Living in Society

Day in the Life of a Political Junkie

Senate District 37 Candidates, Coralville, Iowa. April 9, 2018

Politics embraces the idea elected officials have term limits and the electorate gets a chance to accept or reject what they have done in office. That’s basic, and not saying much if it’s all we have.

I managed to avoid retirement life by attending political events yesterday. Countless conversations and eight hours invested by the time I got home, I’m not sure I’m any wiser.

When State Senator Bob Dvorsky announced his retirement he did it long enough in advance for a field of potential Democratic successors to file for election to replace him. We saw them together for the first time yesterday afternoon.

At the Senate District 37 candidate forum in Coralville, Eric Dirth, Imad Youssif, Zach Wahls and Janice Weiner created a dialogue that was informative and wide-ranging. As usual, the Johnson County Task Force on Aging arranged an event that enabled candidates to showcase their positions, personality and public speaking ability. All four candidates demonstrated a reasonable command of the issues in this race. There will be at least two more forums before the June 5 primary election. I’m voting for Wahls.

Three Democrats are vying for two seats on the Johnson County board of supervisors. Mike Carberry, Pat Heiden and Janelle Rettig filed nominating papers and will be on the ballot. When I dropped off some extra garden seeds to my friend John Deeth at the auditor’s office yesterday, he said early voting begins Monday, May 7.

One of my picks in the county supervisor race is incumbent Janelle Rettig who I got to know when she first ran eight years ago. She has a pistol of a personality and a bullet-point approach to her life as a politician. She’s been known to take aim at injustice in the county. As a journeyman datahead, I appreciate that and have supported her since the beginning.

I’ve known Mike Carberry longer through our mutual association with Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility. We got to know each other in our work to stop coal-fired power plants in Waterloo and Marshalltown, and then worked together when MidAmerican Energy proposed a bill in the Iowa Legislature to have legislators approve a process for a new nuclear power plant. We were successful in stemming the tide on those bad ideas. I haven’t given Mike the nod at this time and am in no hurry to decide my second primary vote.

Supervisor candidate Pat Heiden has not previously served in public office. I’ve known her only since she retired from her career at Oaknoll Retirement Residence where she was executive director for 21 years. She’s positive and talented. What I noticed about her at most events we both attended is she is continuously meeting people, handing out business cards, and talking about issues. She seems a natural politician. I haven’t given her the nod either.

Since the filing period for the supervisor election closed, I’ve discussed the race with numerous Democratic primary voters. It’s surprising to me how much dissatisfaction there is with the current board. Most with whom I spoke were voting for Pat Heiden, many bullet voting. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone and haven’t been paying the supervisors much attention. What happened?

There have long been people I know who don’t think much of what the county supervisors are doing. The dissatisfaction I’m hearing now is different from that and more widespread. The reason I gave hours of my life to a county Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last night was in an effort to understand what’s going on. I’m not there yet, but from that meeting, and my conversations with voters, the supervisors appear to have a wicked problem. It’s called process. Boring? Yes. Voters don’t pay much attention to process unless it spills over into their lives, and that’s what appears to be happening and in turn driving negativity.

There’s more to do to understand this, and I expect another post, maybe two, once I’ve spent more time on it.

For now, I’m going to finish a shift at my desk and get outside to begin garden preparation a couple hours after daylight. I’m also going to quit reading the book Unbelievable by Katy Tur. It reads like eating political cotton candy and I’m pretty sure it’s not good for me. It’s been another day in the life of a recovering political junkie.