Win for Zach Wahls in Iowa Senate race

Newcomer Zach Wahls will occupy retired state Sen. Bob Dvorsky’s seat in the Iowa Senate.


David Harmantas

Iowa Senate Democratic Candidate Zach Wahls watches election results on his laptop during an election night watch party at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

After Tuesday’s victory in the race for the District 37 state Senate seat, Democratic candidate Zach Wahls becomes one of the youngest faces in that body at 26.

At his election night watch party at Big Grove Brewery, Wahls said he was pleased with voter turnout, particularly from young people.

“We smashed voter turnout from 2014,” Wahls said. “Iowa students really delivered.”

As state senator, Wahls said, his top priority is affordable health care. A vocal critic of the 2016 Republican decision to privatize Medicaid in the state, he intends to push the program insuring 680,000 low-income, elderly, disabled, and young Iowans back under state control.

Wahls assumes the seat previously occupied by Sen. Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat who had served in both chambers of the state Legislature for more than 30 years combined.

In 2011, Wahls stood on the political stage for the first time with a speech in front of a legislative committee to argue against a proposed constitutional amendment in the state that would have banned gay marriage. A video of the speech went viral, amassing almost 2 million views in two weeks. Wahls has been an activist ever since. Upon election, Wahls will return to Des Moines now in an entirely different capacity.

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“The Democratic Party has to get back to talking about issues in a way that is not pitting people against each other by talking about the shared experience of being a marginalized individual whether you’re a person of color or just trying to make ends meet, or both,” Wahls said.

In addition to health care, he also touted increased education funding and strengthening workers’ rights as the biggest components of his platform.

The price of tuition for public universities, Wahls said, has made college into a restrictive barrier instead of a ladder up to achieve success. His idea for combating high tuition is to increase state funding for public universities. 

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Wahls is a University of Iowa alum, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sustainability studies with departmental and university honors.

Voting to restore the collective-bargaining rights of public sector unions is one of the ways he hopes to empower the working class, a group he has said the Democratic Party could do more to support. He said he also supports raising the state minimum wage to $10.10.

Wahls won the Democratic primary in District 37 with 72.86 percent of the vote, 46.45 percent ahead of second-place candidate Janice Weiner at the time of publication.

Carl Krambeck, Wahls’ opponent from the Libertarian Party, received 26.41 percent of the vote in second place. 

Krambeck said he was pleased with his performance in the race as a third party candidate with less funding.

“20 percent this year, hopefully 30 percent in a couple of years, and then hopefully we can get past 50,” Krambeck said.

RELATED: State Senate District 37 seat is up for grabs