July 21, 2024

Republican candidates for state seats attend forum in Osceola

Editor’s note: Part two of the forum featuring local candidates will appear in next week’s newspaper.

The Clarke County Republican Central Committee hosted a Republican candidate forum on May 14 at Revelton Distillery for Republican candidates running for local and state offices.

Those in attendance running for state level seats were Brenda Brammer-Smith and Sam Wengryn, who are both seeking the nomination for Iowa House District 24, and Amy Sinclair, incumbent for Iowa Senate District 12. Incumbent for Iowa House District 24 Joel Fry, who announced in March that he was not seeking another term, was also in attendance.

The event was moderated by Don Heck. Each candidate was given the opportunity to talk about their campaign, and were then given two minutes to answer pre-submitted questions with no rebuttals allowed.

Iowa House District 24

Brenda Brammer-Smith and Sam Wengryn answer questions at the Clarke County Republican Candidate forum on May 14.

Brammer-Smith is a lifelong resident of Clarke County, and worked as an educator at Clarke Elementary School for 22 years before transitioning to the AEA, where she has worked for the past six years as a special education consultant. She served as this year’s Clarke County Republican platform chair, as well as district and state delegate. Brammer-Smith said she is a proud Christian, and is deeply passionate about education and returning Iowa to being one of the top states in the nation in education.

“I want to ensure that every one of our children in District 24 have access to a top-tier education,” said Brammer-Smith. While education is a large issue for her, she is also concerned with lowering taxes and reducing state regulations.

Wengryn resides in Pleasanton in rural Decatur County. He serves as the chairman of the Decatur County Board of Supervisors, and is also the chair of the Decatur County Republican Central Committee. Upon his announcement of not seeking re-election, Fry endorsed his support for Wengryn. Wengryn said that he is running to represent everyone, and is ready to carry on the work of Fry, including fighting tax burdens placed on Iowans through the timber reserve program. He is also focusing on individual’s privacy as it relates to digital rights, and looking at eminent domain to protect individual property rights.

“That’s mostly what my platform is on…protecting you, your individual privacy and your property,” said Wengryn.

Q: How do you intend to stand up against the Liberal agenda and defend our traditional values, especially when it comes to issues like religious freedom and the right to bear arms?

Brammer-Smith answered that as a gun-owner, she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and protecting that right of Americans. With religious freedom, Brammer-Smith said that is what American was founded on, and she will defend against anything that comes against that.

Wengryn’s response pointed to the Constitution, with the First and Second Amendments outlining the concerns in the question. Wengryn is a lifetime member of the NRA, and said that by standing up for the Constitution, you can stand up against the liberal agenda.

Q: How would you work to reduce the size and scope of government, lower taxes and promote a free market economy in Iowa?

Brammer-Smith said that Governor Kim Reynolds has done a good job of helping to reduce the scope of Iowa’s government, and she would continue working on decreasing different boards and committees. With lowering taxes, Brammer-Smith would promote properly funding schools so they don’t have to rely on property taxes to pay for funds that they do not have.

In response to the free market question, Brammer-Smith said that was something she didn’t have an answer for, but should she be elected to office, she would be more than willing to work with others who do know, and work together to figure it out.

Wengryn agreed that the governor has done a good job of reducing departments and government spending. In his work as a supervisor, Wengryn said that he has learned that there is always “fluff” instilled in every department, it is just working to find what it is and cutting it out.

In regards to a free market economy, he would work on reducing regulations and looking towards economic decisions for long-term prosperity.

Q: Illegal immigration - what steps can be taken to reduce the problem in Iowa?

Brammer-Smith and Wengryn both touched on the Iowa law that was recently enacted regarding illegal immigration, where law enforcement officers can detain and deport people who are in Iowa illegally. Wengryn added that the federal government could do more in defending and protecting the border.

Q: What is your stance on school choice, school vouchers and empowering parents to have a greater say in their student’s education?

Wengryn said that technically, children are a parents’ property until they turn 18, and therefore the parents should have the full right to decide where their children go to school. Ultimately, it comes down to the parents, and what they feel is best for their children, family and future.

Brammer-Smith agreed that as Americans, it is one’s right to choose where their kids go to school. With school vouchers, however, she pointed out that that money is not going back into District 24, as there are no accredited private schools in the area. She said she finds the school voucher system to not be fiscally responsible and pointed to the lack of accountability in private schools compared to public schools. Therefore, she said she could not back the legislation for the school vouchers, as it doesn’t benefit any students in District 24.

Q: What steps will you take to ensure that our education curriculum…represents an accurate and unbiased view of American history instead of CRT-style indoctrination?

Wengryn said that it is important to recognize that while there have been bad choices made in the past, trying to cover up or ignore those mistakes instead of learning from them will just lead to them being made again.

Brammer-Smith addressed the indoctrination, saying she had talked to superintendents who said that is not happening. She also echoed the learning from past mistakes, and staying truthful to what the past is.

Q: What sets you apart from your competitor?

For Wengryn, he said his experience in public service and his youth set him apart. With the state platform document he helped draft, he is proud to follow it and be held accountable should he go against anything written in the document.

“I’m also quite youthful with a spring in my step, and I can stick around for quite some time. And, really, combination of my youth and experience, I think that’s what sets me apart,” said Wengryn.

Brammer-Smith reiterated that she is not a politician and is not running on a political agenda, nor relying on the endorsement of others - she’s relying on herself, with her 28 years of educational leadership experience. She stated that she doesn’t come with all of the answers, but will work with others and dig deep and do the research.

“I’m one of you. I’m doing this for you, your children in the future of Iowa,” said Brammer-Smith.

There is one Democrat running for Iowa House District 24 - Sonya Hicks of Osceola.

Iowa Senate District 12

Iowa Senator Amy Sinclair talks to the crowd at the Clarke County Republican Candidate forum on May 14.

Sinclair is the only Republican running for Iowa Senate District 12; she has one Democratic contender, Nicole Loew of Chariton.

Sinclair spoke of the work that has been accomplished in this year’s senate session, including the changes to education to introduce oversight transparency, local control of local school boards and salary increases to recruit and retain teachers. She said the work done will help improve student achievement, and that the task force will make sure everything is being followed.

She spoke on the 6-billion dollar surplus within the state, signifying that there is still too much being paid in taxes. With the bill passed regarding tax cuts, it will come into effect on Jan. 1 instead of over a year later. Sinclair said that will equate to about one-billion dollars for Iowans, with an average of $800 per family.

“...the state of Iowa doesn’t need, and we still get the business done for funding schools, keeping law enforcement a priority, making sure Medicaid is fully funded and moving our state forward,” said Sinclair of the tax savings.

Sinclair touched on legislation to tighten restrictions on foreign ownership of Iowa ag land, and spoke on the work that Fry had done on the timber reserve program. Though the bill ultimately failed, much was accomplished on it, and Sinclair will continue to work on it.

Speaking of the border and illegal immigration, Sinclair said that something has to be done to protect the nation and Iowa. She spoke of the law allowing law enforcement to detain and deport those who are in Iowa illegally, stating that the United States needs solid immigration processes.

In closing, Sinclair said,

“We’re doing things that matter for Iowans in an absence of federal government doing the job to protect and support and nurture the citizens of my state. I’m going to step up and reassert the sovereignty that my state had already. I’m going to take back control and I’m going to serve and support the people here in Iowa, and particularly the people in District 12.”

United States Congress

United States Congressman Zach Nunn had also been invited to the forum, however he was in Washington, D.C. and unable to attend. A pre-recorded video message from Nunn was shared, asking for the people’s vote so he could continue the work he has been doing for Iowans.

Absentee voting is now open. The primary election takes place on June 4.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.