Lonny Pulkrabek announced on Thursday he is running for the Iowa House of Representatives in District 73, which covers eastern Johnson County and all of Cedar County. Pulkrabek, who has been Johnson County sheriff since 2005, said in May 2019 he would not seek another term as sheriff.
“After 35 years in law enforcement, I’ve learned how the policies made in Des Moines affect our local communities in Cedar and Johnson Counties,” Pulkrabek, who originally joined the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in 1985 as a deputy, said in a written statement. “It’s time for new leadership in the Iowa House who will put the interests of everyday Iowans and our local communities ahead of the special interests and party leaders.”
Pulkrabek, a Democrat, will be challenging incumbent Republican Bobby Kaufmann, who has represented District 73 since 2013. Kaufmann’s father, Jeff, represented the district for eight years, before deciding not to run for reelection in 2012, allowing Bobby to run. The elder Kaufmann has been chair of the Republican Party of Iowa since 2014.
Kaufmann, an outspoken conservative, is probably best known for a law he proposed in 2016 — and his inability to answer basic questions about that law during an interview with a Canadian journalist.
In response to protests on college campuses around the county that followed the election of Donald Trump — which Kaufmann called “post-election campus hysteria” — the District 73 representative announced he would introduce what he called the “Suck It Up, Buttercup” bill. The bill would have penalized any Iowa public university or college for providing support services to any student that might be having problems involving election-related stress. A school’s budget would automatically be cut by double the amount it spent on any such services.
On Nov. 16, 2016, Kaufmann had a brief phone interview about the proposed bill with As It Happens, the premier radio news program of the Canadian Broadcasting Company. “[B]rief because Kaufmann abruptly hung up early in [the interview],” the CBC explained.
Kaufmann told As it Happens host Carol Off his proposed bill was aimed at “people that are simply hysterical because an election was lost. That have never understood that life has winners and losers and in their adult life there are going to be times when they have wins and they have losses and there isn’t always going to be someone there to coddle them.”
Asked for an example of “coddling on campuses,” Kaufmann said vaguely that “we’ve all seen the reports across the entire country,” before going on to claim, “I have people reaching out to me from different states saying, hey, my kid, at this particular college today, the professor was actively discussing the possibility of bringing in a pony — a miniature pony so that people could use it to feel better about the election.”
Asked what college was using a pony, Kaufmann said, “I’m not prepared to name names right now. I’m doing an investigation.”
Off replied, “I’m not asking you to name names — just where did it happen?”, and that’s when Kaufmann hung up.
“When we called him back, he said simply, ‘I don’t speak to media outlets with an agenda,’” the CBC reported.
Kaufmann never actually introduced his bill.
Pulkrabek didn’t mention Kaufmann in his announcement on Thursday, instead focusing on his own background. Pulkrabek has served as president of the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association and is the former president of the Iowa State Association of Counties. “In his tenure as Sheriff, Pulkrabek has advocated for mental health and crisis intervention training for police officers, ultimately implementing the first mental health officer training in 2005, and the first crisis intervention training in 2017,” Pulkrabek’s written statement said.
“I know what laws are working and what laws aren’t, and I will use my experience to fix them,” Pulkrabek said. “I’ll listen to the people of Cedar and Johnson Counties and work together to invest in public schools, make healthcare affordable, create jobs, and revitalize rural communities.”