Where Deidre DeJear, Rick Stewart & Kim Reynolds stand on key issues in Iowa governor race

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is facing a challenge from Democrat Deidre DeJear and Libertarian Rick Stewart as she seeks her second full term as governor.

Reynolds succeeded former Gov. Terry Branstad in 2017 and won her first full term in 2018, defeating Democrat Fred Hubbell.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll from July found Reynolds led DeJear, an activist and small business owner, by 17 percentage points, 48% to 31%. Stewart trailed with 5%.

To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to all federal, statewide and Des Moines area legislative candidates running for political office this year. Their answers appear in alphabetical order by last name and have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Reynolds chose not to fill out the Register's questionnaire. For the benefit of voters, the Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on issues related to the questions where possible.

Early voting begins Oct. 19 for the Nov. 8 election.

More: A guide to voter rights in Iowa. What you need to know before you cast a ballot

Who is Deidre DeJear?

Age: 36

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up? Tulsa, Oklahoma

Current town of residence: Des Moines

Education: Bachelor of arts, Drake University

Occupation: Small business owner, Caleo Enterprises

Political experience and civic activities: Deidre DeJear was the African American Outreach Director for President Barack Obama in 2012. She worked on school board and city council races. As a voting rights champion and community leader, DeJear ran for Iowa secretary of state in 2018 and became the first Black person to earn the Democratic statewide race nomination. She also founded the nonprofit 20/20 Vision, supporting civic engagement and helping community members secure boards and commission seats. In 2020, DeJear served as Sen. Kamala Harris’ Iowa chair for the presidential campaign.

Gov. Kim Reynolds smiles before signing the 3.9% flat tax into law, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at LBS, a bookbinding and packaging company in Des Moines.
Gov. Kim Reynolds smiles before signing the 3.9% flat tax into law, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at LBS, a bookbinding and packaging company in Des Moines.

Who is Kim Reynolds?

Age: 63

Party: Republican

Where did you grow up? St. Charles

Current town of residence: St. Charles

Education: Bachelor of liberal studies degree from Iowa State University in 2016.

Occupation: Iowa governor

Political experience and civic activities: Succeeded former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as Iowa governor in May 2017. Previously served as Iowa's lieutenant governor for nearly two terms, as a state senator for two years and as Clarke County treasurer for four terms.

Who is Rick Stewart?

Rick Stewart
Rick Stewart

Age: 71

Party: Libertarian

Where did you grow up? Postville and Maquoketa

Current town of residence: Cedar Rapids

Education: AA Kirkwood Community College, BA Coe College, MBA University of Chicago

Occupation: Candidate for Iowa governor

Political experience and civic activities: Candidate for U.S. Senate (twice), candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, candidate for Linn County Sheriff. Tireless campaigner to end Iowa's drug war. I hike volcanoes in Guatemala to support Escuela de la Calle, a non-profit organization providing free K-6 education to 175 children and an orphanage for 35 children.

What would be your top issue should you be elected?

DeJear: As governor, my top priority would be to invest in our education system so that once again it is top in the nation. We must fully fund our education system so that every student regardless of race, gender or Zip code can have access to a strong, quality public education that prepares them for a limitless future. This means we need to commit to raising educator wages, expanding early childhood education and ensuring that there are mental health professionals in all our schools.

Reynolds: Did not respond.

Stewart: Ending Iowa's drug war.

Iowans are struggling with rising costs and inflation. What can the state do to help them make ends meet?

DeJear: Working-class Iowans are pressed on multiple fronts to make ends meet. It is imperative that we implement a true, comprehensive economic plan that will keep jobs here, attract new manufacturing and technology jobs, strengthen small businesses and ensure a sustainable wage for all Iowa families. It’s time that our state invests in the basic mechanisms which allow Iowans to economically thrive. We must raise our minimum wage, invest in affordable housing, create pathways so that the food that Iowans consume can be produced here in our state and ensure that we all have access to quality affordable health care and child care.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has assembled several of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

On the campaign trail, Reynolds has hammered President Joe Biden over federal spending legislation she says has led to increased inflation. Reynolds signed into law a tax cut package earlier this year she called "growth-oriented," saying it will help Iowa's economy "weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side." She also signed a law mandating most Iowa gas stations sell fuel with higher ethanol blends, which she touted as a cheaper option when gas prices were at record highs.

Stewart: Reduce taxes, reduce regulation, shorten the Iowa code to a single slim volume, quit forcing gas stations to sell products consumers do not want to buy and gas stations do not want to sell.

What do you believe Iowa’s abortion policy should be? Do you think abortion should be banned entirely? Do you think Iowa should have no restrictions? If you believe there should be some restrictions, please be specific about the restrictions and the exceptions you support.

DeJear: There are infinite variables to pregnancy and restricting access to abortion/reproductive care is never the answer. The push for abortion restrictions in our state has set a dangerous precedent, which will only serve to further put Iowans in harm's way. Iowa is in desperate need of a leader who will keep politicians out of personal health care decisions and expand access to care.

Public funding in Iowa for family planning services is not adequate to meet the needs of our population. I will continue to stand with the people of Iowa by working to codify the right to abortion in the state and expanding reproductive health care throughout all of Iowa.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

Reynolds is currently asking a state court to allow Iowa's "fetal heartbeat" law to go into effect, banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law was blocked after Reynolds signed it in 2018, but state and federal precedents protecting abortion rights have since been overturned. The law, if it goes into effect, would include exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and to protect the life of the mother. Reynolds has not said whether she would support legislation with further restrictions, but she has said she will "stand up for the sanctity of life and fight to protect the precious and innocent unborn lives."

Stewart: No government should have any abortion policy. Politicians know nothing about abortion and should quit pretending they do. Our bodies belong to ourselves, not to politicians.

What is the best way to improve Iowa's education system?

DeJear: Iowa public schools should have an immediate infusion of $300 million from the budget surplus to begin to reset the gross underfunding of our education system over the last 12 years. We must fully fund our education system, ensure that funding is on pace with inflation every year and use a minimum 4% Supplemental State Aid (SSA) to address achievement gaps, keep up with increased operational expenses and address unpredictable enrollment numbers.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

Over the past three years, Reynolds has signed into law increases in per-pupil state aid of 2.3%, 2.4% and 2.5%, respectively. Reynolds has also made "parental choice" in education a major focus of her campaign, including her proposal to use taxpayer money to help parents switch their children from public to private schools. That legislation has failed to pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House the past two years.

Stewart: Allow state money to go directly to teachers, at the direction of parents, regardless of what buildings they choose to teach in. Eliminate the Iowa Department of Education and use the savings to increase teacher pay. Concentrate education dollars on improving K-8 outcomes.

What new laws, if any, do you believe Iowa should pass regarding guns?

DeJear: In an average year, 302 people die and 489 are wounded by guns in Iowa. Even one death caused by gun violence is too many. No community should experience this — and yet gun violence is happening far too often in our state. In 2021, Reynolds removed the commonsense requirement for requiring a permit to purchase and carry a gun in Iowa. There are now 28 Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties in Iowa. We need to reinstate permit requirements for purchase of weapons and require comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, increase the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle to 21 years old and require safety measures for the storage of all guns.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

In 2021, Reynolds signed a law allowing people to buy and carry handguns in Iowa without a permit. She has been noncommittal on whether she would support a "red flag" law in Iowa, which would allow police or family members to get a court order that temporarily confiscates firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

Stewart: Iowa voters should pass the 2A amendment that will be on their ballots this November.

What changes to Iowa's tax policy would you advocate for if elected?

DeJear: This past legislative session, our governor signed a bill changing our tax structure to an inequitable 4% flat tax. This structure will raise taxes for many in our lower economic brackets, require an increase in sales and property taxes and will cut the funding available for education, health care and other necessary resources. Not only do we need to ensure our tax system is equitable, we must ensure that Iowans' tax dollars are being put to good use and invested in the resources and services that are most needed in our state. A flat 4% tax will not fix our economic issues in the state. We need to invest in our workforce and truly ensure that Iowans have the resources they need to thrive.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

Since becoming governor, Reynolds has signed into law three major tax cut packages. Most recently, she signed a 2022 tax law that will lower Iowa's top income tax rate until all Iowans pay a flat 3.9% rate starting in 2026. The measure also makes retirement income like 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions tax free, gives some tax breaks to retiring farmers and cuts the state's corporate tax rate while reducing the size of some corporate tax credits. Reynolds said the state has been over-collecting taxes and she has had the goal of making the state's tax rate more competitive.

Stewart: Eliminate the income tax — the least efficient and least effective of all taxes — so no Iowans will ever again have to fill out a state income tax form. The sales tax rate should be lowered and applied uniformly to all goods and services currently exempt. The gasoline tax should be eliminated and replaced with a user fee for using public roadways, based on miles driven and the weight of the vehicle.

What steps should the state take to address Iowa's workforce shortage?

DeJear: In Iowa, we have a skills gap, a worker shortage and continue to see a loss of jobs in our rural and urban communities. We must implement a true, comprehensive economic plan that will keep jobs here, attract new manufacturing and technology jobs, strengthen small businesses, welcome unions and their support of workers rights, ensure a sustainable wage for all Iowa families, and close the skills gap through training and education to Iowa’s untapped talent. Additionally, Iowa pays lower wages than all the states that surround it. It’s time to raise our minimum wage to a sustainable wage, so that Iowans are able to take care of themselves and their families.

Reynolds: Did not respond. The Register has pulled together some of her recent statements and actions on the issue.

Reynolds has taken several actions as governor that she says have been geared toward addressing the state's workforce shortage. She signed into law a reduction in the amount of unemployment benefits that Iowans who have lost their jobs could access. She also hasallocated tens of millions in federal pandemic aid for a range of internship, apprenticeship and scholarship programs. In 2018, she signed the Future Ready Iowa Act, which is geared toward helping more Iowans receive workforce training.

Stewart: Iowa should eliminate all licensing laws and allow people who are licensed to perform services in any of the other 49 states to perform the same services in Iowa, thus 100% eliminating the current bureaucratic nightmares and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Iowa should quit driving young Iowans away from the state by ending Iowa's drug war.

Eliminate all laws which insult and discourage Iowans who only ask for a fair wage for their hard work.

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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Where Iowa's governor candidates stand on key issues in 2022 election