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Decision 2020: Rita Hart, candidate, U.S. House Iowa District 2

Rita Hart.
Rita Hart.(KWQC/Rita Hart)
Published: Oct. 4, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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(KWQC) - Note: TV6 reached out to state and federal candidates with a list of questions aimed at helping voters make an informed decision in the 2020 General Election.

The questionnaires will be posted to our special election website, www.kwqc.com/decision2020.

TV6 does not endorse any candidates.

Name: Rita Hart

Age: 64

City: Wheatland, Iowa

Education: North Iowa Area Community College, Bachelor’s in Education from University of Northern Iowa, Masters in Higher Education Administration from University of Iowa

Occupation: Farmer and former Teacher

Experience: High School English teacher, Bennett, and Calamus-Wheatland Community School Districts; Administrator for School-to-Work and Gifted & Talented programs, Calamus-Wheatland Community School District, State Senator, District 49

Party: Democrat

Election website/social media: Website, Ritahart.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/RitaHart4Iowa; Twitter, @RitaHartIA

What is the most important issue facing the state of Iowa, and how would you address it if elected?

My priorities will be bringing people together, tackling corruption in Washington, lowering the cost of health care, and rural economic development.

First, we need leadership that brings people together instead of dividing us. I’ve told the story many times of how I grew up in a big family with a Democratic dad and Republican mother. We had a caucus at our dinner table every night. I learned how to listen to the other side and recognize that, even when we disagree, there’s work that has to be done together. That’s the approach I took as a teacher, as a parent myself, and as a State Senator. It’s the approach that’s earned me the endorsements of Republicans, Democrats, and independents in this campaign.

I want the first bill I vote on to be tackling political corruption in Washington. Too often in Washington, the loudest and most powerful voices drown out the rest of us. Special interests are able to use money and influence to stymie progress on all the issues we need action on – lowering the cost of health care, investing in education, and raising wages for everyone. Dealing with corruption will help us deal with issues like health care.

Health care is the issue I hear more about than any other on the campaign trail. That was true even before we had a pandemic. And it’s personal for me just like it is for most Iowans - my mom had rheumatic fever as a teenager and went into heart failure during her second pregnancy. She raised nine kids with just a whisper and was in and out of Mayo Clinic all while I was growing up. We were incredibly lucky we could afford that care. That’s why I’ve put out a plan - you can read it at RitaHart.com - on how to lower costs and increase accessibility. We need to keep protections for people with pre-existing conditions and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.

How do you rate the nation/state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic so far? What would you do differently, and why?

I am disappointed our state and local leaders have not listened to experts like Dr. Fauci and the CDC and done more to lower the rate of infection. The results are tragic and speak for themselves. Leaders should be encouraging people to do the things that are really going to make a difference – practicing good hygiene, wearing face coverings, and social distancing. We need to acknowledge this pandemic is not going away tomorrow and certainly is not over. We need more testing and better ability to trace results.

I was particularly frustrated by the way back-to-school was handled. I spent 20 years as a teacher in small, rural schools. Our parents, school districts, and teachers worked incredibly hard to come up with plans that worked for their community over the summer without much leadership from either Betsy DeVos or Des Moines. It was wrong that just weeks before school started, local control was ripped away from districts and parents, students, and teachers had to re-work their entire plans.

Finally, I am upset that there are still efforts to take away protections for Iowans with pre-existing conditions and insurance away from 230,000 Iowans. It’s wrong-headed policy and a pandemic is the worst time for it. We need health care policy that builds on these successes, not rips away care from people that need it.

What will you do or advocate to help those who are out of work and those who are in need of housing?

Economic development was a huge focus of my time in the State Senate. I helped create the Clinton County Economic Development Commission that brought everyone involved in economic development together. Clinton became a Home Base Iowa community because of that work. Many of the Republicans that crossed the aisle to endorse my campaign did so because of this work. I want to expand that model as a member of Congress by having one staffer in my office whose job is to focus on economic development - working with communities and businesses to listen to their priorities and work with them to get resources where we need them.

I also support additional relief from Washington for the Iowans who need it. People are still hurting. I was glad when Washington came together to pass the first relief package. Even then, I said we need to ensure money is going where it is needed most. We need money for small businesses, not Wall Street, and huge corporations that were not directly hurt by this pandemic.

We need aid for state and local governments so as they prepare budgets for next year they don’t have to lay off firefighters, cops, and teachers.

I support making sure people who have become unemployed, through no fault of their own, are taken care of. People are being threatened with eviction and facing food insecurity because of this pandemic.

We need to stand up for Iowa’s agricultural industry. That means we need to ensure that farms are included and eligible for aid and, very importantly, we need relief for our biofuels industry. Biofuels are critical to rural Iowa and we’ve got to protect those jobs that depend on biofuels.

We need Washington to prioritize the people who need help and get it done.

Recent Pew Research data shows 49% of voters expect to have difficulty casting a ballot for the November election. What is your reaction to this belief, and what needs to be done?

It’s frustrating. Voting is a fundamental right. We need to be doing everything we can to make it as easy to vote as possible. I am encouraged the Secretary of State mailed absentee ballot request forms to every Iowan. This is a very important election and I hope Iowans participate.

There has been a renewed discussion, both locally, statewide, and nationally, about policing reform since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Do you think reforms are needed and, if so, what might those changes look like?

Absolutely we need reforms. I do not support defunding the police. I don’t think solving the challenges we face around criminal justice in this country is that simple or across-the board. I’m honored to have the support of my home county Sheriff Rick Lincoln and have had great conversations with him and Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski about what needs to be done.

I firmly believe everyone in this country, and I mean everyone, deserves to feel safe in their community no matter the color of their skin or their job. We absolutely need less violence in America - whether it comes in the form of a man being shot in the back 7 times or looting and rioting. We need policy that trains people to do their jobs well and then empowers them to do it. We need law enforcement that has the resources it needs to keep communities safe and to earn and keep the trust of those communities. We also need to stop asking our law enforcement officers to be our mental health professionals and social workers and instead create partnerships between agencies. There is not one solution. That’s why I will always work to bring people together so we can enact common sense policies that work for all of us.

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