Dysart voters got the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with not just one, but rather a full slate of candidates - four, to be exact - last Wednesday night.
Republican candidates for state and national races were on hand for the GOP Meet the Candidates Night at the shelter house in Dysart City Park, and based on the turnout, have a good election ahead of them. Over 45 people packed into the tiny structure, gathering to meet, listen to, and ask questions of the candidates.
On hand were: Dennis Kucera (R-Traer) seeking re-election as Tama County Sheriff; Dean Fisher (R-Garwin), running for the Iowa House of Representatives District 72 seat; Jane Jech (R-Marshalltown) seeking the Iowa State Senate District 36 seat; and Ben Lange (R-Independence), challenging Bruce Braley for the U.S. House of Representatives 1st District slot.
Republican candidates met with over 45 voters in last week’s “GOP Meet the Candidates Night” at the Dysart City Park shelter house. Four candidates were on hand, including Jane Jech (R-Marshalltown), who is seeking the Iowa State Senate District 36 seat current held by Steve Sodders (D-State Center). Jech (pictured above) focused on her experience in education. Ben Lange (R-Independence) also spoke to voters and pleaded with them for support in his close race against incumbent Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) for the U.S. House of Representatives 1st District seat.
Longtime Dysart resident Al Schafbuch served as MC for the event, and after ushering everyone in, spoke on the need for new representatives, which voters will certainly get the chance to elect - three of the four candidates would all be first-time elected officials.
Sheriff Kucera opened the evening's platform by discussing some of the things he's done, and plans to continue doing, if re-elected. Among the issues Kucera brought up was the accountability to county residents and the hard work the department has done with limited resources. The Sheriff's Office operates on a budget in the neighborhood of around $2 million per year.
"We serve nine communities across the county, and there isn't anything we have that we don't work for," Kucera said. "It's your tax dollars, it's your money, and we take that seriously."
One of the distinctions Kucera drew between himself and opponent Brian Ellenbecker (D-Toledo) is the focus on using the available resources for things that benefit the county as a whole, as opposed to specific interests.
"I'm being challenged on the patrol services we provide," Kucera said. "He [Ellenbecker] says we need an animal control unit. If we're going to use those resources, I think we need more bed space for prisoners, not stray animals."
Following a few good-natured questions from the audience, including a reference to scheduling and the relationship between Kucera and his deputy (Ellenbecker), Dean Fisher was introduced.
Fisher, who is familiar to voters across the county, has been campaigning since June 2011 and has continued promoting his view of smaller government, lower taxes and descreased regulation.
Fisher acknowledged that while the unemployment rate in Iowa has been significantly below the national average, there is always room for improvement.
"I want to reverse the trend of job destruction here in Iowa," Fisher said. "We're doing better than a lot of states, but we can still do a whole lot better."
Jane Jech, who has been working hard to get name recognition since winning her primary in a tight-fought battle, took time to address one of her key issues: education.
Jech, who taught music to elementary students for three years and currently serves as a substitute teacher in Marshalltown, sees her experience in the field at critical to the mission of restoring Iowa's educational system.
"I've lived in Marshalltown for 34 years, and am a substitute teacher," Jech said. "I've seen that we need local control of decisions in our schools."
Jech pointed to the example of Texas as being a state where the Constitution is being put back into the curriculum, a question that originated from an audience member. Jech also maintained that more money doesn't always equal results when it comes to achievement in the classroom.
"There is a not always a positive correlation between more money and higher test scores," Jech said. "I want to support our schools, but we also have to have accountability."
Organizers saved perhaps the most significant candidate - at least on a national scale - for last. Ben Lange is running against incumbent Democrat Bruce Braley for the 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which covers most of northeastern Iowa. The district now includes Tama County, along with larger metro areas like Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Lange lost to Braley by less than two percentage points in the last election, something he sees as surmountable this time around.
One of the important promises Lange has made is the idea of having his positions down on paper so voters can hold him accountable, something he says Braley has failed to do.
"Before 2010, I was in your seat and just as jaded as you all are," Lange said. "So we put together a compact in writing, which you can look at four, six, eight months from now and hold me to it."
Lange's focus, as it was in 2010, is the reigning in of federal spending.
"Every year that goes by, we're adding $1 trillion to the deficit," Lange said. "And that is one thing I will absolutely not do is be a part of the problem of adding to the national deficit."
"I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do," Lange said. "I will not run from the tough problems our country faces."
Audience members had the chance to ask questions of Lange, and everything from Medicare to the renewal of the Patriot Act was up for discussion. Following the Q&A, the candidates met individually with voters, shaking hands and encouraging them to get out and make their voices heard on November 6.
Dysart residents had a unique opportunity to hear the other side of the issue just a week later when the Democrats came to town on Thursday, September 27. That event took place after this printing, and will be covered in next week's Star-Clipper.