By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News
With Rep. Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) vacating his seat at the end of the year, Republican challengers for the District 84 seat met for a candidate forum on Saturday, May 12. The forum, held at the Mt. Pleasant Golf and Country Club, was hosted by Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR), an organization founded in 1978 with the goal of decreasing government spending in order to increase economic growth. ITR president, Chris Ingstad, opened the forum by inviting each of the candidates to introduce themselves.
Joe Mitchell, from Wayland, is a WACO high school graduate and current student at Drake University in Des Moines. He will graduate this Dec. with a degree in business administration. He graduated high school a semester early and entered the page program in the capitol. ?After being in the capitol for the past four years, I?ve seen Rep. Heaton fight for the people of Southeast Iowa and it really inspired me to run.?
Sheila Matheney is a Missouri native, but Mt. Pleasant resident for the past 16 years. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia and earned a bachelor?s and master?s degree in health science. Together with her husband, Ryan, the Matheney?s own and operate Arbor Court, The Willows and Arbor Village. They employ over 85 people, mostly in the district.
?I think this district has been really lucky,? she said, explaining that Rep. Heaton has carried the district with respect and with the people in mind over the last 20 years. ?I think that I am somebody that can carry that forward.?
Trevor Lynn, from Brighton, is a former WACO high school classmate of Mitchell and current student at Iowa State University, studying political science. Currently, he is the secretary of the Washington County Central Republican Committee. Additionally, he serves on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council (JJAC), a group comprised of individuals appointed by the governor to oversee Iowa?s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act. His goal, should he be elected, is to improve the state for the betterment of the future. ?I want to create a better state to pass onto the next generation,? he said.
Martin Amos is a fifth-generation Iowan who grew up in Mt. Pleasant and attended the community schools. He earned his bachelor?s degree in restaurant management from Iowa State University and moved to Dallas, Texas to begin his career. Amos has dealt with issues like taxation and transportation in his time as a small-business owner and feels he has the knowledge to help the district become more independent. He has funded his own retirement and currently owns his own transportation business. ?I?m pretty much doing it without government assistance,? he said.
The forum opened with policy questions regarding the ICE raids which Mt. Pleasant experienced last week. The opening question was regarding the anti-sanctuary city bill that was passed and asked for each candidate?s view.
Amos explained he supported the state?s decision because to do otherwise would be unlawful, in his opinion. ?Immigration is a federal issue and so the state had to pass a law banning sanctuary cities because that would put our state and cities in jeopardy,? he explained.
Matheney echoed his sentiments by explaining that the raids have deeply effected the community. ?I think there?s a lot of people in Mt. Pleasant that have a lot of compassion for what happened this week,? she said. ?I think it?s unfortunate that the federal government has not done its job in securing our borders.?
Because education spending is the largest part of the state budget, the candidates were asked to provide their opinions on how legislation could help improve K-12 education.
Matheney responded by saying she was surprised to learn of the gap in funding in K-12 education in comparison to higher education. She feels the budget on higher education needs to be reduced and public schools need to be funded at a stronger pace in order to put more focus on elementary learning. ?The funding of that is a priority,? she explained.
Amos took a different view, by explaining his support for private education. He explained that teachers are constantly asking for more funding then promising different results in the classrooms. ?I know the citizens here would be very generous in supporting results of better education,? he said.
Mitchell, however, believes funding for public education should be a number one priority, expecially in rural Iowa. ?I think we need to focus on making sure our rural schools are funded,? he said.
Lynn agreed with this statement by saying he felt tax dollars should be spent on funding public schools in order to help them become more innovative and offer a wider selection of classes for students.
The candidates closed the forum by explaining the issue most important to them and one issue they would not falter their opinion on.
?My number one priority on the legislation is to make sure we?re passing bills for rural Iowans,? Mitchell said. ?I?m rural Iowa first.? Abortion is an issue he promises not to falter on and said, ?All lives are precious and I want to make sure we are protecting our babies.?
Matheney agreed with his stance on abortion by saying, ?I understand that this issue brings a lot of passion on both sides, but for me it?s a moral belief.? Her main concern as a representative is health care. ?I think there?s a lot of bipartisan support that could come together,? she said. ?The privatization system can be fixed.?
Lynn explained that representing the disctict was his first and foremost goal with juvenile justice reform following close behind. ?That needs to have some serious thought and action,? he said. Lynn then promised to fight for second amendment rights explaining, ?If you want to take one thing away forum this today, remember I?m pro-gun and anti-abortion.?
Amos closed the session by agreeing with the anti-abortion sentiments of his rivals and promising that reducing taxes was his number one goal. ?I will not, no matter what, raise any taxes,? he vowed.
The Iowa primary elections will take place on June 5.