Smith running for new House seat in 22

With the new year only a few days away, races for the recently formed state legislative districts are beginning to take shape.

This week Sarah Smith announced her campaign for State House District 53 that includes Poweshiek County and a majority of Tama County including the cities of Gladbrook, Garwin, Tama and Toledo.

Smith lives in Grinnell with her husband Dustin and two high school-age kids. There she works full-time as the Director of Outreach Programs and Events for Grinnell College.

She first ran for public office during the 2020 election where she won an uncontested Democratic primary for State House District 76 and went on to face Republican incumbent David Maxwell in the November general election.

Smith, a Democrat, lost her 2020 bid by nearly a 20 point margin, garnering 38 percent of the District 76 votes compared to 58 percent won by Maxwell.

With redistricting changing the representative landscape beginning with the 2022 midterm election, Smith will have an opportunity to run on what could be more favorable ground for Democratic candidates.

Currently, District 76 contains Poweshiek County and a majority of Iowa County. There the Republican Party defeated the Democratic Party in the 2020 State House race by 3,269 votes.

Swapping the 2020 Iowa County votes for the 2020 Tama County votes by comparison still gives Republicans a sizable advantage, but also cuts the margin of victory nearly in half.

In that hypothetical case, the Poweshiek and Tama County district would have produced a 1,702 vote victory for Republicans in 2020.

However, several variables will cause the upcoming 2022 election to look much different locally than two years prior.

Next fall will be a midterm election and will not include a presidential candidate on the ballot, which could affect voter turnout.

The area GOP field is yet to be decided with two House incumbents currently residing in the new district. Earlier this month Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) announced his intentions to run for a sixth term, while Poweshiek County incumbent Rep. David Maxwell (R-Gibson) has not indicated if he will also run and take on Fisher in a primary.

Although the Tama-Toledo community has provided more Democratic votes than surrounding rural communities in recent years, Tama County as a whole has not elected a Democrat to the Iowa House since Bill Brand was re-elected for his fifth and final term. Brand was famously upset by nine votes in the 1998 election by Lance Horbach of Tama.

When Horbach eventually retired from office in 2012 the seat was again closely contested, this time Fisher in his first campaign defeated Democrat Nathan Wrage of Gladbrook by 216 votes.

However, Republicans have tightly controlled the seat since then with Fisher winning his past four elections by as many as 3,600 votes and no fewer than 2,500 votes.

In her upcoming campaign Smith said some key priorities she would like to focus on if elected are subsidizing child care options, addressing the labor shortage, increased support of public schools and emergency services and development of high speed internet access in rural areas.

“I grew up in Poweshiek County and ​I appreciate the joys and benefits of rural Iowa,” Smith said. “My goal is to support rural Iowans, raising the voices and enhancing the lives of those in House District 53 first and foremost.”