Meet the Candidates 2024: Iowa Senate District 26 pt. 1

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series.)

Ahead of the June 4 primary vote, the Times-Republican sent questionnaires to all of the candidates in contested races for county, state and federal offices. Our second feature is on Iowa Senate District 26, which encompasses all of Marshall County and most of Story County outside of Ames.

In SD 26, two Republicans, Gannon Hendrick of McCallsburg and Kara Warme of rural Ames, and one Democrat, Mike Wolfe of Maxwell, are in the running to replace retiring Republican Jeff Edler of State Center, who served two terms. The first half of their questionnaire responses are printed below, and the rest will be printed in tomorrow’s newspaper. Hendrick and Warme, along with GOP House District 51 hopefuls Brett Barker and Marty Chitty, will appear at a candidate forum sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, May 23 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Dejardin Hall on the Marshalltown Community College campus.

1. What is your personal, professional and educational background, and why are you running for Iowa Senate?

Gannon Hendrick: I was born and raised in Story County, and I am a lifelong Iowan and lifelong Republican. I graduated from Colo-NESCO High School and Iowa State University. I have also attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and multiple other military schools. I currently live on the family farm outside of McCallsburg where I raise a cow/calf herd. I am also a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve with nearly 22 years of service, and I serve as Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair’s chief of staff. I have worked for the Senate Republicans for 14 legislative sessions, and I have served as a Colo-NESCO School Board Member, Warren Township Trustee, and Warren Township Clerk.

Rural Story County has long had true conservative leaders in the Iowa General Assembly. Most recently, Senate District 26 has been well-represented by Jeff Edler, who has endorsed me. He has brought a rural voice and conservative principles to the capitol. With his retirement, I believe the constituents of Senate District 26 deserve a senator who will continue to provide these qualities and viewpoints in Des Moines. I am running to ensure voters have a conservative, rural, and experienced candidate in the race. I will continue to fight for smaller government, lower taxes, constitutional liberties, and the unborn in Des Moines.

Kara Warme: Occupation: Mom, Businesswoman, Non-Profit Executive, Farm Owner

Education: Stanford University: BS, Industrial Engineering University of Iowa: MBA

Volunteer Activities: Founder and Troop Coordinator, American Heritage Girls; Board member, Ames Soccer Club; Licensed Substitute Teacher; Iowa Rural Development Council; Izaak Walton League; Sunday School & VBS Leader, Cornerstone Church

Almost 20 years ago my husband and I chose to settle in Iowa because it’s a great place to raise a family. I’m running for the Iowa Senate because I want that to continue to be true for future generations. I am ready to serve, ready to listen, and ready to lead. I will work tirelessly to protect the conservative victories we have made and improve the lives and opportunities of the residents of our district. I humbly ask for your vote in the Republican Primary on June 4.

Mike Wolfe: For the past 24 years I have lived, worked, and raised a family here in central Iowa. My grandparents were farmers and loggers in rural Washington state. My dad, also Mike, sold insurance and my mom, Linda, was an X-ray technician at our local hospital. After high school, I spent a few years working in San Diego where I met an Iowa farm girl who had a lot of great things to say about her home state as well as her alma mater, Iowa State University. We moved back to Iowa a month after marrying in July of 2000, and we have lived in central Iowa ever since. I graduated from ISU in 2003 with a Construction Engineering degree. I worked for union mechanical contractors in the Des Moines metro while going to school and continued that work full time after graduation. I am currently a project estimator for a local, employee-owned mechanical contractor. About 14 years ago we moved to an acreage outside of Maxwell where we raise sheep, chickens, and honeybees. Our children attended Ballard Community schools, with one still attending. Our oldest attends the University of Iowa and another attends Iowa State.

I am running for Iowa Senate, District 26 because Iowans deserve elected officials that will both listen to and speak up for them, and who will focus on what Iowans want. Most Iowans want public school funds to pay for public schools. Most Iowans are pleased with the service they receive from their AEAs. Even wide-spread opposition from their own constituents didn’t stop Republican lawmakers from passing laws that are hurting small town Iowa. Iowans deserve a better deal, and I will work to deliver that as a Senator.

2. In reflecting on recent legislative sessions and the bills passed and signed, do you feel that the state is currently headed in the right direction? If not, how would you change course?

Hendrick: I believe Iowa is generally headed in the right direction. The conservative agenda that has been advanced in Des Moines has resulted in the state’s largest income tax cuts in history, saved the lives of unborn children, restored personal freedoms, empowered parents in their children’s education, and made Iowa the #6 best state to live in and #3 in opportunity according to U.S. News and World Report. It is my goal to continue advancing conservative principles to make Iowa the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

Warme: Thanks to Governor Reynolds and a Republican-controlled Legislature, we have made great progress in recent years improving the long-term success of Iowa families. From historic tax cuts, supporting family farmers and small businesses. to protecting girls’ sports, Iowa is on the right path.

Wolfe: Some recently passed legislation, including the education voucher bill and the AEA reform bill, came from special interest groups outside of the state that do not have the best interests of Iowans at heart. I want to focus on reversing the damaging changes to public education and personal freedom.

3. Do you support the AEA reform bill and Education Savings Accounts for students who attend nonpublic schools in Iowa? Additionally, do you believe that Iowa’s public schools are currently adequately funded and on the right track?

Hendrick: I fully support empowering parents to make the right educational choices for their children, whether that choice is the local public school, open enrolling to a different public school, private school, charter school, or homeschooling. Each of these options serves a specific need, and parents should be able to make the best choice for each child.

When Senate Republicans took the majority in the 2017 legislative session, Senator Sinclair, then the Senate Education Committee Chair, and I sat down with the AEAs to discuss problems we were hearing about. We asked them to work on improving student achievement, reducing administrative bloat, and implementing greater transparency. There were few substantive changes made, and Governor Reynolds made this a priority for the 2024 session. I believe the AEA bill that was signed into law is a good first step towards implementing these previously stated goals, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue improving services and outcomes for our special education students.

Since 2011, Republicans in the legislature and Governor’s Office have fully funded education. The last cut in funding to PK-12 education came with Governor Culver’s 10 percent across-the-board budget cut. Since taking the trifecta for the 2017 session, state general fund support of public schools has increased nearly $700 million. As your senator, I will continue to provide predictable, sustainable, and responsible funding for our public schools.

Warme: The final version of the AEA bill, which was supported by the AEAs, helped direct funds where they will have the greatest impact and support Iowa kids the most. Education Savings Accounts are a great tool to help ensure Iowa parents find the best fit for their child’s education.

In addition, in education, the focus needs to be on the students and what we can do to prepare them for the future and set them up for success. The primary goal in our schools should be helping kids learn and grow, starting with ensuring they know the basics like reading, math, and science. Too many times those basics are getting lost today in the pursuit of educational fads and left-wing ideology like CRT. My goal is to help Iowa’s education system be the best in the nation supported by exceptional teachers, robust mental health services, and active parental involvement.

Wolfe: I attended a legislative forum in Marshalltown where scores of parents, teachers, and AEA staff told their elected officials NOT to pass the AEA reform bill. Parents love the support they receive from the AEA and are rightly concerned that this change to fee-for-service will lead to shortages. Small or rural schools will now have to compete with each other to get staff to help their students rather than pooling together to make sure they all have enough. Hundreds of AEA staff members have already left their positions to seek more stable, reliable employment.

Private school vouchers take money away from the majority of Iowa families to benefit a select few, with no transparency in how that taxpayer money is spent.

4. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Iowa Legislature has passed a fetal heartbeat bill that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. Do you support this law, and what would your position on the issue be if elected?

Hendrick: Abortion is a very personal issue to me. I was adopted as an infant by two loving parents who raised me to know the value of hard work and a dollar. My biological parents were unmarried college students who knew they couldn’t care for me, and they made the loving decision to have me and give me up for adoption. They could have chosen abortion, and I wouldn’t be here today. I was a choice, and the choice my biological mother made was life. I am forever grateful for that. I believe all children should have a right to life, because without life, nothing else matters. I support the heartbeat bill, and I will do everything I can to protect the lives of the unborn.

Warme: Yes, I support the Heartbeat Bill. I am pro-life and will always vote to protect life. I have been a volunteer and donor with Birthright, Obria Medical Clinic, and Martha’s House of Hope. In my current position with YSS, I work to support pregnant and parenting young mothers. I will fight for a culture of life in our state, from babies in the womb, to young mothers, to veterans and the elderly. The Legislature has passed many impactful laws to protect and value life. It is critical for the Iowa Supreme Court to uphold the latest bill to protect life at the sound of a heartbeat.

Wolfe: I will fight to restore the freedom of all Iowans to make their own choices without undue interference from the government. Last session, the Senate Democrats introduced a resolution for a constitutional amendment to enshrine reproductive rights in our Constitution and I support that effort. I trust Iowa women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. I am also concerned that legislation related to restricting IVF could be introduced in Iowa as it has in other states, and I will work to defeat this if it comes to the floor.

5. Do you support the use of eminent domain on private property for carbon capture pipelines?

Hendrick: First off, the economic premise of carbon capture pipelines is not based on anything other than federal spending. Keeping that in mind, carbon capture pipelines are not going to be the last infrastructure hurdle we face. The federal government has already allocated funding for power transmission lines which will likely result in similar uses of eminent domain. After that, the potential for hydrogen pipelines exists in our state, and we will again face these challenges. That being the case, I believe we need to have de facto landowner protections in state code for all uses of eminent domain. We need to have a regulatory environment that does not result in unintended consequences which cripple our agricultural industry in the state or result in the loss of much needed infrastructure projects. There has to be a balance, but the bottom line is that we need to ensure that individuals are not forced into negotiations under the threat of losing landowner protections in the event of eminent domain.

Warme: Private property is foundational to Americans’ success and critical to Iowa as our most valuable natural resource. Nearly half of Iowa’s corn crop goes to ethanol. I want to support Iowa farmers and the future of our Iowa agriculture economy every way that I can. Innovation is necessary to ensure a healthy and ongoing ethanol industry, which is vital for our small town main streets. I will fight to defend property rights and limit use of eminent domain while also staunchly supporting our district’s farmers and ethanol producers.

Wolfe: I oppose ANY use of eminent domain for private economic development. If the carbon capture pipeline truly is a profitable enterprise, it can stand on its own and negotiate in good faith with private landowners. Eminent domain should only be used for projects with a clear use for the general public, like roads, bridges, and pipelines that directly serve the folks living on the land the pipelines cross, such as gas mains from a public utility.

6. In general, do you agree with the current legislature’s spending priorities and efforts to reduce state income taxes? If not, what would you propose if elected?

Hendrick: The state’s tax policy should be focused on reducing tax rates while broadening the tax base through economic development. Bringing high quality jobs to Iowa is good for Iowa families, and it grows the economy, which is good for the state as a whole. This allows the state to provide resources towards essential government services that Iowans depend on while still enacting tax cuts that benefit all Iowans. I believe the legislature has done an excellent job of working to reduce income taxes while continuing to fund public services. I will continue to work towards no income tax and a substantial reduction in property taxes while ensuring our essential government services are funded.

Warme: Reducing the tax burden for Iowa families is one of the most important things the State Legislature and Governor can accomplish. The recent historic income tax cuts and $200 million plus in property tax relief are major conservative victories for Iowans and our state’s hard-working families. Along with a focus on the taxpayer, the legislature should continue to be responsible with the budgets proposed and passed and ensure every dollar is being used wisely.

Wolfe: I am concerned that the focus on cutting income taxes has come at the expense of middle-class, hard-working Iowans. Much of the benefit from lower income taxes has gone to the very wealthy and out-of-state corporations. Meanwhile, Iowans lose out on the benefits that funding could create for our schools, roads, and public services.


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