The Cedar Rapids city election in November will have two contested city council races on the ballot. First-time candidate Sofia Mehaffey is running against incumbent Scott Overland for District 2, and three candidates — incumbent Ann Poe, Jorel Robinson and Patrick Loeffler — are vying for two at-large council seats.
Both Loeffler and Mehaffey have been endorsed by all three members of Linn County’s Board of Supervisors.
The endorsements from the three supervisors received criticism from current city council members and Mayor Brad Hart, because the council is supposed to be nonpartisan. A state law requires all city offices to be nonpartisan, but county offices are partisan. The three supervisors — Brent Oleson, Ben Rogers and Stacey Walker — are all Democrats.
“They are partisan and we are not, and if a political party is working hard to get a candidate in office, I would always be concerned that candidate would potentially owe something to the political party,” Hart told the Gazette. “I would hope that never happens in city government.”
Councilmember Dale Todd called the endorsements from the supervisors “unprecedented” and “unproductive.”
Sofia Mehaffey is the director of community health and nutrition programs at Horizons: A Family Services Alliance, a nonprofit that assists underserved populations in Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Vinton, Iowa.
If elected, Mehaffey would be the first black woman to serve on the city council. On her campaign site, Mehaffey lists her top issues as improving services for seniors, public health and food insecurity.
“These recurring themes — housing, access to health care, infrastructure, economic uncertainty and food insecurity — these are all elements of the social determinants of health. Or as defined by some, the political determinants of health,” Mehaffey said in a video announcing her candidacy. “We have the ability to impact these factors in our community through mindful and intentional policy so that the generations that follow us have a solid and equitable foundation upon which to stand.”
Incumbent Scott Overland is seeking a second term representing District 2. He is currently chair of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee, and a member of the Infrastructure Committee.
Overland is vice president of investments at Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust. He is a trustee of the Indian Nature Creek Center and works with a number of other area nonprofits.
According to his campaign site, Overland’s goals for a second term include investing in neighborhoods by improving infrastructure, supporting the development of new businesses and completing flood protection as quickly as possible.
“Neighborhoods are the lifeblood of Cedar Rapids,” Overland said on his site. “Our community is changing and we must encourage diversity, both financial and cultural through investment in our neighborhoods.”
Ann Poe is running for a third term on city council. She was first elected in 2011, and currently serves as the chair of the council’s Development Committee and as a member of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee.
“I love Cedar Rapids,” Poe told the Gazette, when she announced her reelection bid in January. “This is my hometown, and I want to keep the momentum going.”
Poe said that in a third term, she would focus on flood protection, street repairs in older neighborhoods, increasing affordable housing and developing downtown real estate that used to be reserved for a casino.
Jorel Robinson, a candidate for Cedar Rapids mayor in 2017, is seeking a seat on city council this year.
Robinson wants to focus on improving education and improving the city budget, according to his campaign site. He also lists his opposition to how Cedar Rapids uses traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids as a top priority.
“I am truly excited to be representing all Cedar Rapidians fairly,” Robinson said in a Facebook post announcing his candidacy. “I can do this by listening to the people of Cedar Rapids openly and honestly with the goal of creating a more exciting, safe, and economically thriving community that doesn’t lose the feel of being a ‘small town.’”
Patrick Loeffler is a labor union leader and small business owner. Loeffler and his wife own Corner Store Apothecary & More, a Cedar Rapids shop that sells cannabidiol oil and hemp-based products. Loeffler, who has epilepsy, has been an active advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa.
Loeffler has said he wants to focus on local businesses, flood protection and public safety if elected.
“I have had many opportunities to move away throughout the years, but my love and passion for Cedar Rapids has driven me to stay and try and provide for more opportunities for the future of this great city,” Loeffler said in a statement.
The Cedar Rapids city elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. In-person absentee voting begins on Monday, Oct. 7.