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Letters to the Editor

The value of non-partisan local elections

Until recently in Iowa, our state was hailed nationally as having some of the best non-partisan elections, non-partisan redistricting and non-partisan requirements for candidates running for local office.

In our 2019 local elections, partisan Democrat and Republican entities took an absurdly self-serving role to inject their partisanship into non-partisan elections: city councils, school boards, local trustees. They aimed to break our non-partisan tradition and engaged in fiery DC-style political attacks, demanded party allegiance from independent candidates and threw massive amounts of money and political machinery into making our hometowns and schools subsidiaries of national political parties.

Partisans claim this is a “victory” for their party. They demand future candidates must register with their party — or be targeted in the next election. Cities, boards and schools will have to define themselves no longer as non-partisan servants to the community, but as “Red” or “Blue” — and they will be expected to vote accordingly.

This is not to say there is no room for differences of opinion in local elections; it is to say local issues of fixing pot holes and teaching our kids should not be subject to the binary framework of Republican and Democrat politics.

The Hill reports that 83 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of all Americans surveyed say they are somewhat or very concerned by divisions between the two parties. Seventy-three percent of Americans said the two parties cannot agree on basic facts either.

Maybe at some point in the future, we can repair the parties’ reputations and make them socially healthier mechanisms for conducting politics.

For now, we must not allow any party to continue this trend, as its consequences on the vitality of Iowa communities will be anything but desirable.

That is why I am introducing legislation, Senate File 207, to prohibit the partisan political apparatus from spending money in any non-partisan county, city or school board election.

If SF207 becomes law, candidates for every office can continue to run their campaigns focused on their community. Candidates, neighbors, supporters, friends, families and non-political-party organizations will be unphased, able to spend and talk and shout and write however they feel best represents their views. Partisan politics cannot hijack this well-proven process.

This legislation upholds the best-practices and spirit of Iowa.

Senator Zach Nunn

District 15 (Polk and Jasper County)

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