CLEAR LAKE, Iowa-- When House Speaker Linda Upmeyer announced she was leaving the legislature last September, it threw Republican leadership into disarray. Who would take the gavel from the long-serving Republican leader? Closer to home, though, the question is who will succeed Upmeyer in representing Iowa's 54th representative district?
KIMT News 3 spoke to all three candidates about what they see as the most important issues in the district. Former educator Karen Koenig believes environmental issues are of critical importance.
"Having been an environmental educator for ten years, that is something that is of concern to me," Koenig said earnestly during a recent Zoom interview. "That also relates to sustainable agriculture which is another area of my interest. If we learn to take care of the land and leave it better than when we started, I think that's an important thing to do."
The lone independent in the race is Bennett Smith. The NIACC instructor and occasional political analyst for local media outlets believes the ongoing pandemic is issue number one.
"I think there's a short-term issue, of course, in the pandemic that we've got to work harder at containing," Bennett said during a recent visit to KIMT News 3's Rochester studio. "That would be the present crisis that we're in, but longer-term (and the theme of my campaign) is growing Iowa for the next generation because what we really face is a shortage of population and a shortage of skilled workforce in Iowa and in North Iowa."
The Republican candidate is Sheffield businesswoman Shannon Latham. Like Smith, she believes the ongoing pandemic remains a key issue for residents in the 54th district and everywhere.
"I really believe that COVID recovery is going to be the issue that needs to be forefront," Latham said emphatically during a morning Zoom interview. "I think related to that is rural broadband. So, rural broadband is something that we've continued to talk about. I know it's a front-burner issue, but sometimes it takes a real fire to get the issue dealt with, right? So if there is one thing that COVID taught us, it's the importance of having access to reliable internet everywhere from tele-education to farming."
All three candidates expressed the desire to be able to work with colleagues in other political parties to serve residents of Iowa.