When state Sen. Rita Hart joined Fred Hubbell’s Democratic gubernatorial ticket in June, it threw into doubt what was anticipated to be one of the most competitive Senate races in the state.
The 49th district includes all of Clinton County and parts of upper Scott County, including LeClaire and Princeton.
Early on Republican Chris Cournoyer jumped into the race. The president of the Pleasant Valley School Board, Cournoyer is running against Patti Robinson, a Democrat from Clinton who has extensive experience in the human services field and who got into the race after Hart switched contests.
We’re impressed with Cournoyer’s wide-ranging experience. In addition to being on the school board, she’s a reserve deputy for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, serves on the governor’s STEM council and is a business owner. She understands the need to grow the economy and add skills to the workforce.
She also seems to recognize that local governments need the flexibility to raise revenues to pay for additional mental health mandates from the state, even as she wants to keep property taxes down.
She also said she opposes rolling back state funding that replaces revenues local governments lost because of the 2013 commercial property tax law.
Cournoyer was vague on how much she believes basic state aid for K-12 education funding needs to be increased, but she said the one percent approved last year isn’t enough.
As for Robinson, she is well versed on the flaws in Iowa’s precipitous move to private Medicaid management. In fact, she lost her job at Clinton County because of the changeover.
Robinson talks knowingly about possible solutions, such as how to deal with the costliest parts of the program. She also would like to see the state focus more attention on mental health services, treating it under the law like physical illnesses.
Robinson also says the last two years of Republican control has left Iowans vulnerable, and that while people want to keep the costs of government low, they still want services. To us, she seems to take a balanced approach.
In the end, though, we believe Cournoyer has a broader range of experience and a grasp on a wider range of issues facing state government.
We also see potential for a new consensus builder in Des Moines. We hope, if she’s successful, Cournoyer will go to Des Moines remembering the financial needs of school districts in the state and then use those consensus-building skills to convince her fellow Republicans of the wisdom of greater investments.
In District 47, Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, is seeking a second term. Smith says his goals in the upcoming session will be to work on Davenport’s education funding inequity and seek solutions to juvenile crime issues.
We appreciate that Smith played a leading role in the Senate this year in getting a small down-payment on closing the funding gap that means Davenport schools, as well as North Scott, are capped at spending about $30 less per student than the typical district in the state – and, compared to a small number of districts, up to $175 less.
Smith also recognizes that mistakes have been made on the privatization of Medicaid, and while that program is in the governor’s hands, he’s said he’s open to pursuing ideas that could move some of the program’s most chronic population away from managed care.
He also said he wants to make sure providers are paid. We hope he follows up on that.
Like other Republicans, Smith has largely supported what we consider to be an ideologically-driven agenda in the legislature the last couple of years. But he also has worked on a spate of local problems to make things better in his district, which includes Bettendorf, Riverdale and parts of eastern Davenport.
An example is a largely unnoticed bill that allows local governments greater flexibility to invest their idle funds, which Davenport city officials say is starting to pay off.
Smith is running against Marie Gleason, a Democrat from Bettendorf who is a human resources project manager at Deere & Co.
Gleason said that her focus would be to properly fund education and support women’s health care. She also faults this year’s state tax cut as being tilted too much to the wealthy, and she adds Smith has not listened to all of his constituents or reflects their values.
We appreciate Gleason's willingness to step forward and run for office, which she told us stemmed from her alarm over the 2016 election results. However, Smith's answers to our questions were better thought out and more specific.
We believe Smith deserves another term.