April 17, 2024

Democratic candidates vying for Senate seat share at recent forum

Lanon Baccam speaks at a forum for Democratic candidates hosted by Adair, Union and Madison County Democrats at The Wallace Farm recently.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series covering this event. State-level candidates Karen Varley and Nicole Loew were featured in the first part of the series.

Democratic candidates for Iowa’s Third Congressional District Melissa Vine and Lanon Baccam were in attendance and answered questions from the crowd in a candidate forum hosted recently by Adair, Union and Madison County Democrats at The Wallace Farm northeast of Orient.

Vine, from West Des Moines, and Baccam, of Mount Pleasant, are each running in the June Primary to face incumbent Republican Zach Nunn of Bondurant in the General Election. Nunn will be featured at a later time.

Vine said she came from “tough times” and is a former Republican. She stated Republicans “make you walk a fine line” and she “missed out on the beauty of diversity.”

She’s a mom of four and a non-profit director. She commended Democrats for coming out to support politics, as she acknowledged “there’s not a lot of Democrats around, but you keep showing up. You’re here, and that matters.”

“About 10 years ago I got out of an abusive marriage, and overnight, I went from being a wealthy small business owner to having zero dollars to my name. I had four little boys 9 and under,” Vine said. “I quickly got a job checking groceries for $8.50 an hour. I finished my Master’s Degree in mental health counseling and began working as a therapist in rural Iowa for several years.”

Through her work in the mental health arena, Vine began to see disparities in access to healthcare that there are between metropolitan and rural areas.

Vine also bought and sold two small businesses to get out of poverty.

Later, Vine was director of a non-profit serving women coming out of trauma, called The Beacon.

“I saw how these women were struggling and I wanted to change the systems that were harming them, so I took the step to go to law school,” Vine said. “Drake Law School offered me a full ride, and I was able to get my law degree. Through that, we were able to change systems so women can stay in the community and get housing and supporting services as an alternative to being incarcerated for substance abuse disorder.”

Baccam is a combat engineer veteran who is the son of Taidam refugees from Laos, who arrived in Iowa in 1980. His parents were grateful for the opportunities they got as Americans, and he said he’s grateful to be running for congress.

He stressed his willingness to serve prepared him for this chapter of running for congress.

“I wanted to give back. I joined the military at 17 years old. I actually brought a National Guard recruiter home. I ambushed them with a recruiter because I wanted to serve. They co-signed my papers,” Baccam said. He served eight years and went on one deployment to Afghanistan with his unit.

Upon returning, Baccam served in Governor Tom Villsack’s office, then at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helping transitioning service members find work as civillians upon returning home.

“My history of service — the fact I’ve dedicated my whole life to this — I feel has prepared me to serve this district and I’m ready to go congress to do that,” Baccam said.

Baccam talked about the fact that character matters. He said that in his time in the military, he was never judged for political matters. He said it’s time to celebrate diversity and lessen attacks on the LGBTQ community.

Various topics discussed during a question and answer time included moving away from extremism, having moms like Vine in congress because of their wisdom and their relational gifts, meat country of origin labeling because people care where their food came from, and other Farm Bill related issues like having better messaging around SNAP benefit issues.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.