Iowa Democratic House and Senate candidates talk policy at University of Iowa forum

The Democratic House and Senate candidates worked to differentiate themselves in a crowded field at the University of Iowa’s legislative forum.


Braden Ernst

Andrew Dunn, Democratic candidate running for Iowa House District 90, holds the microphone while passionately speaking about bipartisanship during the University of Iowa Faculty Staff Legislative Forum at the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday, April 18, 2022.

Meg Doster, Politics Reporter


Candidates in the upcoming legislative races, majority Democrats, worked to differentiate themselves in a crowded field.

The University of Iowa’s Faculty Senate and Staff Council hosted one Republican and seven Democratic candidates for the 89th, 90th, 91st, and 92nd Iowa House districts and the 45th Senate district, which represent Johnson County. All five House districts have open seats, and there are a total of 15 candidates vying for them. 

Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner, a Democratic candidate for the 45th Senate district, critiqued Republican leadership in the House, Senate, and gubernatorial office. 

“The Republican trifecta is not working for us, and the past six years, they’ve gutted chapter 20 collective bargaining rights,” Weiner said. “They fail to adequately fund public schools. They consistently underfunded the region’s universities, leading to cuts that are detrimental to this flagship institution. ”

John Raley, who is competing against Weiner for the Democratic nomination, brought in his experience as a life insurance provider to prove that he can reach across the aisle.

“I was the past president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in the state of Ohio, serving over 2000 practitioners, both Democrat and Republican,” Raley said. “It wasn’t hard to reach across the aisle when we knew what our purpose was. And we can effectively look to legislate legislation, see what we can do to help people save for college, try to find ways to get affordable health insurance.”

The lone Republican candidate from the 91st House District, Matt McAreavy, also said he can reach across the aisle.

RELATED: Iowa Senate candidate John Raley highlights need for bipartisanship

“I was raised by two of the biggest, wisest, nicest Democrats,” McAreavy said. “I’ve worked so well with people and I see no problem working with Democrats today.”

McAreavy said that he supports parents knowing what their children are being taught in school ahead of time, and believes that it keeps teachers accountable.

This past year, the House and Senate Republicans passed a bill that would prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Iowa K-12 classrooms. Earlier this year, a bill that would put cameras to survey teachers was introduced, but was not passed into law.

One of the House District 90 Democratic candidates, former teacher Christy Wolfe, said she wants to get the target off of Iowa teachers’ backs.

“We did talk about things about race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and if the student was uncomfortable or took issue with what I said, that kind of conversation started not going to happen,” Wolfe said. “And what the legislation is doing is basically saying, we’re going to end any conversation that makes someone uncomfortable.”

Elinor Levin, the Democratic candidate for the House District 89 seat, said that employees work better if they feel supported in their workplaces.

“I was a public school teacher out of college, and I transitioned into private tutoring because my spouse in the military working for myself is nice, because I feel very supported by myself,” Levin said. “If I taught in public schools right now, I wouldn’t feel supported by my legislator.”

Tony Currin, a labor right activist and another Democratic candidate in the House District 89, is a part of the Black and  LGBTQ+ communities. Currin said that the Republican-led legislation to limit access to abortion and opposition to affirmative action drive away young Iowans from the state.

“As the late great Joan Rivers said, ‘Can we just talk?’” Currin said.“I don’t think too much about being a loud minority. It’s kind of boring. And I’m not gonna put baby in the corner and just be quiet while [the Republicans] enjoy their cake. I intend to be loud.”

Andrew Dunn, one of three Democratic candidates for the House District 90 seat, grabbed the mic from its stand while talking about the priorities of young voters

“We understand the demographics of young people in America,” Dunn said. “Young people are overwhelmingly open to the new social situation that we’re in right now. Regarding LGBTQ rights, trans rights. The list goes on and on the fact that black lives matter, right? We have to do a lot more as elected officials of the minority party.”

Adam Zabner, another Democrat seeking the nomination in District 90,  echoed Dunn’s and Currin’s points of Republican legislation driving young Iowans away.

“Half of our Iowa Iowa State students leave after they graduate,” Zabner said. “And this should be the number one issue. When we think about taking on climate change, when we think about our struggling healthcare system, and we think about the struggles of communities and finding teachers. That is because we are not doing enough to attract and retain our best people.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Elinor Levin and Tony Currin are candidates for House District 89, not 92.