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Profile: Koether vs. Bergan in House District 55 race

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2018 5:00 PM

While many districts of the Iowa House of Representatives can be described as either "solidly Republican" or "solidly Democratic," the 55th District of the Iowa House—which includes most of Winneshiek County—has seen plenty of political swings in the past few years.  Barack Obama carried the district 55 percent to 43 percent in 2012—then Donald Trump carried it 51 percent to 44 percent in 2016.  The last few state legislative elections have been close affairs.

So it's uncertain which candidate this year is the favorite to win the election.  Republican Michael Bergan is the incumbent and has many contacts in the district, including some from his time as a Winneshiek County Supervisor.  But Democrat Kayla Koether has been putting in a lot of time campaigning, including time spent touring 17 communities in the district.

Bergan is a Decorah native and a Luther College graduate with 34 years of accounting experience.  He says he takes "a fiscally responsible approach" to government and touts his work as a legislator on children's mental health issues. Bergan notes that 57 percent of the state budget is spent on educational programs.  He believes more money should be given to community colleges in Iowa, however.

Bergan says he's happy that the legislature approved a soil & water quality bill that provides a sustainable funding sources for programs to improve soil & water projects.  He also says the legislature is working through Medicaid administration issues "the best we can."

Koether is a Clayton County native who attended Grinnell College, then came to Decorah and has worked most recently as a Food System Specialist for ISU Extension, building up the marketplace infrastructure for farmers wishing to plant new crops.

Koether says Iowa needs to make education a top priority and pay for it.  She criticizes the private supervision of the state's Medicaid program, saying "we have nothing to show this has saved money."  She says the state legislature needs to work to find ways to bring down the cost of health care.  Finally, Koether states she "wholeheartedly supports collective bargaining and teachers."

The Iowa House District 55 covers parts of three counties—Winneshiek, Fayette and Clayton, meaning that while Winneshiek County is heavily represented, the vote total from Clayton and Fayette County have frequently determined the outcome of past elections.