Meet the House District 53 Democratic candidates: Tommy Hexter | News, sports, jobs

Tommy Hexter. Submitted photo

Tommy Hexter

Age: 24

Residence: Grinnell, Iowa

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

Education: BA 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 become a state legislator? What is your main motivation for running?

I am deeply connected to my community’s small businesses and social services. Every day people share with me the struggles and opportunities they experience in this place. My main motivation for running is to ensure that all the people of House District 53 have their voices heard in the State House so we can confront this fight and expand opportunities to help families and small businesses thrive here.

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

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

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

I am a young person (born in 1999) who sees many people of my generation fleeing the countryside. 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 generations to come. In my work at Grinnell Farm To Table, I am also deeply rooted in local agriculture and rural economic development. I believe that the foundation 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 the state Legislature to address? If elected, what would you do to address these challenges if the Democratic Party remains the minority party in the Iowa House after the 2024 elections?

I believe the biggest problems we face as a predominantly rural district are similar to what most rural areas in the Midwest face today – the hollowing out of our communities, including: brain drain of young people moving, hospitals and schools are closing, small businesses are being overtaken by Dollar General, small media outlets are being bought out by national corporations, and access to food and medical care is becoming increasingly difficult. All Iowans can agree that we need to keep our rural areas thriving – and it all starts with a new model of economic development where we ensure the investments we make reach Iowa’s businesses and have a positive impact on families and individuals . In my job at the Iowa Farmers Union, I’ve already worked with legislators across the aisle to implement programs that invest in Iowa small businesses, including the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program and the Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Program, and I look forward to continuing this work if he is elected.

5) What is your position on public school funding – is it adequate or otherwise?

On any topic, I turn to experts to get my information. When I talk to teachers and school board members about public school funding, I hear the same thing all the time: our public schools have been beset by problems “persistent underfunding.” Continued state budget cuts are forcing our school districts to make difficult decisions that alienate people and cause local drama, when the root cause of the problem really lies with the state government. Our local legislators must take responsibility for ensuring that the officials who manage our public schools (which span the political spectrum) receive adequate support from the state to maintain and improve the quality of public education in Iowa.

6) Would you have voted “yes” on the Area Education Agencies (AEAs) reform legislation (which also included an increase in teacher salaries) that was recently signed into law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds? Explain why you would or would not have voted that way.

I would have voted resoundingly ‘no’ for two reasons. First and most important, 56% of Iowans have a favorable opinion of AEAs, compared to only 20% who have an unfavorable opinion of the agencies. There was near-unanimous opposition from Iowa voters to the piece of legislation referenced. As a representative of Iowans, an elected official must vote to truly represent their views. Second, I recognize that this issue disproportionately impacts rural school districts and children who are disabled or otherwise impaired. I believe in equality, which means equal access to quality education and life, regardless of where you were born and what your specific skills and talents are. People in rural areas should not be left with the leftovers; they should be first in line.

7) State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) has represented Tama County in the Iowa House for more than a decade. Many Democrats have tried to unseat him, but have not succeeded. Why are you the candidate Democrats should vote for to take on Rep. Fisher in the 2024 general election? How are you going to create a path to victory that no other Democrat has seemingly been able to achieve?

I recognize that if this district is flipped, whoever the Democratic Candidate is will need to capture many former Republican votes and also increase turnout among people who typically don’t vote. My campaign is focused on representing all Iowans – and I plan to spend my time meeting all the people who have been disenfranchised by politics or the Democratic Party and letting them know that I will truly represent them if they are elected to office. I am running a campaign based solely on positive energy and will not point fingers or blame people across political lines.

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

My favorite quote I’ve received from a voter about my campaign so far: “Tommy Hexter won’t be bored.”

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