Shaun Kelley, 64, of Afton, who grew up in Creston is a Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 21. He retired in 2016 from BNSF Railway, where he worked for 43 years. During his time with BNSF, he was part of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Trainmen Union, where he served as the local union president, local union legislative representative and state union legislative representative. In addition to his time with the railroad, Kelley also worked on housing and sold real estate. For more information, visit “Shaun Kelley for House District 21” on Facebook.
Tom Moore, 68, of Griswold, is the incumbent Republican candidate for Iowa House District 21, where he has served as a representative since 2015. During his time in the the Iowa House of Representatives, Moore has served on the education committee, served as the vice chairperson of the House/Senate Joint Education Appropriations Committee, and committees for human resources and environmental protections. Moore has set up a Facebook account in his own name where he shares information on topics being addressed in the Iowa House of Representatives and issues he’s passionate about.
Important issues for Kelley
Kelley said income and property taxes need to be addressed and he wants to explore ways to lower those.
“Will lowering them make our life better or will it make our life worse?” Kelley said. “We need to look at those things. ... We can all throw out conjecture, ‘Well I’m against high taxes.’ ... But, are our taxes high?”
“I really believe that moderate Independents, moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats are all on the same page. I just believe they have a different way of how to get there,” said Kelley. “But different ideas sometimes scare people, but there is a solution. There’s always solutions to the problems.
Agriculture was also of importance to Kelley.
“We are a banking and insurance state, but we are still have a lot of land that is agriculture. And we need to start addressing the environmental problems and try to figure out if this is a normal course in the history of our world, or if this is human-driven,” said Kelley. “We need to start addressing these things like adults and stop deferring it off to some future generation.”
Kelley said he hopes to see all Iowans have access to quality, affordable health care. He believes the Affordable Care Act is good policy and he is a big proponent of a single-payer health care system.
“We know that in other countries, doctors don’t suffer, they make good wages, and most of those other countries have a higher standard of health care and they aren’t waiting years to get things done,” said Kelley. “We could, very easily, have affordable health care. Of course you have to start slow. ... If we can give trillions of dollars away, tax cuts to the wealthiest 1%, we can afford better health care for everyone in the United States.”
Important issues for Moore
Moore listed the state budget, education and COVID-19 as some of his priorities if re-elected.
“We have to have a balanced budget which means we have to make tough choices,” said Moore. “It is a point of contention between the two parties, because we try to hold our spending down so we can develop reserves and handle situations like the COVID situation that we’re in right now.”
Moore said as a result of good budget oversight, Iowa has been rated within the top five states in terms of viability.
“We are allowed to only spend 99% of the budget, but we have been spending 96 and 97% here in the last four years,” Moore said. “By doing that, we have been able to build up those cash reserves.”
Moore said, in the last quarter, Iowa had a $305 million surplus, which showed current legislators are budgeting responsibly.
On education, Moore said the state needs to look at how COVID-19 is affecting schools and how effective hybrid and online models of education are.
“I don’t know if there will be any legislation to address that, but I am sure we will try to tighten up some of the loose areas we are finding,” Moore said.
Moore said he believes Iowa’s response to COVID-19 has been good.
“We have really dumped a whole load in the lap of the Governor and I think she has done a great job for the state of Iowa,” said Moore. “Her responsibilities in this situation, to me, would be overwhelming.”
What are your budget priorities? In which areas would you target funding reductions?
Moore said he wants to continue funding for education, public safety and further examine Iowa’s tax burden.
“When it comes to education, we’ve always given what we’ve promised,” Moore said.
On public safety, Moore said this year the state legislature increased funding for 15 to 18 new troopers.
“That’s important because the number of troopers we’ve had on the road during the weekends, sometimes, it would scare you to know how many state troopers were actually out there and the amount of miles they have to travel to get to accidents and things like that,” he said.
Kelley said, because he is not currently in office, the budget is currently not as accessible as he would like it to be.
“I would need to be in office and at that point would have better access (to the budget),” said Kelley. “As far as knowing where to cut the budget, as far as knowing where to begin, I would have to look at a model of all the expenses incurred in Iowa and then I’d have to look at how the system is set up.”
Kelley said the state does not mandate the millage levels –áthe tax rate used to calculate local property tax.
“(The state) used to mandate a millage level on your taxes,” said Kelley. “We are one and a half times higher than most states in the United States of America on property taxes, but the question is what we can get for that. I really don’t have an answer to that – where we would cut, where we are fat, where we are lean.”
How would you rate the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic so far? What would you do differently, and why?
Kelley said he feels the federal government should have implemented the Defense Production Act to start the production of personal protective equipment as soon as a shortage was expected.
“I don’t believe it is the state’s responsibility to provide the guidance and the material and the money for this PPE gear ... that should have come from the federal government immediately,” said Kelley.
He said addressing issues caused by COVID-19 will always be a priority for him until the U.S. is beyond it and said it was not addressed rapidly enough in Iowa.
“If I was to be elected, I would definitely push for the things Dr. Fauci is pushing for. You have to follow good science,” said Kelley. “We do know that we can function with masks, separation, distance, using our brains and being cognitive and having situational awareness, where we wash our hands and keeping things clean that we know we’ve touched. ... We can still function fairly well and open most businesses up and ... we can actually stop the infection rate if we really work at it, but we don’t have any leadership.”
Moore said he is really concerned by what the affect COVID-19 has had on small business as they operate at a limited capacity.
“I realize we have to protect people, but I think we need to look more to a response, if you are ... to me the increases in the rate of positives (COVID-19 cases) is not as important as the death rate and the death rate has leveled off,” Moore said. “It isn’t as much that people dying of the COVID, but they are dying of something else because COVID affects that. We’ve got to take a good look at that.”
Moore thinks the state should open up more and it should be the responsibility of individuals to protect themselves.
“It’s your responsibility to wear the mask. It’s your responsibility to keep your social distance and it’s your responsibility to reduce the impact they might have by going out into the public and different events,” said Moore.
When it comes to a mask mandate, Moore said the governor should be the one setting the guidelines for public places and government entities, but private businesses should have the right to require it of their patrons.
On state funding of Iowa’s K-12 system
Kelley said he finds it “ludicrous” that parents of students attending public schools have to purchase supplies and feels that teachers should be offered more competitive salaries based on the hours they work.
“Here is the question we have to ask: ‘Is there income equal to their work days?’” said Kelley. “We all deserve a good wage and teachers are a very, very important part of out children’s whole entire thought process and life process in some cases more than their parents ever are. It’s a very important job.”
Moore addressed this topic when discussing his top priorities.
On the availability of safe and affordable child care in Iowa
Moore said child care is critical for Iowa’s workforce as many are essential and in their child-bearing ages.
“We need to make sure there is affordable, consistent and safe childcare,” Moore said.
Kelley said there should be subsidies so that a working parent doesn’t have to give up most of their paycheck for daycare to go out and earn a living.
“It’s terrible and we need to find a solution to that so that they can function, so that they can have homes, so they can have things until they can get on their feet and can be gainfully employed with a working wage,” Kelley said.
What would you do or advocate to help those who are out of work and those who are in need of housing?
Kelley said, those unable to work due to physical or mental issues need to have roles created for them or society will be responsible for caring for them.
“Just like you would for anybody,” he said. “There is a certain sector of our society that either cannot work, cannot function or have physical or mental issues, ... or can’t work for whatever reasons ... but I don’t think there are many people who don’t want to feel productive,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he believes there are plenty of jobs available.
“There’s work and its just a matter of getting those people placed in good, living-wage jobs,” he said.
Moore said affordable housing, daycare and business are tied together.
“That is something we lack on. Not necessarily affordable housing, but quality housing,” Moore said.
Moore said quality housing is needed in Iowa’s medium and smaller sized towns to attract business.
“People that are looking for a $150,000 home, there’s not that much in that market and the reason for that is there is a decline in population,” said Moore. “We’re addressing housing, along with the child care That’s all part of business growth.”
What is your response to recent protests calling for racial justice? What changes to law enforcement policy or budgeting do you support?
“We had some, very few, peaceful protests and we had a number of criminal riots,” said Moore.
Moore said in cities where riots have occurred, there is leadership that has “dropped the ball.”
“By that, they have not drawn a clear line between protest and riot and that needs to be done ... if you do this, you’re going to jail. I understand the emotion that is taking place at the time, but the reaction that goes with that emotion has to be civil,” Moore said.
Kelley said he does not believe in the defunding of law enforcement agencies, but he feels police departments should be demilitarized.
“The protocol needs to be different,” said Kelley. “They are there to protect and serve. They are there to keep order and they do not need to push things to a military level. ... We don’t need a military organization running around here to control speeding tickets, tell people they ran for a light, to tell people they made a bad turn or to be at an accident site. We don’t need people with machine guns and tanks ... if it gets to that point, then those are some bad people and the FBI already knew about them.”
Did you support Reynolds’ amendment to restore voting rights for felons?
Kelley said he believes in redemption and that he supports the restoration of voting rights for felons if they have served their time and paid their restitution.
Moore said he supports the restoration of felons voting rights as long as all conditions of the individual’s term has been met, which includes the payment of restitution.
“The Democrats talk about it as a poll tax. I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as, you have been assessed a penalty and you have to meet that penalty before you are restored that right to vote,” Moore said.
Moore said there are some crimes for which a person should never have their voting rights restored: felony murder, sexual abuse of a child or a felony dealing with the voting system.
Will you approve the governor’s IWILL tax relief/mental health plan?
The bill involves a 1-cent increase in the state’s sales tax to pay for income tax cuts, improvements to water quality and outdoor recreations and an additional funding stream for mental health services while limiting how much counties levy in property taxes to pay for mental health services.
“I think there are parts of it that are very good, but I think we need to look at it,” said Moore. “On its face, I think it is good policy.”
“That’s the diabolical part of laws and how they amend them and attach things to them ... I’m for the mental health and the water part of it,” said Kelley. “The other part is, who is the tax relief for?”
Do you support a constitutional amendment on abortion (HJR2004)?
“I’m pro-life all the way, but you ask these people about the death penalty,” said Kelley.
Kelley said he challenges others to also question their own hypocrisy when it comes to their thoughts on abortion and the death penalty, but ultimately called for more support of Americans who are dying and not receiving the support they require and called for the support of services provided by agencies such as Planned Parenthood.
“If you care so much about human life, and a life being created and aborted, maybe you ought to support Planned Parenthood so that there would be prophylactics, vasectomies, and tubal ligations,” Kelley said. “Do I want to see babies aborted? No, but I guarantee if you gave people better options, they wouldn’t have to be aborting babies.”
“I am definitely pro-life. I think our God should be the only determiner of life and death,” said Moore. “I think we’ve been doing a great job educating in this realm. We don’t have as many abortions taking place,” said Moore.
Moore said education is important for deterring abortions, as are mandated 24-hour waiting periods to avoid impulsive decision making.
Do you support compensation for college athletes (HF2282)?
Moore said he would have to look further into the parameters before he decided if he was for or against compensation for college athletes.
“Financial compensation for college athletes is a real sticky-wicket for me,” said Moore. “Those athletes are getting financial compensation, in most cases, in the means of ... those that are making the money for universities are getting the scholarships in most cases, but the time ... that is placed on them ... (is) huge.”
“I appreciate people’s skills as much as everyone and I understand he is a minority that will ever get to that kind of level,” said Kelley. “I know there are kids who work at the school for tuition, a trade. They are working there and doing their job. They are paid. But I don’t know they should get both. If they are getting a free ride, that’s what they are playing ball for.”
Will you support increasing the state minimum hourly wage?
Kelley said Iowa has low unemployment, but not good living wages.
“I know that scares people, but the people who make the economy work are the lower, middle-class people in this world,” said Kelley. “Nothing in this society will work without this consumer-driven society we have and the engine is run by people like us. If you give them a a good wage, they will spend it and they will put that money into the economy and it will lift all boats.”
Moore said he believes in the free market.
“It’s not productive to tell businesses what they have to pay to hire people,” said Moore. “If I’m only paying $7.50 an hour in my business and I’m having trouble hiring people, maybe I need to raise my salary for my workers. On the other hand, if I’m working at a job that is only paying minimum wage that is not paying enough to support my family, maybe I need to do something else.”
Moore said it’s a matter of the business and the employee negotiating a wage that is viable for the employee and business. He believes raising the minimum wage will raise the cost of goods and services at the expense of the consumer.
Will you support raising the state tobacco tax?
Moore said he “probably would say no” to raising state tobacco tax.
“I’m not for any tax increases, plain and simple. I realize we have to have taxation to run the government ... but, to use taxation as a means of telling people they shouldn’t be smoking, I don’t agree with that,” said Moore. “To place a tax only on those ... that’s a targeted tax and I don’t like targeted taxes just like I don’t like targeted people who are given specific relief from taxes in certain situation.”
Kelley, who lost his mother to smoking-related issues, said he doesn’t support smoking but that a tobacco tax typically penalizes “poor” individuals who are addicted.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever smoked before, but I’ve met people who have tried their whole life to give it up,” said Kelley. “Is that tax going to go to helping them get off cigarettes? Is that going to help abate the health effects in Iowa, or where is that tax going? That’s my question with a lot of taxes. If they tax you another penny and they are wasting another penny, then I think that’s terrible, because then they are making you responsible for (government’s) poor actions.”
Will you support eliminating criminal penalties for possessing marijuana?
Kelley said he does not believe there should be penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“I think we have enough people in jail. We have enough people at court. Our system is overloaded with things that are nothing but minor infractions. Let’s deal with important issues,” said Kelley. “That being said, let’s understand what the health effects are of it and be pragmatic about it.”
Moore said he is totally against recreation marijuana and there should be penalties for possession.
“If we continue down the path of medical and have the science that shows that it is medically viable, I am for that. But for recreational marijuana, I am 100% against that,” said Moore. “I think it’s proven in Colorado and other states, that the problems surrounding marijuana have just increased.”
Will you support establishing a moratorium on constructing large-scale animal feeding facilities?
Moore said he supports supports the construction of large-scale animal feeding facilities but that regulations regarding waste, setbacks and odor reduction need to be addressed before doing so.
“Iowa is the leading producer of pork in the nation, maybe in the world,” said Moore. “I think ... as we have a growing population, and a reduced number of acres of land for food production ... we just plain have to support animal feeding operations,” said Moore. “I wouldn’t favor a moratorium, but we need to think about how they are being established, how they are being run, how big they are and those types of things.”
Kelley, who said he’s been fighting the establishment of animal confinements since the 1990s, said he personally wants to see a moratorium until the government can address some of the issues it hasn’t addressed in the past.
“There’s really no water quality constraints. The ag zones basically allow them to take over areas. It creates a really bad air environment for those that live near there. It’s not the healthiest environment for the animals to be in, but they are breathing better air because at least the pits are ventilated,” said Kelley. “But the thing you have to remember is that there are a lot of people who work in confinements and that’s their bread and butter.”