In a special election with a higher voter turnout than last year’s regular city election, Coralville voters elected Hai Huynh to the city council last night. Huynh scored an impressive victory in the four-candidate race, receiving 52.5 percent of the votes cast. The second-place finisher was Barry Bedford with 35.5 percent of the vote.
Bedford was a well-known figure in Coralville prior to the election, having served as the city’s chief of police for 28 years before retiring in 2017. Huynh was a first-time candidate.
Huynh, who has lived in Coralville for two decades, is the community project coordinator for the Coralville Community Food Pantry. She has long been active as a volunteer at organizations such as the Coralville Public Library and Johnson County Conservation.
Huynh’s family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1993, when she was 16 years old. Huynh attended the University of Iowa, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. While at UI, she also attended La’ James International College, earning a cosmetology license.
“I chose to put down roots in Johnson County, where I have proudly lived in a mobile home community, a subsidized apartment, a duplex and a single-family home,” Huynh explained on her campaign site.
According to Huynh, those experiences helped her understand the challenges Coralville is facing.
“We build luxury apartments while many of our neighbors can barely afford rent,” she said. “We open fine dining restaurants while the daily line of cars at the food pantry wraps around the block. We are eager to fill an arena with tourists while our transit system struggles to get our own neighbors to their jobs and medical appointments.”
During the campaign, Huynh said improving public transit, developing plans to address climate change and taking action on issues of racial and economic justice were top priorities.
Huynh will be filling the seat left vacant by the resignation of long-time councilmember Tom Gill. Gill stepped down in July following widespread criticism of his description of people protesting for racial justice and police reform as “a bunch of criminals” during a city council meeting.
A total of 1,813 of Coralville’s 12,936 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, according to the results summary published by the Johnson County Auditor’s Office. That’s a turnout rate of 14.02 percent, which is higher than the last regularly scheduled city election in 2019, when 10.41 percent of registered voters participated.
Huynh received 951 of the 1,813 votes cast. Bedford received 644 votes, Nick Burrell finished with 200 votes and 16 voters cast their ballots for Heather Seitsinger.
In a post on her “Hai for Coralville” Facebook page, Huynh thanked her fellow candidates and all her supporters, as well as her husband and four children.
“The future of this city is bright, and we will all have a role to play in making this the BEST community in the state of Iowa,” Huynh wrote.
“I’m ready to get to work!”