Living in Society

Political Landscape

Ben Keiffer (L) and Dr. Christopher Peters chatting at Pints and Politics event, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018

I hope the procession of deaths of friends and acquaintances will give it a rest for a while. I need to think about other things, namely gardening, cooking, writing, reading, and to some extent, politics. That last one sticks in my craw.

My new process of saving political newsletters to read over each weekend is working well to offload worries about political life. Better to save them and review all at once, I thought. The decision made me more productive during the week. I can see which elected officials are doing the work and which are phoning it in.

One newsletter stands out. Brad Sherman, my representative’s newsletter, sent from his campaign website. Sherman is a fringe member of political society. As a preacher, he is also on the fringe of nondenominational congregations. I compare him to other Republicans I’ve known and he doesn’t seem to work at getting to know constituents except those that produce a vote for him. Not only is Sherman on the fringe, he is plain weird. I gain insight into the weird at the expense of foregoing my priorities for state government. It is an unsavory dish to swallow.

Sherman won the election fair and square, even beating the Democrat in typically liberal Johnson County. We’re stuck with him until 2024, although depressed voter turnout and lack of interest in politics may be his ticket to reelection.

What don’t I like about him? In his last newsletter he wrote,

It has become obvious, for anyone who is not under the spell of the corrupt mainstream media, that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Election fraud is now out in the open and it is time for it to be dealt with. And if the 2020 election was fraudulent, then Donald Trump is the rightful president, and we must insist that this gets fixed!

Brad Sherman legislative newsletter, April 6, 2023

It is tedious to mention Joe Biden won the 2020 general election for president the same way Sherman did, fair and square. I won’t be taking that up with him as he is off in the deep end. I don’t want to get dragged down with him as I have gardening and other things to do, as mentioned. Whether electing a Democrat in this district is possible is an open question. My sense is few people are paying attention to politics these days.

Iowa Democrats are in transition, as is the entirety of the state.

Much has been made this news cycle of the 565,000 registered Iowa voters who didn’t vote in the 2022 midterm elections. Secretary of State Paul Pate is sending letters to them all to receive confirmation they want to remain on the rolls. No response, you are purged in 2026. Yes Republicans are working to purge voters from the rolls. My comment is a little different. Did Democrats really leave 565,000 votes on the table in 2022? I believe Obama 2008 would never have left that many fish in the pond. My take is sloth set in.

Democrats have a lot of plans, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Centralized thinking about winning elections hasn’t worked for a long time, likely since the big wins in 2006 when the electorate decided they’d had it with George W. Bush and Republicans more generally. The worm has turned now.

My experience during the 2022 cycle was there were very few active Democrats in the nine Johnson County precincts in House District 91. Most have trouble filling two seats on the county central committee, let alone doing much during GOTV in the run up to the election. Partly, this is apathy, but partly the Democratic Party. More than apathy, Democrats have lost the relevance of which they are continuously reminding us. Other factors play more important roles in people’s lives. Politics is not high on the list of what is important.

Iowans are amenable to collective thought, and that serves Republicans. Farmers alone have to listen to bankers, equipment dealers, chemical companies, seed companies, and people who make a market in the commodities they grow. Without being collective farms, farmers act like them voluntarily because it serves their best interests to conform to the demands of people and organizations they rely upon. Evidence of the success of our form of agriculture is that millions of people haven’t died of hunger as they did in the hey day of collective farms in the Soviet Union.

It’s been a couple days since one of my friends and acquaintances died. Let’s see if we can go a few weeks before there is another. In the meanwhile, I’m keeping politics on the back burner.

Living in Society

Responding to the Fringe

Woman Writing Letter

This is a reply to a letter of support for Brad Sherman in this week’s The Hometown Current. He is running against Elle Wyant in the Iowa House District 91 open seat.

Response to Kesterson Letter

I read with interest Kris Kesterson’s letter to the editor of The Hometown Current titled, “Brad Sherman – a true patriot.” Why doesn’t the author explain why he is a patriot instead of listing assertions that have long been discredited?

In a free country, Kesterson is entitled to her opinion. I hope there are additional letters in the newspaper laying out the reasons to support him or Elle Wyant, the Democratic candidate for House District 91.

What I see in this letter is a litany of radical, right-wing talking points. If Sherman believes or supports these things, he lies on the fringe of our society. Wyant would be the better legislator for her ability to represent all Iowans and bring focus to what’s most important: education, economic development, and equity.

As it stands, the letter informs us the candidate holds radical, fringe positions which have no place in the Iowa state house.

Living in Society

Vote For the Sensible Candidate in Iowa House District 91

As the fall campaign approaches, supporters of Elle Wyant, Democrat for Iowa House District 91, are in the local newspapers with letters of support. Here are two examples from this week’s publications.

Vote Wyant for District 91

At the May 12, 2022 League of Women Voters District 91 Candidate Forum, Brad Sherman said the “green movement” is fueled by socialism, and he said, “One of these days the plants are going to rise up and say they don’t have any carbon dioxide to breathe. Then it will all go the other way.” His comments show an arrogant and dismissive attitude toward the real dangers of climate change and toward science in general. Vote for Elle Wyant if you want legislation based on scientific reality instead of extreme ideology.

Glenn Goetz, Amana, Iowa County Democrats

~ Published online in the Marengo Pioneer Republican, Aug. 23, 2022

Wyant vs. Sherman: sensible vs. extreme

Iowa County is peppered with yard signs that say “Brad Sherman Freedom.” Sherman’s Libations for Liberty support this quote from Benjamin Rush: “A simple democracy… is one of the greatest evils.”

Sherman signed a resolution stating there was widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election (there was not). Sherman is angry that Trump was unable to overturn a free and fair election to stay in power. He is against democracy. He wants to keep Trump in power against the will of the voters. How can he claim to be a champion of freedom? Is this the person we want to represent us?

Elle Wyant is running on a platform that includes education, economic development and equity. She has the sensibility that comes from being part of a fifth generation Iowa County farm family. Vote for Elle Wyant, Democratic candidate for House District 91.

Betty Stiefel, Victor, Iowa Count Democrats.

~ Published in the print edition of the Williamsburg Journal Tribune, Aug. 24, 2022

Living in Society

Are Pollsters Also Trolls?

Newport Precinct Polling Place, Nov. 3, 2010.

These days it is a debate whether to answer the telephone when an unknown number rings. Monday I picked up a phone call from the 641 area code, which runs from Ottumwa to Mason City. It was a pollster administering poll number 19985 IAHD091. How do I know that code? The text message the firm sent me 15 minutes after I completed the telephone interview led to a Survey Monkey poll with that number as the header. It was the Republicans calling about House District 91.

I’m still curious about local politics, and the kind of questions asked during a telephone poll can be revealing of the funder’s tactics. I felt like a miner striking pay dirt during the 1849 California Gold Rush.

It is common practice for Iowa House Republicans to poll a number of districts in late summer of an election year, usually at least 10-15 districts, according to a person familiar with the practice. House District 91 is an open seat after redistricting and leans Republican. Iowa Republicans follow a well-developed and targeted playbook to maintain their majority in the state house. They don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to picking up an open seat, so putting a poll in the field is an inexpensive investment.

The telephone survey seemed different from the online survey sent via text message, although they were likely the same questions asked differently. The main give-away that the poll was from the Republicans was the issue list I had to use to decide which would be most important in deciding my vote for state government: the Second Amendment and gun rights; border security; public school education; pro-life and family values; inflation and the cost of living; gun control measures; crime and public safety; women’s reproductive rights; government spending; and healthcare. Some of these are written in dog-whistle language understood without an interpreter only by Republicans who speak it. I picked public school education because of these so-called issues it is the one that garners the largest part of the state budget.

The survey began by asking how I would vote (probably in-person at the polls on election day), whether Iowa was on the right or wrong track (mostly the wrong track), and if I would vote Republican or Democratic for Congress (definitely Democratic), the pollster name-checked, in this order, Elle Wyant (they pronounced Elle with two syllables rather than the normal single one), Joe Biden, Brad Sherman and Kim Reynolds.

I strongly support Deidre DeJear for governor and Elle Wyant for state representative. I voted for Joe Biden in 2020 rather than that other guy, I told the pollster. I thought they snickered after saying I think of myself as independent. We got back on track when I characterized my views toward politics and government as somewhat liberal.

Whoever this person with a strong non-Midwestern accent was, they were likely doing a job for which they needed the compensation. I doubt they were represented by a union. I’m more curious about how they got my name and phone number, although the Republican voter tracking software is legendary for aggregating information from multiple sources.

My takeaways? The pollster was not trolling me. Republicans have a well-oiled machine that will tell them where their problems lie in winning House District 91. They will adjust their plan accordingly after reviewing the poll results. They are a serious, formidable opponent, even if their candidate is a fringe preacher in a non-denominational Christian church who puts his campaign barn sign on the Interstate next to those supporting the 2020 Republican candidate for president. Yes, one is still there.

When I was campaign manager for a Democratic house candidate in 2012, the state party did a district poll. The call I got after they read it was something like, “spend all your time in the non-Johnson County parts of the district.” It wasn’t specific guidance nor was it particularly helpful as while we abandoned liberal parts of the district, the Republican made inroads there. He won enough votes to put him over the top during the general election.

Polls are another piece of information about the competitive environment in a house race. I welcomed the chance to participate for the information it gave me. Will they count my results twice, since I answered via telephone and via Survey Monkey? Probably not. Can Elle Wyant win as state representative? I hope so.

There are 84 days until the polls close on election day.

Living in Society

Framing House District 91

Voting by mail.

On June 8, Cleo Krejci of the Iowa City Press Citizen wrote the following headline for an article about an election for state representative, “In Iowa’s new House District 91, voters to choose between conservative pastor and LGBTQ activist.”

While the headline may be true, to frame the race like this is awful and wrong. Krejci wrote:

Come Nov. 8, voters in Iowa’s new House District 91 will have the choice of two starkly opposing candidates: Republican Brad Sherman, a conservative Christian pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, and Democrat Elle Wyant, a transgender woman and LGBTQ activist.

Iowa City Press Citizen, June 8, 2022.

The contrast in this framing is easy for a journalist, misses a lot of what each candidate is about, and does a disservice to voters in the district.

The candidates are different. Sherman is from the party where controversial issues at the heart of his campaign are reduced to talking points, the meaning of which can be understood only if one knows how to interpret dog-whistle. According to a June 2 newspaper advertisement, Sherman stands for life, the second amendment, traditional family, state rights and energy independence, among others. Allow me to interpret: extremist anti-abortion, pro-gun ownership with minimal restrictions, anti LGBTQ+, especially anti-trans gender, don’t be making any federal laws with which he disagrees, and pro-fossil fuels extraction and exploitation over other forms of energy. Sherman is in the mainstream of the evangelical movement that brought us the 45th president. The best evidence of this is the endorsement he received from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a prominent Southern Baptist turned evangelical politician.

The mission of the church where Sherman is pastor “is to make preparations for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.” Sherman believes the purpose of government is to protect God-given rights. His non-denominational church is tucked away between a couple of Coralville restaurants. Being a pastor there is much different from being a pastor at a United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian or other mainstream Protestant church, not to mention how different it is from Catholics, Jews and Muslims. From the git-go, Sherman is on the fringe.

Elle Wyant has a more specific agenda designed to serve the needs of everyone in the district. Wyant’s “Three Es” agenda doesn’t require any interpretation: education, economic development, and equity. These are topics the Iowa government addresses during each General Assembly and she’s ready to serve the needs of all constituents. In addition, Wyant has actually done things besides politics in broader society: 19 years working as a sales executive for a Fortune 50 company and five years as a row-crop farmer. Wyant seeks to fight for her community and be a voice for those left behind at the statehouse. As an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, she knows what that means.

By now, voters in House District 91 may have forgotten sensationalized framing of the contest by the Iowa City Press Citizen. According to Pew Research, the economy was the top issue for voters during the 2020 general election. Wyant is positioned to address economic development while avoiding the noise of culture wars propagated by her opponent. Framing isn’t everything. It is a construct lying outside a campaign.

When we contrast what the candidates stand for, Sherman stands for the worst aspects of Iowa Republican policies. Elle Wyant stands for all of us. The choice is clear.

Living in Society

Democrat Elle Wyant is Running for Iowa House District 91

Elle Wyant


Elle Wyant
Elle for Iowa


Marengo, IA — LGBTQ+ activist Elle Wyant announced her campaign for the Iowa House of Representatives today in House District 91, representing both Iowa County and the northwest portions of Johnson County.

“I’m proud to announce my campaign for the Iowa House in House District 91,” said Wyant. “Like many Iowans, I’m tired of our politics getting in the way of our progress. It’s time to open back up the dialogue. If you have an open ear, come with an open mind. I’m ready to run a campaign for all Iowans.” 

Wyant was raised in Marengo and attended Iowa State University, graduating with a communications degree. She is a born and raised farm girl, who previously managed 160-400 acre farms consisting of grain crops such as corn and soybeans in Marengo. Her family owns two Iowa wineries– Ackerman Wine in the Amana Colonies and Fireside Wine in Marengo. Professionally, Wyant has spent almost two decades as an account executive with UPS where she also served as chairwoman of the company’s LGBTQ Business Resource Group. She currently works in Air Cargo Sales at UPS Airlines.

“I’m running because I believe in equity for all, not for some,” added Wyant. “I believe in equity in our schools by funding them fully, in our economy by championing a fair tax plan that gives Iowa families a fair shot, and by living up our reputation for being ‘Iowa Nice’ by building communities where everyone has the space to be fearlessly authentic.” 

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Wyant is passionate about giving a voice to Iowa’s LGBTQ+ youth. Along with advocacy in her own community, Wyant is currently on the Board of Directors with OneIowa. She is the proud parent of two daughters, an aviation enthusiast, and foodie.


Learn more about Elle and her campaign at Follow her on social media at and