At least two candidates will vie for a chance to compete against Republican Zach Nunn in the race to replace retiring incumbent Chaz Allen Iowa Senate District 15.
Democrat Dan Nieland announced Tuesday he’ll challenge Lori Slings at a special party election/convention Wednesday, which will be held at the Jasper County Democratic campaign headquarters on Newton’s downtown square.
Nieland is a familiar foe to Nunn. He ran unsuccessfully in this year’s Iowa House District 30 primary against Kent Balduchi.
Both Slings and Nieland will look to replace Taylor Van De Krol, the former Jasper County Democratic chair who dropped out of the race Aug. 15, only two weeks after receiving the nomination. In a press release, Van De Krol cited “personal reasons” for the move, which has left the Democratic party in disarray. Slings, who finished as the runner-up to Van De Krol in the first special election, said she was disappointed by Van De Krol’s announcement.
“We just lost another month. (I am) just upset, devastated,” Slings said. “My main goal is that we hold the seat for the Democrats, so that just put us back at the start again.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Slings said she decided to run for the seat again because she believes she’s the most electable candidate in the field. A long-serving member of the Southeast Polk School Board of Education, Slings said she has the experience to get the job done.
“I believe I’m the most electable with the short notice. We could pull off a campaign and beat any candidate on the other side of the ticket,” Slings said. “I’ve lived in this community for 46 years and the majority of my adult life has been serving this community.”
When popular incumbent Chaz Allen announced last month he would drop his re-election bid to pursue “business opportunities,” it was the first domino to fall in a race many observers believed would be an easy seat for Democrats to maintain. With Allen out, Republican challenger Tim Shay suddenly withdrew in what he called a “mutual decision” with GOP leadership. Shay left the race to allow a better-funded Republican candidate to compete, which allowed Nunn to drop his bid for Iowa House District 30 to make a run at the Allen’s Senate seat.
Van De Krol’s departure means Democrats find themselves starting over with less than three months to go before the general election. Slings said she isn’t worried about being able to run an effective campaign with such a tight time frame, her biggest challenge so far has been getting on the ballot.
“I am totally committed to holding this seat in the Democratic party. We need this seat, we want this seat and we deserve to represented by a Democrat in the Senate,” Slings said.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Nieland praised Slings, saying SD 15 voters will face a tough choice during Wednesday’s special election. Despite a lean campaign record, Nieland said he’s ready to challenge Nunn. He sees himself as a spiritual successor to Allen, someone who can work across the aisle to connect with voters throughout the district.
“Really, I just think with Chaz Allen stepping out — I don’t know if continuing his politics is the correct term, but I want to continue his views,” Nieland said. “I’d really like to see that seat remain on the Democratic side of aisle.”
Although Nieland may have channeled Allen’s ability to meet voters in the middle, he said he plans to take a harder line on some issues. Criticizing Allen for supporting tax incentives for big businesses, including Facebook’s data center, Nieland said he wants to see more incentives available for small businesses.
“That stuff just doesn’t make sense,” Nieland said.
Nieland, who owns a horse boarding facility near Mitchellville with his wife, also teaches at Des Moines Area Community College. With one foot in the horse barn and another in the classroom, Nieland said he believes he’s got what it takes to help Democrats recapture Allen’s seat. While he’s under no illusion he’ll be able to match Nunn’s fundraising, Nieland said he plans to outwork his opponent.
“I think, one, you’ll never outraise or outspend Nunn in this campaign. He’ll have whatever he wants or needs,” Nieland said. “I think there’s a lot of motivation to keep Nunn from getting elected. You have that backlash against Republicans views and Republican candidates.”
Both candidates vowed to enter Wednesday’s election/convention ready to hit the ground running. With less than three months to go, Nieland and Slings realize the clock is winding down as they attempt to build the momentum to retain the seat for the Democratic Party. In a race full of surprises, Slings said she’s learned to roll with the punches and be ready for anything.
“No, nothing surprises me at all the way this is going,” Slings said. “I’m being flexible and hoping Wednesday I’m ready for the election.”
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org