New faces representing Johnson County in Iowa statehouse

The 2023 Legislative session features 53 new members of the Iowa House and Senate. Five of those faces are from Johnson County, but despite most being in the minority party, they are passionate about getting work done for Iowans.


Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, watches other representatives pick seats during the first day of the 90th Iowa General Assembly at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Rep. Adam Zabner, D-90, will also serve his first term in the house.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Following the 2022 election, five new delegates represent Johnson County in the Iowa Legislature. While most are in the minority party, they jumped right into focusing on education, fentanyl precautions, and veterans — among other priorities. 

Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, said her experiences in the Iowa chapter of the League of Women Voters and as a public school educator has helped her navigate the first few weeks of the legislative session as a freshman member. 

“I like to be informed,” Levin said. “I like to be prepared, and so I feel like I came in prepared for this. I feel like, hopefully, that will serve me well.”

There are 53 new faces in the Iowa House and Senate this session — over one-third of the entire legislative body. 

Levin said having so many freshmen legislators is beneficial because the lawmakers are going into the session without prior relationships and frustrations. She said the new members can find common ground with each other despite party differences. 

This session needs to focus on Iowans, not politics, Levin said. Her focus for this year will be on public schools and reducing living costs for average Iowans. Levin also wants to represent underrepresented populations in the legislature, even if they aren’t from her district. 

“I definitely want to make sure that I’m starting out as a dedicated person in support of fair rights, in support of older Iowans, or students who are trying to make their life here,” Levin said. “I want to make sure that people who have historically been discriminated against have someone, whether it’s their own area representative, or not.”

Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, said some issues will require lots of debate in order to find a compromise. The decision of whether to keep public dollars in public schools is one of the most divisive pieces of legislation in the current session. 

However, Zabner said, there are issues that the legislature will find bipartisan support for, like investing in fentanyl test strips. 

“Currently, fentanyl test strips are considered drug paraphernalia and an Iowa misdemeanor to possess them,” Zabner said. “That stops people from being able to make sure that they’re not accidentally exposing themselves.” 

At 23-years-old, Zabner is one of the youngest members of the Iowa Legislature, but he said he doesn’t let his inexperience effect his passion for helping Iowans. 

“I think it’s nice to have a different perspective.” Zabner said. “Here, there are maybe a couple of Gen Z members of the legislature. It adds a different perspective.” 

Sen. Janice Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City and a former Iowa City City Councilor, said as a Democrat, she is a realist, and she understands that they will need to compromise in committees and subcommittees to benefit Iowans — no matter their party. 

“What I’ve said since I was campaigning is, ‘I need to get to know people,’ their biographies, and get to know where we have points in common,” Weiner said. “So that we can have conversations and I can figure out what someone cares about.”

As a member of the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee, Weiner said she expects support for backfilling the veteran’s fund will be a bipartisan effort this session. 

The new Democratic faces representing Johnson County are all passionate about amplifying progressive voices heard in the statehouse. 

“So, we definitely need to listen to everyone and put all the information together,” Weiner said. 

After multiple attempts, Republican Reps. Heather Hora and Brad Sherman did not respond to interview requests.