”

Once she officially begins her term as a representative, Nielsen said she hopes to inspire her kids most of all as a woman in politics.

“Hillary Clinton played a huge role in my deciding to run for office,” she said. “She inspired me to dig in there and put my name in the ring and show kids that, yeah, mom can do this. Anyone can do this as long as they work hard and play by the rules. A lot of the reason I decided to run was to show my kids what they can accomplish, especially my two girls.”

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