Two candidates, David Johnson of West Branch and Dick Schwab of rural Solon, are running in the June 5 primary election to represent Democrats for a seat in the redistricted Iowa House District 73.
The candidates each received a questionnaire of identical questions and were asked to respond via email. The questions and their responses appear in their entirety below.
The June 5 primary is an election for federal, state and county offices. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is also early voting available. To view the early voting schedule, visit the auditor’s website at www.johnsoncounty.com/auditor/index.htm  and click on Early Voting Schedule.
Please give a brief overview of your background: your age, where you live, career background, political involvement and experience.
Johnson: Age: 46
Hometown: West Branch.
Family Status: Married to Jennie Embree.
Children: Anneke, Donovan and August.
Employer: University of Iowa Registrar’s Office.
Education: B.A., University of Iowa.
Military: U.S. Army Gulf War Veteran.
Elected Offices: West Branch City Council; UI Staff Council.
Organizations: American Legion, ACLU, AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrar and Admissions Officers).
Schwab: I was born on a family farm in Southern Minnesota and am currently 60 years old. I earned an accounting degree and MBA from the University of Minnesota. Katherine (my wife) and I moved to Solon in 1984. I worked at NCS (now Pearson) until 1999. I redirected to devote full time to being “a builder of people and organizations.”
What motivated you to run for state office?
Johnson: There is no single issue or life experience that motivated me to run for the state house. Rather, it was a culmination of experiences I had while serving in municipal government. During my term as a city councilman, it became quite apparent to me that many of the problems that small communities are facing are issues that must be addressed at the state level. Issues pertaining to TIF abuse, utility regulation, transparency in government and corporate influence in Des Moines, to name a few. Another motivating factor has been the continued attacks on public education that we’ve seen from the Governor and the house Republicans. I simply can’t sit back and do nothing while their agenda involves a destructive zero-percent growth for our public schools. That is simply unacceptable.
Schwab: When I redirected out of NCS, I committed to give back to my community, state and nation in a significant way. I have been on numerous boards and supported many excellent organizations. I have been elected to our local School Board four times. I had contemplated state office several times and believe now is the opportune time.
What personal strengths and experiences do you possess that will enhance your ability to be an effective representative?
Johnson: I believe my time as a city councilman has given me a perspective on governing that needs to be articulated in Des Moines. Far too often legislators buy into a policy without thinking through the ramifications that will be felt by the smaller communities. Issues such as the commercial property tax cuts that were being proposed is a classic example. My greatest strength, however, lies not in experience, but in a belief. I believe that public service is still a noble endeavor, but we need representatives that are willing to fight for what is right, not for what is politically expedient.
Schwab: Both great breadth and depth in my experience.
Twenty-five years of experience at all levels of Education (k-12 and post-secondary).
Thirty-five years of experience in business, both large and small.
I am a successful entrepreneur.
I have served on the boards of a hospital and two banks.
I grew up on a farm and am actively engaged in small farming today.
I am active in land and water stewardship.
What are the top two legislative matters you plan to address once elected to the legislature?
Johnson: My top two legislative priorities are education/jobs and ending corporate welfare. I lump education and jobs together because I believe they are intrinsically connected. Because of our close approximation to the University of Iowa as well as Kirkwood Community College, this relationship between jobs and education is even more apparent than in other parts of the state. Because our colleges and K-12 schools offer employment to so many of our citizens, it is undeniable that investing in education brings immediate returns to our economy as well as to the future of our children. Part of being able to afford investing more in education means austerity measures in other areas. Ending tax breaks for large corporations must be part of the plan. We can no longer afford to subsidize big business, nor is it the role of government to prop up businesses that cannot make a go of it without special tax incentives.
Schwab: Education is 58 percent of our budget. I know much about where we have been and am actively engaged in the initiatives needed to make our education system great again.
I know how to start and grow a business in a way that is good for the owner and the employees.
What do you think are the biggest concerns of the voters of House District 73 specifically?
Johnson: I believe the two greatest concerns for citizens are their economic well-being and the safety of their families. As a working-class citizen and father, these are also my top two concerns. I think it is important to have a representative that IS representative of the people that he or she is serving. Some may refer to this as “class-warfare.” I call it the facts of life.
Schwab: As I knock on doors I hear about many issues. The most frequently cited issues are:
1. Our education system. Keep our schools viable in our small towns and provide excellence at all levels at a reasonable cost.
2. Keep main street in our small towns healthy and vital by growing businesses and jobs in the district.
3. Prevent Republicans from taking away health care and social security benefits for our seniors and disabled citizens.
What can you, as their representative, do to help your constituents deal with those concerns?
Johnson: I will support legislation that helps working class Iowans, because I believe that the best way to aid in the recovery of our economy is to start with getting relief to the middle class. When we have a strong middle class, we have a strong economy. We can start by reviewing our tax code and making it more progressive, so that both poor and working class families are given relief, while at the same time ensuring that the wealthy and corporate entities start paying their fair share of the tax burden.
Schwab: Education: I would make sure we are adequately funded at all levels and ensure that we are innovative and progressive.
Business: I would focus on encouraging entrepreneurs, especially in value-added agriculture.
Health and Human Services: I would strive to protect the benefits we have earned and been promised.
There has been much discussion about the demise of civility in politics. How do you plan to work with others and maneuver through divisive or partisan issues?
Johnson: I think history has shown that politics has always been volatile at times. I think it’s important to remember though, that as bad as the partisanship seems, compared to a lot of governments, we’re pretty darn lucky. Anybody who’s had the experience of serving in any of our recent conflicts knows what I’m talking about. We’ve come a long way from clubbing each other over ideology. That said, I think the answer to less partisanship and more productivity lies in accountability. Accountability for everyone, not just the politicians. We as citizens must hold our representatives accountable. The press must also do their part. When our leaders step out of line, it is up to all of us to call them on it, regardless of what party they’re in or how much we generally support what they’re doing.
Schwab: I would clearly articulate the democratic values that we hold dear. I would then seek to find the common ground we share in education, business, health care, agriculture, etc. I would always be respectful, civil and diplomatic even as I advocate for the best interests of the people of House District 73 and Iowa.
Transparency in government is increasingly demanded by the public; please offer a sentence or two about how you plan to stay in contact with constituents once elected, and how you will ensure transparency in the way you formulate your decisions on future House votes.
Johnson: Transparency has always been very near and dear to me. Just ask any of the city officials I’ve had the pleasure of working with. As a councilman, I was always fighting for more transparency, and at times called on state agencies to help in this endeavor. What I found was a mixture of apathy and ineffectual state agencies that were simply not willing to involve themselves with local governing issues. For this reason, I applaud the creation of a new agency to help guide cities with matters of open government. I believe this is an issue that both sides can agree on.
Schwab: I will maintain a web site and Facebook page. I will also use our local newspapers to publish updates while we are in session. I will also attend the legislative forums organized by the League of Women Voters and Chambers of Commerce. And, I will attend as many meetings and functions that I am invited to as possible.
What do you most want voters to know about you before they go to the polls June 5?
Johnson: If the voters of the 73rd District could only know one thing about me, it would be that when it comes to representation, I am adamant about clean government. By that, I mean that I cannot tolerate elected officials being on the payroll of corporate special interests. I abhor corruption of public officials and will not hesitate to expose it. If we can’t expect our elected officials to act in our best interest, then we need to seriously rethink who we are putting in office. At some point an elected official has to decide whether or not they are going to skirt the laws or help make the laws, but you can’t do both.
Schwab: I am a man of high principles and deep values. I value authenticity, integrity, courage, perseverance, vision, leadership and faith. When I am elected, I will commit my energy, focus and drive to serving the people of House District 73 and the state of Iowa.