A vacancy in the Iowa State House District 4 seat has generated a contentious race for the next State Representative from Sioux County. Considering the relationship between the candidates, this race is expected to be a fascinating story.
On June 7, Skyler Wheeler, a 23-year-old recent Northwestern College graduate, won a three-way Republican primary for the House District 4 seat. Coming in third place was Jeff Vander Werff, Skyler’s political science professor from Northwestern.
Sioux County has an overwhelmingly Republican electorate, so any candidate who wins a Republican primary is almost certain to win a general election. Almost.
Despite Vander Werff finishing third in the primary, recent developments have led him to be petitioned back onto the ballot. Vander Werff is now running as an Independent.
“I am no less a Republican today than I was [twelve] weeks ago when the primary concluded. I will not only campaign as a conservative, but I remain committed to the GOP,” Vander Werff stated in a recent statement to the Sioux County GOP’s Central Committee.
Vander Werff emphasized his relationships with community leaders and long-term residence in Sioux County as a justification for his candidacy.
On the other hand, Wheeler knocked on thousands of doors, rallied support from local activists and won the Republican primary with a conservative message. While both candidates claim to be running as conservatives, when their stances on the issues are considered, Wheeler’s policy proposals reflect the conservative values of the Republican Party platform, but Vander Werff’s positions raise questions about his conservative ideology.
On the issue of taxes and the economy, Vander Werff has expressed support of the recent increase in the gas tax. Wheeler says he does not support increasing taxes. Wheeler pledges to fight for traditional marriage values, whereas Vander Werff says the issue is a lost cause. Wheeler will encourage local communities to control education standards and Vander Werff supports Iowa Core, the statewide program that regulates standards for schools in Iowa.
The differences between these two candidates is significant and this fall’s election will test whether or not Iowa wants its legislators to hold the conservative ideals that have traditionally been represented in Sioux County.