Ready to Run® Iowa participants run for office

Ready to Run® Iowa is a non-partisan campaign school designed to recruit and train women in Iowa to run for elective office, to prepare for appointive office, or to become involved in public life as leaders in their respective communities. The program has been offered by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics every other year since 2007, and more than 265 women and men have participated in the training.

The 2016 election cycle includes several participants who have attended Ready to Run® Iowa workshops. Eleven past workshop participants are running for elected office at the county, state and federal level. In addition, two former workshop speakers are running for federal office and nine former speakers are running for the Iowa Legislature. And, many participants have been politically active in their communities.

Kim Weaver, the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2015. A native Iowan who has worked to help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Weaver has advocated for seniors living in residential care facilities.

Miyoko Hikiji, another 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa participant, is the Democratic candidate running to represent Iowa Senate District 20. She is a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran who grew up in Cedar Rapids. After finishing her tour for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hikiji returned to Iowa and wrote her biography, "All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq." Her experience as member of the armed forces has made veterans’ issues a central theme in her campaign.

Bonnie Sadler also attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2015 and is running as the Republican candidate to represent District 30 – which includes the communities of Hudson, Cedar Falls and western Waterloo – in the Iowa State Senate. She currently serves on the Black Hawk County Board of Health and is the board president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa. Sadler has focused her campaign on her expertise in health care and business.

Megan Jones is the Republican incumbent running for her third term to represent District 2 in the Iowa House of Representatives. She is currently the vice chair of the Judiciary Committee and also serves on the Education, Environmental Protection and Human Resources committees and the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee. Jones attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2009 and was a speaker in 2013.

Heather Matson, who attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2015, is running as the Democratic candidate to represent District 38 in the Iowa House. She has worked on numerous political campaigns, including Tom Vilsack's gubernatorial race. Matson also has served as vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and as chair of the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa Political Action Committee.

Claire Celsi, who was both a participant and a speaker at the 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa workshops, is running as the Democratic candidate for the District 42 House seat. She started her own company, The Public Relations Project, in 2009. Celsi has also served on numerous boards and commissions including her current appointments to the Central Iowa Shelter and Services Board, Booster Pak West Des Moines Board and West Des Moines Board of Adjustment.

Sondra Childs-Smith, who also attended the 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa program, is running as the Republican candidate for the Iowa House seat representing District 45. She has served five years on the Story County Republican Party Central Committee and has been a successful business owner. Childs-Smith is campaigning on the economy, education and protecting rights.

Teresa Meyer attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2015 and ran to be District 63’s Democratic candidate for the Iowa House. Meyer, who has been a nurse in Cedar Valley for 25 years, focused her campaign on health care, jobs and the economy. She was defeated in her primary by Eric Stromberg, who received only 1.3% more votes than Meyer.

Sandy Salmon, also from District 63, is the Republican incumbent running for her third term in the Iowa House. She is currently vice chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and also serves on the Education, Human Resources, Public Safety, and Administration and Regulation budget committees. Salmon attended Ready to Run® Iowa in 2011.

Linda Murken, who attended Ready to Run®Iowa in 2011 and 2015, was nominated July 9 by the Story County Democratic Convention as the party’s candidate for a two-year term on the Story County Board of Supervisors. A lifelong resident of Story County who lives in Gilbert, Murken says she will advocate for adequate funding for mental health treatment resources and continue to work against the Bakken pipeline. If the pipeline goes through, she will help county officials in the oversight of its construction and operation. Murken worked for 33 years as director of the Department of Correctional Services for the 2nd Judicial District. She currently is a member of the Story County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Lauris Olson, who attended Ready to Run® Iowa workshops in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, is running as the Democratic candidate for the four-year term on the Story County Board of Supervisors in November 2016, after winning the June 7 Democratic primary with 55% of the vote. A small-businesswoman and former local government reporter, Olson is running on a platform of fostering public/private partnerships to improve transportation options throughout the county, tackling the county’s affordable housing problems, protecting its natural resources and improving county technology to help residents better understand local government affairs.

Two of the 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa speakers are also running for the U.S. Congress in 2016, and nine speakers at the 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa workshops are running for the Iowa Legislature.

Monica Vernon is running as the Democratic candidate to represent Iowa’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She has served on the Cedar Rapids City Council for the past eight years and ran for lieutenant governor of Iowa in 2014. Vernon shared her campaign experiences with Ready to Run® Iowa participants in the 2015 workshop on “Launching Your Campaign.”

Patty Judge, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, also spoke at a 2015 Ready to Run® Iowa workshop, giving advice on working with the media. Judge has a long history in Iowa politics. She served two terms in the Iowa Senate, was the first and only woman elected as Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, and served as lieutenant governor under Chet Culver’s administration.

Sara Huddleston is the Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 11. The first Latin-American woman elected to public office in Iowa, she is a former Storm Lake City Council member, commissioner for Iowa’s Latino Affairs Commission, and member of the Iowa State Empowerment and Iowa State University Extension boards. She also worked as a counselor for a domestic violence and sexual assault agency for 14 years. Huddleston is campaigning on education, economic opportunities and alternative energy sources. She was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2013.

Ruth Ann Gaines is the Democratic incumbent for Iowa House District 32. She is the ranking member on the Government Oversight Committee and also serves on the Education, Ethics, Public Safety and Veteran Affairs committees. First elected to the Iowa House in 2010, Gaines was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2011.

Marti Anderson is the Democratic incumbent for Iowa House District 36. She serves on the Environmental Protection, Government Oversight, Human Resources, Judiciary and Public Safety committees; the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee; the Child Welfare Advisory Committee; and the Commission on Tobacco Use Prevention and Control. First elected to the Iowa House in 2012, she was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2013.

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell – who was a speaker at the 2007, 2009 and 2013 Ready to Run® Iowa workshops – is the Democratic incumbent running for re-election to the District 45 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives, serving that district since 2005. She is the ranking member of the Human Resources Committee and also serves on the Public Safety and Environmental Protection committees and the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Lisa Heddens is the Democratic incumbent for Iowa House District 46, serving that district since 2003. She serves on the Appropriations, Economic Growth, Human Resources and Administrative Rules Review committees and is the ranking member on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. Heddens also serves on the Council on Human Resources and Mental Health and Disability Services Commission. She was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2007, 2009 and 2015.

Linda Upmeyer is the Republican incumbent for House District 54, serving that district since 2003. She was elected in 2016 as the first woman speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives. Upmeyer also chairs the Legislative Council and serves on the Administration and Rules Committee. She was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2009 and 2011.

Liz Bennett is the Democratic incumbent for Iowa House District 65. She serves on the Economic Growth, Environmental Protection and Natural Resources committees; the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee; and the Governor's STEM Advisory Council. Elected in 2014, Bennett was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2015.

Dawn Pettengill is the Republican incumbent for Iowa House District 75, serving that district since 2005. She chairs the Administrative Rules Review Committee and also serves on the Commerce, Government Oversight, State Government and Ways and Means committees. Pettengill was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2015.

Amy Nielsen, the mayor of North Liberty, is the Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 77. She was a Ready to Run® Iowa speaker in 2015. Her core campaign issues are education funding, funding of local governments and improving access to mental health resources.

In addition to the women running for office this November, many former Ready to Run® Iowa participants have been involved in politics. Here’s an update on their political activities:

  • Rachel Bly, 2013 participant, will be running for her third term on the Grinnell City Council in 2017.
  • Patti Edwardson, 2013 participant, is currently on the board of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, which encourages women who want to transform the food and agriculture system to run for office.
  • Melissa Gesing, 2015 speaker, was elected president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women.
  • Becky Greenwald, 2009 and 2011 speaker, serves as regional advocate for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She was appointed to this position in 2011 by the Obama administration.
  • Blake Hanson, 2011 participant, received the 2016 Rising Star Award from the Iowa Democratic Party, organized the first Ready for Hillary event in Iowa and later served as state treasurer for the organization.
  • Carolyn Jenison, 2015 participant, was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board for the City of Des Moines.
  • Natasha Newcomb, 2015 speaker, was elected in September 2015 to represent District 3 on the Des Moines School Board.
  • Jodi O’Donnell, 2013 participant, has worked on two city council campaigns and currently serves on the Ames Progressive Alliance Steering Committee and on the board of directors for the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC.
  • Cynthia Paschen, 2015 participant, has been an active volunteer in her community and also works as a field canvasser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
  • Denise Rathman, 2013 participant, currently serves as executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Iowa chapter, which includes a Political Action Committee that makes endorsements and contributions to Iowa State House candidates.
  • Kim Reem, 2015 participant, was elected 4th vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women and serves as an adviser to the NFRW Campaign Committee.
  • Linda Westergaard, 2015 participant, was elected in January 2016 to represent Ward 2 on the Des Moines City Council. She is only the second woman to sit on the Des Moines City Council in the past 20 years, joining Ward 3 Councilwoman Christine Hensley, a speaker at the 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2015 workshops.

“We encourage all past Ready to Run® participants to contact the Catt Center to report their political involvement in elected and appointed office, community leadership and other activities,” said Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor of journalism and coordinator of research and outreach for the center. “We are interested in building our database tracking the political activities and achievements of our workshop participants.”

Ready to Run® Iowa will be presented again in 2017 as six workshops on three Fridays – February 17, March 31 and April 28. If you are interested in learning more about Ready to Run® Iowa 2017, visit the Catt Center’s website or add your name to our mailing list. Ready to Run® Iowa is part of a national campaign training network founded by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.