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Local

Breckenridge challenging Kelley for Iowa House nomination

NPD lieutenant said he wants to build partnerships

Wes Breckenridge speaks to a gathering of supporters at P.J.’s Deli in Newton on Saturday morning. Breckenridge, a longtime lieutenant with the Newton Police Department and a 2010 contender for the District 29 Iowa House seat, announced at the event he’ll challenge incumbent Rep. Dan Kelley for the Democratic nomination for the seat in 2016.
Wes Breckenridge speaks to a gathering of supporters at P.J.’s Deli in Newton on Saturday morning. Breckenridge, a longtime lieutenant with the Newton Police Department and a 2010 contender for the District 29 Iowa House seat, announced at the event he’ll challenge incumbent Rep. Dan Kelley for the Democratic nomination for the seat in 2016.

In 2010, a lieutenant with the Newton Police Department ran against Dan Kelley for the Democratic nomination for an Iowa legislative seat.

In 2016, it appears that matchup is going to happen again.

Lt. Wes Breckenridge is slated to announce his candidacy for the District 29 Iowa House seat held by Rep. Dan Kelley since 2010. Breckenridge was narrowly defeated by Kelley in a special 2010 Democratic primary.

Breckenridge made his announcement at P.J.’s Deli in Newton on Saturday morning to a gathering of a few dozen supporters. He said serving the public has been a passion of his for the past 22 years throughout his career with NPD.

“The main thing I’d like to see is for all leaders to work together,” Breckenridge told the Newton Daily News in an interview Friday afternoon. “Not only within our parties, but across the aisle, as well. I want to run a positive campaign that’s about the issues and about building relationships. I want to help build partnerships.”

Breckenridge, 47, was recently considered as one of four finalists for the NPD chief position that went to Rob Burdess; both finalists took turns serving as “acting chief” over the summer. Breckenridge wouldn’t say if the selection influenced his decision to make another legislative run, but he did say he has a strong yearning to do more in both his law enforcement and elected-office pursuits.

“NPD gave me the training to possibly become chief, and helping keep the citizens of Newton safe is still a passion of mine,” he said. “I will continue to give the department a 110 percent commitment when I’m on duty. This race gives me the opportunity to serve the community in a larger capacity.”

The regular legislative session typically runs from January through May. State Sen. Steve Sodders (D-State Center) is an example of a state legislator who is simultaneously continuing an active career in law enforcement as a deputy for the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.

Sodders said Breckenridge, if he were to win the nomination and the general election, would have a few options in terms of splitting time between being an NPD lieutenant and legislative work. Iowa Code allows employees to retain their jobs under a leave of absence while serving in a state elected office.

“My first two years (2009 and 2010), I took a complete leave of absence during the session,” Sodders said. “Since then, I’ve been working as a Marshall County Sheriff’s deputy about 10 hours a week — mostly on the weekends.”

Breckenridge, a 1986 graduate of Monroe High School (which has since consolidated with Prairie City), has been married to Kris Breckenridge for 27 years. The Newton couple has two daughters — Kandace, a University of Northern Iowa sophomore, and Whitney, a Newton High School senior — and one son, Jonathan, who just began seventh grade at Berg Middle School.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Upper Iowa University, Breckenridge earned a master’s certificate in criminal justice from the University of Virginia, and is about 12 credit hours away from a master’s degree from American Military University.

He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and he’s an adjunct instructor for DMACC’s Newton campus. In the 2010 primary, Breckenridge was defeated by Kelley by only 206 votes. One of the people who will help run Breckenridge’s 2016 campaign is Carol Kramer, and she was one of the people to speak at PJ’s on Saturday.

At Saturday’s announcement, Breckenridge acknowledged the support of his immediate family, along with his mother, Sue Huetter, who was present, as well as P.J.’s owner Phil Muta. He also introduced and thanked some of the people who have helped with his campaign including Kramer, Laura Engle and Nancy Parrott, though he also said many others were helpful.

Others who attended Saturday’s announcement included elected officials, such as State Sen. Chaz Allen (D-Newton) and Newton Mayor Mike Hansen, along with some Jasper County officials, such as Treasurer Doug Bishop, Auditor Dennis Parrott and Sheriff John Halferty. There were also several people with ties to NPD, such as recently retired former chief Jeff Hoebelheinrich.

“I’m sure Wes and I will have a spirited discussion, just like we’ve had in the previous election, and I’m looking forward to it,” Kelley said in an email. “I’m proud of my progressive record in the Iowa House helping working families and working to make Jasper County a great place to live, work and raise a family. Over the last five years in the House, I have fought for more funding for our local schools, worked to clean up our impaired waterways, and focused on local jobs in Iowa homegrown energy like wind, solar and biofuels.”

Both Kelley and Breckenridge said they’re open to discussing any issue with any District 29 resident.

“Primary or no primary, I’m working to make Jasper county the best place in Iowa to work live and raise a family,” Kelley said. “It comes with schools, jobs, as well as by protecting our natural resources.”

Kramer told the crowd at PJ’s that she got to know Breckenridge during the 2010 campaign, which was an abbreviated race that lasted less than two months after the death of longtime assemblyman Paul Bell. Breckenridge continued to serve as a caucus organizer and in aiding the county’s central committee.

“One thing we should remember is that even though he didn’t win, Wes did not leave us,” Kramer said. “He stayed with us, because he believed in the issues of the Democratic party.”

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com

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