Courier Staff Writer
Two Republicans will battle it out in the June primary to find out who will square off against incumbent state Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, in the November election for the House District 81 seat.
Blake Smith and Rick McClure have filed to run against Gaskill, who has held the position since 2003.
House District 81 encompasses mainly the eastern half of Wapello County, including Ottumwa.
Rep. Mary Gaskill
Gaskill does not have a Democratic opponent in the June primary but will likely face either Smith or McClure in the November general election.
“I simply enjoy the work that I’m doing, and I feel I can continue to do a good job for the citizens of Wapello County in my district,” she said. “There are some things I still haven’t completely gotten accomplished, particularly my interest in elections, that we continue to have the opportunity for people to vote at the elections without hinderence, which is a lot of why I wanted to run for re-election.”
She said part of why she has been re-elected four times is that she provides “a good local government vision for many of the people here who don’t seem to understand how local government functions.”
While she will have an opponent in the November election, Gaskill said she hopes her constituents remember what she’s done for them.
“I would hope that my constituents ... understand that I want to continue to provide service for them,” she said. “I feel I’ve done a pretty good job in listening to the people and hearing their concerns.”
McClure, a John Deere Ottumwa Works employee, said people have been pushing for him to run for the majority of this past year, especially after his heavy involvement with the Ron Paul presidential campaign.
And watching Paul in action is how McClure got the inspiration to run.
“There’s some serious changes needed this year from Washington, D.C., all the way down to the local level,” he said. “If there’s a year to pull it off, a do-or-die for taking back this country, this is the year to do it.”
McClure, who actually identifies as an independent instead of a Republican, said Iowa’s election system is flawed as the primary is limited to two parties and too many politicians only vote straight party.
“Voting straight party at the ballot box is as irresponsible and lazy as casting a straight party vote on any bill up in Des Moines,” he said.
When he had to choose between running as a Republican or a Democrat, he said “the Democrats are so screwed up I refuse to be associated with them.”
McClure disagrees with Gaskill’s voting record, citing abortion as an example.
“We had the chance last year to stop abortion after 20 weeks, to accept, to save the life of another and [Gaskill] shot that down,” he said. “But she then voted to save the mourning doves season. If someone puts the life of a mourning dove in front of the life of a human baby, they’re completely wrong and need to go.”
And while he admires Smith for running at a relatively young age, he said experience in the field trumps textbook knowledge.
“There’s flat-out nothing that beats real-life experience,” he said.
McClure said his experience includes his military service, his 22-year marriage and his work as a firefighter EMT and water commissioner, among others.
“I’ve dealt with multi-million dollar budgets and I’ve dealt first-hand with completely inept government agencies,” he said.
His big issues will be consumer protection bills, veterans’ bills, tax reform and one “crazy thing,” he said: legalizing fireworks.
“We’re losing millions of tax dollars going across state lines to buy fireworks,” he said. “Iowa could be making a lot of money off this. On holiday weekends, the State Patrol is busy enough looking for speeders and drunk drivers, they don’t need tens of thousands more cars on the road going down to get fireworks.”
Smith, a recent graduate in political science and history from Indian Hills Community College and Buena Vista University, said the biggest challenge he’ll probably face going up against McClure and Gaskill is his age.
“I’ve known Rick for six months now and I respect him, he’s a veteran, but I think my biggest challenge would be my age,” Smith, 23, said. “Other than that, I feel qualified.”
The same goes for his competition with Gaskill.
“My age again, and her experience in the Legislature,” Smith said. “She’s been in politics all of her life. For anybody to go against that would be hard.”
Smith has long been interested in politics and said he decided to run because young people today don’t have the same opportunities they did 20 or 30 years ago.
“And there are career politicians around, especially in southeast Iowa,” he said. “I feel they’ve kicked the economic can down the road long enough. So we need to stand up to stop them or they’ll just kick it over the hill.”
The biggest issues he said Iowa is facing are outlined in his “Stability and Prosperity Plan,” which includes education, job creation, improving infrastructure, implementing voter ID, strengthening immigration laws and cutting wasteful government spending.
“Government is taking in way too much and spending even more,” he said.