Political Newcomers Look To Unseat GOP In Rural House Seats

Iowa Starting Line – Josh Cook

As attention has finally moved away from the caucuses, there are plenty of other races in Iowa gearing up for the June primaries and beyond. A couple of those races, happening in rural House districts, feature political newcomers taking on Republican incumbents.

Carissa Froyum is running for House District 63, which includes rural portions of Black Hawk County, and all of Bremer County in Northern Iowa.

Nick Miller wants to represent House District 19 in Dallas County, which covers most of the area west of the Des Moines suburbs, but also takes in Polk City and part of Urbandale..

Froyum is running against Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican incumbent who Democrats have tried to unseat for years.

“We’re really excited. Things are going really well. We’ve been working on creating a broad coalition of people in our area,” Froyum said. “So, families like me, but also other people; people with disabilities, social services workers, teachers, other union workers. So, we feel like we’re off to a really good start, and we’re excited.”

Miller is running against Rep. Chris Hagenow, the former majority leader who is serving District 19 for the first time after previously representing District 43 for several terms before surrendering the seat to Democratic Rep. Jennifer Konfrst in 2018.

“I was anticipating going into it, knowing that it’s going to be a hard race, but it doesn’t take anybody who is in politics to know that that would still be a tough race, regardless,” Miller explained. “Even the fact that I am so young, I feel very encouraged that this year is going to be really good regardless of the outcome of the election.”

For Froyum, It’s Personal

Froyum is running for office for the first time, so she’s learning a lot on the fly.

“You know, being a first-time candidate, there’s always a learning curve, of course. I feel like we have things pretty well figured out and are about to start our ground game much more,” Froyum explained. “I’ve been focusing a lot of my time on meet-and-greets and fundraising.”

She knows she has a tough race ahead of her to unseat an eight-year incumbent.

“I’m going against an established candidate, which is always a challenge,” Froyum said. “But I feel like we have the wind at our backs, and people are energetic and ready to go.”

Health care is a personal issue for Froyum, who has struggled to keep up with Iowa’s privatization of Medicaid to help her 8-year-old son, Hans, who has a costly breathing condition.

But on top of fighting for an issue that is near-and-dear, Froyum is concerned about the state of health care and education, especially how resources are being allocated in rural areas.

“My approach is to always ask the question: how is the policy going to play out in a rural area?” Froyum asked. “Because I think a lot of policies are passed, and they are created, ideologically, or with the concern of more urban or suburban areas. And things work really differently in smaller communities and in rural areas.

“So, there’s a ripple effect in rural areas that people don’t talk about because we just expect people to be hardworking, and just plow through whatever they’re doing,” Froyum said, continuing on to talk about mental health services. “And there just aren’t the support networks and services in rural areas that people need.”

Her team is actually off to a pretty nice start on fundraising, with a little more than $15,000 in the bank, and is looking to build on that going forward.

“We raised that amount in just a couple of months, and we’ve been doing really well the first part of the year already, again. And I’ve got I’ve got my organization ready. I have a campaign manager, I have a team of volunteers who are really dedicated and working closely with me,” she said. “I was only, what, $200 behind what my opponent raised, which I think is pretty good for a first-time candidate.”

Yes, Nick Miller Knows He’s Young

At 21, Miller has his work cut out for him to build a team, fundraise, grow his name recognition and convince voters to support his candidacy against a well-funded Republican.

“I certainly would say that one of the biggest obstacles is my age,” Miller said. “Between the fundraising with being so young, as well as just my general appearance of being much younger than anybody else who has run for this seat in the past, or run for any public office in the area. There are many gatekeepers to keeping younger people out of the process.”

Despite that, Miller already has raised more than $6,000 and is looking for ways to make up ground without large swaths of funds coming in.

Miller wants the Iowa Legislature to invest in business development, re-invest in education and take steps toward a sustainable future. All three of these pieces fit into Miller’s central goal to help the community that allowed him to thrive.

“I just want to ensure that the voters in my district know that I am there to work alongside them, and I want to make a difference in their lives for a brighter future, as well as letting them know that I want to build up my community,” Miller said. “I’m from the district. So, I want to see it thrive. And I love the state of Iowa. I want to make sure that Iowa, overall, thrives in the future as well.”

For starters, though, Miller expressed gratitude for the support he’s already received from his community.

“I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support that I’ve received, not just from my friends and family, but the amount of new people that I have met that have invested time and resources into this campaign and will continue to invest time and resources in this campaign,” Miller said. “Not just that they invest in the campaign, but that they believe in me as a leader and somebody that they would be willing to vote for.”