Meet the House District 53 Democratic Candidates: Tommy Hexter


Tommy Hexter

Age: 24

Residence location: Grinnell, Iowa

Profession: Rural Organizer with Iowa Farmers Union and Director of Grinnell Farm to Table

Education: B.A. in Anthropology of Food Systems from Grinnell College, 2021

Family: Parents Jon (60) and Carolyn Hexter (61), Grinnell, IA; Sisters Linda (28) and her husband Chris Ferrara, Tampa, FL, and Elizabeth (33) and her husband Danny Brooker, Alexandria, VA

1) Why do you want to be a state legislator? What is your primary motivation for running?

I am deeply connected to my community’s small businesses and social services. On a daily basis, people share with me the struggles and opportunities that they experience in this place. My primary motivation for running is to make sure that all of the people of House District 53 have their voice heard in the State House so that we can face those struggles head-on and expand opportunities to allow families and small businesses to thrive here.

2) Have you previously run for elected office? If so, for what office(s) and did you win?

Yes, I ran for the office of Poweshiek Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner in 2020 and I won in an uncontested election. That seat is up for re-election in this November 2024 election!

3) What distinguishes you from the other candidates in your primary race?

I’m a young person (born in 1999) who sees many folks in my generation fleeing rural areas. I love small towns and I want to bring new energy and a fresh perspective to the political space here in Iowa to make this place livable for my generation and future generations. In my work with Grinnell Farm To Table, I’m also deeply entrenched in local agriculture and rural economic development – I believe that the basis of any rural community is the ability of small farms and small businesses to thrive and multiply.

4) What challenges does District 53 – a primarily rural district – face today that you would like to see addressed by the state legislature? If elected, what would you do to help address those challenges if the Democratic Party remains the minority party in the Iowa House following the 2024 election?

I believe that the biggest issues that we face as a primarily rural district are similar to what most of the rural areas across the midwest face today – hollowing out of our communities, including: brain drain of young people moving out, hospitals and schools closing, small businesses being overtaken by Dollar General, small media being bought up by national corporations, and access to food and medical care being made increasingly difficult. All Iowans can agree that we need to allow our rural areas to thrive – and this all starts with a new model of economic development where we make sure the investments we are making reach Iowa-owned businesses and have a positive impact on families and individuals. In my job with Iowa Farmers Union, I have already worked with legislators across the aisle to deliver programs that invest in small businesses in Iowa, including the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program and the Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Program, and I look forward to continuing this work if elected.

5) Where do you stand on funding for public schools – is it adequate or otherwise?

On every issue, I will turn to experts to get my information. When I talk to teachers and school board members about public school funding, I constantly hear the same thing: our public schools have been facing “sustained underfunding.” The consistent budget cuts from the State force our school districts to make tough decisions that alienate people and cause local drama, while the root cause of the issue truly lies in the State Government. Our local legislators need to take responsibility to make sure the public servants managing our public schools (who range across the political spectrum) have adequate support from the state to maintain and improve the quality of Iowa’s public education.

6) Would you have voted ‘yes’ for the Area Education Agencies (AEAs) reform legislation (which also included raising teacher pay) recently signed into law by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds? Please explain why or why not you would have voted that way.

I would have voted a resounding ‘no’ for two reasons. First and most importantly, 56% of Iowans have a favorable view of AEAs, compared with just 20% who hold an unfavorable opinion of the agencies. There was almost unanimous opposition from the voters of Iowa for the referenced piece of legislation. As a representative of Iowans, an elected official must vote to actually represent their viewpoints. Secondly, I realize that this issue disproportionately impacts rural school districts and children who are disabled or differently abled. I believe in equity meaning equal access to a quality education and life regardless of where you are born and what your specific skills and talents are. People in rural areas shouldn’t be left behind with the scraps – they should be first in line.

7) State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) has represented Tama County in the Iowa House for over a decade. Many Democrats have tried and failed to unseat him. Why are you the candidate Democrats should vote for to take on Rep. Fisher in the 2024 General Election? How will you create a path to victory that no other Democrat has seemingly been able to accomplish?

I recognize that if this District is going to be flipped, whoever the Democratic Candidate is will need to swing a lot of formerly Republican votes and also increase turn out amongst people who typically don’t vote. My campaign is centered on representing all Iowans – and I plan to spend my time meeting all people who have been disenfranchised by politics or by the Democratic Party and letting them know that I will truly represent them if elected to office. I am running a campaign solely based on positive energy and will not point fingers or blame at folks across political lines.

8) In one sentence, why should people vote for you on June 4, 2024?

My favorite quote that I’ve received from a voter about my campaign so far – “Tommy Hexter will not bore.”