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Saturday Spotlight: Peter Leo, Iowa State House Candidate (HD-12)

Can you tell us a little bit about your race? House District 12 includes all of Audubon and Carroll Counties, as well as the eastern half of Crawford County. There are dozens of small cities and towns located in the three counties, as well as parts of sixteen different public school districts. Most voters here self-identify as Independents, and as I have gotten to know more of those folks I have learned they value public servants who focus on finding practical solutions to our state’s problems over politicians who prioritize party loyalty or their big-money donors’ personal agendas. That independent streak has shown up at the polls in recent years, as the district was represented by Dan Muhlbauer, a Democrat from Manilla, from 2011-2014, but is now represented by Brian Best, a Republican from Glidden who will be running for a third term this fall. It would be easy to assume west central Iowa is Republican territory because it’s a rural district. But the independent-minded voters here aren’t afraid to think for themselves. They do not feel their concerns have been adequately addressed at the statehouse over the last few years. They’re looking to make a change, and have reacted to my candidacy and my ideas with enthusiasm. I look forward to meeting even more of them, earning their trust, and sharing my vision for the district and our state in the weeks and months leading up to the election in November. 

What sets you apart from your opponent? Generally speaking, my opponent votes with his party leadership, no questions asked. Their priorities are his priorities; it’s that simple. As for me, party leaders and big-money campaign donors do not impress, intimidate, or sway me, and I will never make their agendas my own in exchange for personal gain. As a legislator, I’ll base my votes on whether a proposed policy is good for the people of the district regardless of how it affects me or my standing with fellow Democrats. In making those judgments, I will ask myself if the bill before me for a vote expands opportunities for all people regardless of their identity or their socioeconomic status, is true to the principles of fundamental fairness and basic human dignity, and is supported by unbiased, reliable data or other evidence. As for a specific policy on which we differ, my opponent and I have opposing views on what our state’s fiscal priorities should be. He has already stated publicly that he’ll vote to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Iowans and for large corporations no matter the consequences, he’ll break the state’s promise to hold local governments harmless from the state’s last round of tax cuts by eliminating the commercial property tax backfill, and that he’ll support his party leadership’s attempts to end to the tax increment financing (TIF) backfill for our school districts–a program that costs less than one-tenth of one percent of the state’s annual budget to provide. These policies will rob the state of its ability to create good jobs in rural Iowa and leave our school districts and local governments with a bill they can’t afford to pay. In contrast, my priorities as a legislator will be reinvestment in rural Iowa and economic security for every Iowan. I will fight to shore up the finances of our rural schools and local governments by providing them with additional state funding so that they can hire more workers and teachers and develop new infrastructure and curricular offerings. I would also work to create opportunities for new investments in main street businesses and Iowa’s farmers so that we can get all rural Iowans’ incomes growing again. And I will never stop working to make sure every Iowan has access to health care that they can afford, regardless of their personal means or their health history. 

Past or present, what political figure or figures do you look up to? Among current political figures, I admire Sec. Tom Vilsack. As governor of Iowa for eight years and most recently at USDA, he was a practical problem solver who put the good of the people he served above all other considerations. He continues to be a great representative for our state. If someone compared me to him one day I would be honored. As for political figures from years past, I have always been inspired by Franklin Roosevelt. His unwavering focus on bringing economic relief to the poor and the marginalized during the Great Depression reminds me of the inscription my father wrote in the John Steinbeck anthology he gave me when I was just one year old, reminding me to “Always be mindful of the human condition.” Those words have guided me since I entered adulthood, and I hope to use the gifts and good fortune I’ve received in my lifetime to give a voice and hope to the powerless, just like FDR did. 

What inspired you to run for office? My passion for solving complex problems and my empathy for others in need. I spent months trying to recruit candidates to run for state or local office in the area, and each person I talked to told me the same thing: That I should run. Finally, I decided, why not me? I love this community, and I have the drive, the intellect, and the people skills to deliver positive results to some of our state’s biggest challenges like fixing healthcare, supporting our schools and teachers, and creating high-paying jobs for the next generation of Iowans..

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself that we wouldn’t find on your website? Like J.D., I was also a baseball player through college. Although I was not fortunate enough to play professionally after college, playing ball taught me the importance of teamwork, dedication to self-improvement, and humility in both success and failure. My campaign’s logo incorporates an image of home plate to remind me of all the valuable lessons I learned on the diamond over the years.

Lastly, what’s your opinion of Steve King? He has never accomplished anything for the people of our district. We need new leadership in Congress that will deliver for us.

Learn more about Peter Leo at the links below:

Website:  www.peopleforpeterleo.com/​

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/PeopleForPeterLeo/​

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/PeopleForPeter