Just over two years ago, Gabe Swersie picked up the phone to hear an unusual request from his pastor at the Newton Christian Reformed Church. The clergy was asking the Newton Republican to put his hat into the political ring against Democrat Paul Bell. But when Swersie asked how long he had to think and pray about the decision, his pastor said all the paperwork was due within 24 hours.
“He told me I had to have 50 signatures in by 5 o’clock tomorrow,” Swersie said during a phone interview Thursday. “I gathered 100 and got them in on time.”
In an unfortunate turn, Bell died before the two could finish the campaign. Swersie ended up facing Newton Democrat and his former Newton Senior High classmate Dan Kelley for the Iowa House District 29 seat. Swersie lost the 2010 contest, but he once again has put himself on the Republican ticket in 2012 for a rematch that shows stark differences in ideologies and a campaign based on policy debate, not rhetoric.
“I think it was one of the cleanest races I’ve ever seen,” Swersie said of the 2010 election. “I think it’s a point of pride for both of us. That positive relationship remains through today. I saw Dan at Thanks with Franks, and we bantered for a little while. It’s fun. We can be seen in public talking together. We might even set up plans to have dinner after the race is over.”
Although, Kelley said Thursday that he was disappointed in some harsh radio spots ran by the Republican during the 2010 race, both men agree that they have always had positive interaction although they disagree on many policy issues.
Swersie is a self-described social conservative. He said that he supports a constitutional amendment giving Iowans the chance to vote defining marriage in the state as being between a man and woman.
“In Iowa, we have disenfranchised the voters,” Swersie said referring to the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling stating that same-sex marriage was protected under the state constitution’s equal protections clause. “I stand up for Iowans who did not get to vote on marriage. Sitting on the board for the faith-based Pregnancy Center of Iowa, Swersie said he is also staunchly opposed to abortion. The pregnancy education facility located in Newton has come under a great deal of financial stress in recent months, with its director recently telling the Newton Daily News that its funding situation is “do or die.”
But Swersie said he will not pursue state funding if elected, opting to stay with private and business donations to operate the facility. The Republican said he’s concerned that once government funding is in place, stipulations in the form of regulations will hamper the organization’s Christian message.
Swersie said that he and Kelley also have policy disputes on energy and education. Kelley, a stated opponent to nuclear power for safety and environmental reasons, has been cautious of a plan that would have allowed Mid-American Energy to build a reactor in Iowa. Swersie believes that so called “green energy jobs” are failing in Iowa, and thinks nuclear could keeps jobs, including positions requiring higher education, from leaving the state.
“TPI (Composites) and Trinity (Structural Towers), we’d like to see them stay around and grow,” Swersie said of the Newton wind energy component manufacturers. “But we’d like to see them stay profitable and not on the taxpayer’s backs, preferably.”
Swersie said he is against some of the Iowa General Assembly’s early preschool options for kids, stating that he believes children can develop better in the home.
Originally from Ohio and growing up in Denver, Colo., Swersie came to Newton in 1987 during his high school years. He and his wife have five children raised in Newton. Swersie joined the U.S. Naval Reserves after high school so he could “see the world,” he said. He served for six years, serving at an active reserve Naval base in Sioux City which has since closed. Swersie served on a ship’s fire crew while using the Navy’s benefits to receive an education and money for college. But he said his time in the Navy also came from a yearning to serve.
“It was serving my fellow sailors as that point and it’s serving my fellow man at this point,” Swersie said. “I’ve always wanted to serve. From an early age I wanted to be a hero. Every kid wants to grow up and be a policeman or a football player. You don’t get the opportunity every day to do that. (Politics) doesn’t seem heroic in most people’s eyes, but it’s a way to serve.”
To learn more about Swersie and/or his campaign visit www.swersie.com.