By Natalie Dunlap, The Daily Iowan
In a conversation with University of Iowa students, Deidre DeJear, a small business owner and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, laid out a campaign prioritizing access to mental health, addressing the worker shortage, and keeping students in Iowa.
DeJear spoke to roughly 40 attendants at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday night in a visit hosted by University of Iowa Democrats.
“Our students are our future. Unfortunately in this state, our students are leaving, vowing never to come back. How many of you are on that bus?” DeJear said, resulting in a dozen students raising their hands.
In an interview with The Daily Iowan following the event, DeJear said the state must be a welcoming place to all, not just a select few, to maintain its young population.
“These kids were born in this state and it’s important that they have an opportunity to stay in their home where they want to,” she said. “We don’t need them going to other states when they can add incredible value here and grow their families here.”
In 2018 DeJear won the Democratic party nomination for secretary of state, becoming the first Black candidate to receive the party nomination for a statewide office in Iowa. DeJear pointed to her nomination, as well as Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage and desegreating schools before the rest of the nation, as examples of the state’s progressive values.
“Iowa has been a leader, yet now we’re taking steps backwards,” DeJear said.
DeJear said the $1,000 bonuses Gov. Kim Reynolds outlined in her Condition of the State address earlier this month for health care workers and educators are not sufficient.
“Our teachers are leaving the state, going to Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska because they can’t get paid their value and/or we have a governor and some leaders that are making them the number one enemy right now,” she said.
DeJear also critiqued Reynolds’ emphasis on tax cuts in her Condition of the State address, saying officials owe it to the state to fully invest in childcare and health care.
Reynolds and Republicans in the Legislature are looking to lower the state’s income taxes again this year, hoping to eventually introduce a flat tax rate.
She said ensuring the state has more mental health access centers would be a priority as governor, since Iowans are waiting months to see providers, DeJear said.
“We see our children and our parents and our workers, our farmers, our small business owners, our nurses, all types of folks needing access to mental health care services,” DeJear said. “They needed it before the pandemic. We needed it before the pandemic. Now that the pandemic has done its thing, it’s paid its toll on us folks.”
DeJear is aiming to unseat Republican incumbent Reynolds, who reported raising $3.8 million in campaign funds last year, more than 10 times the amount DeJear has raised. On Wednesday, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a project of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, changed its prediction for Iowa’s gubernatorial race from “Likely Republican” to “Safe Republican.”
“My opponent is going to be really hard to beat, but we can do hard things,” DeJear told students, citing former President Barack Obama’s historic success in the Iowa caucuses.
DeJear told the DI speaking with students is empowering.
“People showing up, especially considering the climate that we’re in right now is just a strong indicator that folks aren’t giving up, and that they still believe in what the state can do,” she said.
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