Letter to the Editor

No place for poisonous politics

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"No weapon fashioned against you shall prevail." -- Isaiah 54:17

In 1998, a veteran northwest Iowa state legislator retired, creating an open seat for the Iowa House of Representatives. An open seat often results in a contested primary. And so, two other candidates joined me on the ballot for the Republican primary that year.

One candidate was from western Lyon County. Another, like me, hailed from Osceola County. In that three-way race that I ultimately won, the common thread in that campaign was that we treated each other with dignity and respect. Each of us in our own way listened to voters and shared our principles and visions for the future of northwest Iowa and this great state.

Four years later, I took up the challenge of running for the Iowa Senate and faced a Democrat in the general election. The same measure of dignity and respect for differing views that marked the 1998 campaign also wove itself into that Senate race.

An open House seat is again the result of a retiring incumbent this year, but times have changed. Northwest Iowa, where we proudly proclaim that we are a people of "love thy neighbor" values and convictions, has recently been stained by shadowy, slash-and-burn, poisonous politics. I will be blunt. Iowa House candidate John Wills, himself in a three-way race for the Republican nomination on June 3, is the target of personal attacks by hit-and-run thugs hiding behind a rogue organization called Common Sense PAC with no accountability under Iowa campaign and election laws. To be sure, these "political" operatives are protected under our First Amendment right of free speech, but that does not mean that voters should give credence to those who cry "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

John Wills should find some comfort in this: A similar shadowy campaign was launched against me in my re-election bid in 2006. The airwaves were filled with attack ads containing unfounded, false accusations about my Senate record as well as my farm work. Voters had the final say. They put me back into office in a landslide.

John Wills has run a positive campaign and has worked hard in Lyon, Osceola and Dickinson counties to win your votes in House District 1. He has served his country with honor, in uniform both here and abroad, putting his life on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, and with great irony, he has defended the right to sling mud and falsely impugn someone's character in political campaigns. For those reasons alone, John Wills has made his case to serve northwest Iowa as a state representative.

David Johnson

State Senator, Senate District 1