Meet this year’s candidates for House District No. 51

This Election Day, Nov. 4, voters will be going to the polls to choose local, state and national leaders for the next 2-6 years.

One of the elections this cycle is the one for House District 51, where incumbent Josh Byrnes is taking on challenger Laura Hubka, both of whom have Riceville ties.
The Lime Springs Herald recently asked bo
th Byrnes and Hubka to answer a few questions about themselves and their thoughts on District 51 and the issues facing the area, so readers could get a better idea of where they stand on certain issues. Their answers appear below.

Next week, questions concerning the race for Howard County Supervisor in District 3, between Jan McGovern and James Kitchen, will be published.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Election Day.

Josh Byrnes

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I have lived in the House District (H.D.) 51 my entire life. I grew up on the Howard County side of Riceville and now live in Mitchell County on an acreage with my wife Colleen and our three children (Alexandra, Nolan and Scarlett). I attended Luther College, where I was a biology major, and taught high school science. I left the high school teaching ranks to become and educator at North Iowa Area Community College, where I currently serve as the Industrial Division Chairman. Since Luther College, I have obtained my Masters in Educational Leadership.

I am currently working on more schooling through Iowa State University.

My wife and I are involved in the Catholic Church in New Haven, and we both serve as volunteer first responders on the St. Ansgar Rescue Squad.

What motivates you to want to become a representative?

What motivates me to be a state representative is the fact that I am the voice for 30,000+ people back home. I am honored to sit in that desk and be their voice. We now have more urban legislators than we do rural legislators, and we need a strong voice to represent us in Des Moines. I have been that strong voice. I also have young children, and I want them to also have opportunities to live and work right here in H.D. 51. That only happens if we have strong local economy and sound policy is passed in Des Moines.

What particular skills or experiences qualify you to serve as a potential representative?

Having been your state representative for the last four years, I think that experience qualifies serve in this capacity. I have a strong background in a lot of areas, and I bring a lot of ideas and expertise to the table in Des Moines. I am an open-minded, honest and strong working person who always has my constituents best interests in mind.

What do you see as current issues facing District 51? Iowa?

I think one of the biggest issues facing H.D. 51 is how to replace and repair our aging infrastructure. Our city and counties don’t have the funding to replace all of these roads and bridges themselves and rely on state funding to make it possible. We can not continue to have our counties pass bonds to pay for infrastructure projects. When you bond, you are basically taking out a loan that the taxpayer has to pay back with nothing to show for. There are some who suggest we use the surplus money in the states “savings account” to pay for infrastructure projects. Those who think this way don’t understand state finance 101. If you use state reserves to pay for infrastructure, you will be forced to pick winners and losers among the 99 counties. You will also be forced to raise taxes on all Iowans as our state reserves will be depleted, not allowing us to pay for things like education and mental health. The most fiscally responsible method for infrastructure funding is increasing the state’s fuel tax. It is constitutionally protected, and it is truly a user fee.

We need to also look at mental health in the state of Iowa. Our jails are not mental health units. We need to have adequate treatment and bed space for these patients. We don’t have that right now, and it needs to be a top priority.

The last thing we need, and this really impacts H.D. 51, is more workers. We have a lot of companies in our area looking for skilled workers, and the pipeline is empty. I serve on a Career and Technical Education taskforce in the state, and we are working hard on a plan of action to address these needs. I am currently in the process of working with local school districts, businesses, economic developers and our community colleges on facilitating a meeting on how we can address this worker shortage. Be looking for a local meeting in mid November.

What are 2-3 strengths District 51 can be proud of? Why do you see these as strengths?

The biggest strength of this region is the people who live here. We have some of the nicest, hard working folks you will find anywhere in Iowa. I continually receive compliments from other legislators on the things we accomplish in this region. We also have some of the best school districts you will find anywhere. The accomplishments of the alumni who graduate from our schools speaks volumes about the quality of education they are receiving.

This district has also been witness to some amazing economic growth with new businesses, expansion of existing business and the strong agricultural economy we can brag about. We have a very diversified economy, which helps us to weather the tough times and flourish in the good times.

If elected, what would you hope would be key accomplishments of the House of Representatives during your years of service?
I hope that my key accomplishment is to find the funding for our infrastructure, find some answers to the mental health crisis we have and start seeing a better synchronization of schools, businesses and community colleges to fill that worker pipeline. Those are three major tasks, and if we can get those three items moving forward we have done some good things for not only the district but the state of Iowa.

Laura Hubka

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in a military family, and my parents taught me to value service to country and community – and that freedom is worth fighting for. That’s what led me to join the United States Navy, where I served for 10 years.

I graduated from high school in Northeast Iowa and returned after my service in the Navy. I have been living in Northeast Iowa ever since, going on over 20 years now. I raised my three children here and sent them to public schools. My oldest son, Robert, is an Iraq War veteran. My daughter, Katie, is studying to be a teacher at Iowa State, and my youngest son, Brian, is currently serving in Japan in the U.S. Navy.

Today, I live in Riceville with my husband Kenny who drives a semi-truck for a living. I work in North Iowa hospitals as a health care and ultrasound technician – so I enjoy helping people every single day.

What motivates you to want to become a representative?

Growing up, Dad was a Republican and Mom was a Democrat. They taught me early on that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. Even when they disagreed, they taught me the importance of finding common ground. That’s a lesson I can’t help but remember every time I watch politicians bicker instead of just doing their jobs. We need to work together to build a strong middle class.

We also need to take better care of our veterans. My oldest son came back injured from Iraq, and I witnessed first-hand the failure of our government to give veterans the care they deserve. If elected, fighting for veterans and their families will be my first priority.

What particular skills or experiences qualify you to serve as a potential representative?

Serving in the Navy for 10 years and now working as an ultrasound technician, I get to help people every day. I’ve also served on a bi-partisan committee in Howard County to bring broadband to rural areas. The most important skill as State Representative is listening to your constituents and doing what’s best for our district.

What do you see as current issues facing District 51? Iowa?
I also think the one of the most important thing is listening and then working together to help regular families. Too often, Des Moines is focused on politics and the special interests. As a mom of three and a veteran, I understand the challenges families face today. We need to keep tuition affordable, raise the minimum wage and make sure our rural schools get their share of state resources.

We need to take care of our veterans, provide adequate funding to education and keep good teachers in Iowa. My daughter is currently studying to be a teacher. I want her to stay here in Iowa and not have to move to a neighboring state just because it has better benefits for teachers.

Our roads are falling apart, and I have watched them continue to deteriorate over the past four years. Part of being a legislator is being able to work together to get legislation passed that will be signed in to law. I will work with both parties to make sure funding for our roads goes to where it is needed most here in rural Iowa, not just the urban areas. We all agree we need to fix our roads, but instead of more rhetoric, we’ve got to find a way to get something done.

What are 2-3 strengths District 51 can be proud of? Why do you see these as strengths?

The greatest strength by far of this district is its people. I’ve been traveling around from Joice to Ridgeway and all points in between, and I can tell you that we have some of the most genuine and hard-working people here in North Iowa. I’ve spoken with farmers, veterans, teachers, single moms and dads, and every one of them is working the best they can to provide for their families. That’s one of the reasons I decided to run for office, so I could help these people that I have met and in some way improve their quality of life.

The land also provides strength to the district. My husband grew up on a farm in Protivin, so I’m familiar with how vital agriculture is to the area. Iowa has been blessed with rich soil that helps feed America. Agriculture is one of the greatest assets of the district, and quite frankly, if farmers aren’t thriving neither is the district. So, it’s important that we take care of the land and make sure that corn and soybean growers continue to prosper.

These are strengths because a region is only as good as its people and its land. Luckily, here in North Iowa we have the resources and neighbors that make it a great place to live.
 
If elected, what would you hope would be key accomplishments of the House of Representatives during your years of service?

As a mom and veteran, I will be a strong voice for regular families in the Iowa House. We need to keep tuition affordable, raise the minimum wage and make sure our rural schools get their share of state resources. I will work together to take care of our veterans, provide adequate funding to education and keep good teachers in Iowa. I will also work across party lines to finally take action on a plan to fix our roads and bridges. I commute to work 40-50 miles every day, and I know we can’t wait another four years before we take action.

I’m excited about the opportunity to serve in the Iowa House, and I humbly ask for your vote.

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