LGBTQ rights advocate Zach Wahls announces Iowa Senate run

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Zach Wahls announces his campaign for the Iowa Senate. Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

Iowa City-native Zach Wahls, an advocate for LGBTQ rights and author of a bestselling book My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family, announced his campaign for the Iowa Senate today with a series of social media posts as well as an event in Coralville.

“I am running for Iowa Senate District 37, which is my home. It is where I grew up, where I went to high school, where I got my first job, and where I started my first business. I’m running for a simple reason: our state is at a crossroads that will define the future of our state for generations to come,” Wahls said in a series of tweets Thursday.

Wahls, known for his testimony in 2011 before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in which he spoke about his moms and which went viral on YouTube, graduated from Iowa City West High School and the University of Iowa. He is currently working on his master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University (he noted that he’ll be completing his final classes remotely in Iowa).

He said he felt a responsibility to do his part — citing the swing in Iowa from supporting Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, when Republicans also gained control of the state legislature and “immediately began to dismantle our state’s social foundation.”

Wahls cited health care, education and workers rights in his series of tweets.

He stated that Iowa is “experiencing a mental health crisis,” citing a study that puts Iowa last in the nation for mental health facilities and the Medicaid privatization efforts.

He cited the need to make college more affordable, critiquing cuts from Iowa’s higher education budget and the cuts to K-12 education, which he noted “hurts both students and teachers.” He also criticized Iowa Republicans’ gutting of collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers.

District 37, which includes Cedar and Johnson counties, is currently represented by Iowa Sen. Bob Dvorsky, who announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking reelection.

“This is an all hands on deck moment for our state, and I am stepping up to do what I believe is the most good I can do. I am running to protect Senator Dvorsky’s legacy and to fight for every single Iowan who feels left behind or left out,” Wahls said in his Facebook post.

Wahls co-founded Scouts for Equality, which promotes inclusivity in scouting and which stood in opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s blanket ban on openly gay members and leaders (which was first put in place in 1978 and which was voted down in 2015). Wahls, along with his sister, also created The Woman Cards, a deck of playing cards featuring 15 portraits of American women.

“As I think about the issues facing the people of this district, I can’t think of anyone better to send to Des Moines than Zach,” Mitch Gross, Coralville Mayor Pro Tem and co-chair of the Wahls campaign, said in a press release. “Zach listens carefully, he works hard, and he’s been a powerful and effective advocate for those who have been left behind and left out.”

Wahls noted that as a “straight white guy” during the #MeToo era, he and his campaign would be focused on listening to women and holding himself and other men accountable for their behavior.

Wahls said that over the next five months, he plans to travel the district to meet with constituents and listen to their concerns and priorities.

“I am excited, I am fired up, I am ready to go, and I am committed to working my heart out for the people of this district. Let’s get this,” he tweeted.

The primary election is Tuesday, June 5.

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