By Lori Lindner
SOLON– A record number of Johnson County residents exercised their right to vote last Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The Johnson County Auditor’s office reported 91,383 registered voters in the county for this election, but that’s not a record; there were 92,222 registered to vote in the 2008 presidential election. This year, though, 82.58 percent of the county’s voters cast ballots, or 75,463 voters (compared to 73,231 in 2008).
The high participation failed to turn the tide of the county’s largely Democratic stronghold. Aside from returning Democratic candidates Pat Harney, Terrence Neuzil and Rod Sullivan to their seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, helping to re-elect Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack over Republican challenger John Archer for U.S. representative in Iowa’s Second Congressional District, choosing Democrat Sally Stutsman over Republican Steve Sherman in the newly-formed District 77, and retaining three Democratic incumbents– all unchallenged– in the county’s other state congressional districts, Johnson County voters also re-elected Democrat Lonny Pulkrabek for sheriff and voted in Travis Weipert for Johnson County Auditor, both seats that had no challengers.
The status quo also held in Johnson County in the election between Republican Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton over Democratic challenger Dick Schwab of Solon to represent Iowa House District 73. Locally, Schwab carried Johnson County, with 56.02 percent of 5,339 voters to Kaufmann’s 43.79 percent.
In Solon’s single precinct, Schwab took 709 votes over 443 for Kaufmann. Big Grove Township was a much closer race, with Schwab garnering just seven votes more than Kaufmann, 554 to 547.
However, the constituents in Cedar and Muscatine counties also remained true to their historic voting trends, giving 62.72 percent of the vote to Republican Kaufmann in Cedar County (over Schwab’s 37.10 percent) and choosing Kaufmann 62.62 percent over Schwab’s 37.09 percent in Muscatine County.
“It was very clear Cedar County wanted one of their own, but I was hopeful we could do better than we did (there). I knew we knew we were battling the Kaufmann name, which is well-known and well-respected, and we were fighting that,” Schwab said last Thursday, referring to Kaufmann’s predecessor Jeff Kaufmann– Bobby’s father– who has represented House District 79 since 2004, which encompassed a large portion of Cedar County before the redistricting that went into effect for the 2012 election.
“We knew it would be a hard path to victory, but it was one we took on with great vigor,” Schwab added. While this was the first time he ran for a state-level office, Schwab has served in the elected position of Solon school board member since 1999.
“Running for school board is a much simpler process, and much less expensive,” Schwab said, noting the number of volunteers needed for a successful board campaign is also considerably less. In the race for Iowa House, it takes more of the village, he said.
“I was incredibly impressed and gratified by the support I got throughout the district. People come together and work hard for you and give you money, and they do it because they are engaged in the political process and they’re good citizens. That is so gratifying. I knew that before, but nowhere near the level I came to realize while running for the Iowa House.”
Schwab said he offered a congratulatory phone call to Kaufmann last Tuesday night.
“When I called to congratulate him, he suggested he might call him to ask advice on education issues, and I offered my support,” Schwab said. “I encouraged him to make us proud.”
Kaufmann said he intends to do just that.
“I am not the type of candidate who is only around during an election cycle,” Kaufmann said after the election. In addition to attending as many community events in his district as his schedule will allow, he plans to hold weekend listening posts, send legislative updates to local newspapers and make his contact information publicly available.
“I will ensure my email and cell number are readily accessible to all,” he said. Kaufmann recalled that when he clerked for his father in the state capital, his office could receive as many as 250 phone calls and emails a day. “He responded to every single one, every single day, and I intend to do the same. We also had a regular stream of visitors stopping by. I invite people to call, email and come up to the capital. I want to know what issues people are interested in.”
Meanwhile, he continues to update himself on that very topic.
“I have already received calls from my constituency, folks looking for my help, giving me their viewpoints and sharing their concerns. Between now and the beginning of the legislative session, I will be studying the upcoming agenda, and renewing my focus on what people are interested in. I will completely submerse myself in every issue.”
Kaufmann attributed his victory– and relatively strong showing in Johnson County– to his hard work in door-knocking and his positive campaign focus.
“I am not a partisan flame thrower,” Kaufmann said. “I think people welcomed my bipartisan attitude.”
Kaufmann said he will maintain his bipartisanship when he takes office in January and for the next two years.
“I will always listen to both sides of an issue and try to find common ground, because no political party has a monopoly on good ideas,” he said.
It could be a good strategy for next election, should Kaufmann decide to run again. Though there have been more registered Democrats than Republicans in Johnson County since 1976, such is not the case with independent voters. People registering without party affiliation have outnumbered registrations for both parties in the four presidential elections between 1976 and 1988, and again in the 2000 presidential election.