In 1989, Dan Kelley began his foray into politics as senior class president at Newton Senior High School. But in 2010, the untimely death of Newton Democrat Paul Bell caused Kelley to step up from his leadership role in the Jasper County Democratic Party onto the ballot for the District 29 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Now, after his first term, Kelley once again will be facing Newton Republican Gabe Swersie for the chance to represent Jasper County in Des Moines. The local real estate agent and DJ service owner said he is focused on promoting “the industries that have chosen to make Jasper County their homes,” which include wind energy and bio diesel companies, and bringing new jobs and industries to the county.
“The challenge is to better local economic development,” he said. “The unemployment rate is improving, but it’s time to bring more jobs to Jasper County.”
If re-elected, Kelley said he hopes to be placed on the House Commerce and Economic Development Committees, adding to a list of committee assignments he currently holds.
Kelley said he tried to work with Gov. Terry Branstad during an effort in 2012 to reform Iowa’s educational system. He was pleased to see that education gained prominent attention with a forum featuring a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan.
“I did my best to work with members of both parties on education,” Kelley said. “We need to really focus on making kids our top priority and supporting educators. Things get bogged down in politics, and legislators often lose sight that their decisions are about making an impact.”
Serving on the Environmental Protection, Agricultural and Natural Resources Committees, Kelley said that it’s important for Iowans to find a way to grow the economy and make it ecologically sustainable. He believes “perhaps no state relies on land production and its resources as much as Iowa, and we sell to the world.”
As a member of the House Administration and Regulations Budget Committee, Kelley said he is proud that he fought to stop cuts to Iowa drug enforcement divisions, including the M.I.N.E. Drug Task Force. The House and Senate leaderships were in agreement and ready to pass the cuts, but Kelley and a group of bipartisan legislators were able to sway the Democratic caucus to vote against the cuts and keep funding for the programs.
“I think this office deserves our support because it’s one of the best tools rural communities have in drug enforcement and education efforts,” Kelley said. “I worked with local law enforcement to support the task force, and I’m proud of the work we did to support the office. But I also expect results from the local level. We’re not just going to spend money on an office to feel good. We need to be clear with law enforcement that we need to have a balanced approach in both enforcement and education.”
Kelley said he is particularly proud of being named as a ranking member of the House Ethics Committee during his freshman term. The committee saw four high-profile cases during Kelley’s first term including accusations against House Majority leader Linda Upmeyer, alleging she violated rules that prohibit serving lawmakers from lobbying activities. Kelley said that the bipartisan efforts on the committee show his commitment to working across the aisle.
“It’s a committee where you must work with counterparts in the other party,” he said. “And I hold myself and other members (of the committee) accountable.”
Kelley hopes to lead a movement in the Ethics Committee, if reelected, reforming rules that he believes to be antiquated. Kelley’s bipartisan efforts while in the Iowa House have been recognized on a state and national level. Recognized as one of 14 house members as “champion of renewable fuels” by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the Newton Democrat said he’s in regular close communication with REG Newton, TPI Composites and Trinity Structural Towers and is a supporter of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit currently stalled in the U.S. Congress.
He has been accepted to the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership and into the Henry Toll Fellowship Program for focusing on bipartisan cooperation in Iowa’s General Assembly.
As for Swersie, Kelley said that he is committed to “running for the office and not against his opponent.” Kelley said that he and Swersie maintain a friendly relationship, although he is still disappointed in what he considered “divisive radio ads” the Newton Republican ran against Kelley in the 2010 race. The Democratic incumbent said he will always run a positive campaign.
“I am proud that I did not go back on my word to run a positive campaign,” Kelley said. “I know (Swersie) has strong beliefs and we share a concern for the district, but I did not participate in divisive social politics. If I get the opportunity to return it will put me in an excellent position to continue to work hard in the legislature. I work very hard at this job and I work to meet the needs of my constituents to put their concerns into action.”
To learn more about Kelley and his campaign visit www.electkelly.com.