Zach Wahls hosting Iowa Senate campaign event with Mazahir Salih, Jason Kander

Zach Wahls Spring Kickoff Celebration

Backpocket Brewing — Friday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m.

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

Zach Wahls’ campaign for the Iowa Senate will continue with a celebration featuring notable guests at Backpocket Brewing in Coralville on Friday.

Iowa City Council Member Mazahir Salih will speak at Wahls’ Spring Kickoff Celebration, as will Jason Kander of Let America Vote.

Salih, a founding member of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, became the first Sudanese-American elected to public office in the U.S. after her successful run for an Iowa City Council seat in December. She spoke in front of the Democratic National Committee earlier this month, discussing her work to raise the minimum wage and fight poverty in Iowa City.

“Mazahir is obviously an incredible leader with a historic win of her own,” Wahls told Little Village. “I think she sees parallels between both of our careers as activists and community organizers.”

Kander is a former Army captain, former Missouri Secretary of State and the president and founder of Let America Vote, a nonprofit political organization that opposes laws that make it harder to vote — including Iowa’s voter ID law and the state’s new restrictions on early and absentee voting and voter registration. Kander is also the host of the podcast Majority 54, and was selected by the Democratic National Convention to chair the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration.

Wahls said he considers Kander a close friend. The candidate worked for Let America Vote last summer, and said he found Kander and his voting rights efforts “inspirational.”

Salih and Kander are expected to officially endorse Wahls, a Democrat, for the District 37 seat in the Iowa Senate at Friday’s event. The seat represents Cedar County and part of Johnson County, and is currently occupied by Sen. Bob Dvorsky, who is not seeking reelection. Wahls is a graduate of Iowa City West High School and the University of Iowa, and is currently finishing his master’s degree from Princeton University remotely, while he lives in Iowa.

Wahls rose to fame after a YouTube video of his 2011 testimony in front of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, in which he discusses his two moms and Eagle Scout training, went viral. Wahls went on to publish a bestselling book and founded Scouts for Equality. He was a pledged delegate for Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and started The Woman Cards along with his sister Zebby Wahls.

“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 when he announced his campaign on Dec. 27, 2017.

Three months later, Wahls remains focused on those issues. He continues to support LGBT rights, as well as funding for schools (he’s not a fan of the recent education cuts approved by the Iowa Senate) and improving the state’s mental health care system.

“I think the big focus on Friday and going forward is the importance of having a nominee with great leadership and advocacy experience,” Wahls said. “There’s an empty seat, and it’s a Democratic seat, and we have to fill it with someone who can advocate all over Southeastern Iowa. We need someone in there used to talking to Iowans on controversial issues.”

One of these issues includes gun control, the focus of the March For Our Lives demonstrations taking place across the country, including in Iowa City, on Saturday. Wahls will speak on the Pentacrest Saturday afternoon, addressing Iowa City students — not as a candidate, but as a fellow young activist.

“I’ve been really inspired by their response and willingness to step up and say enough is enough,” Wahls said.

The Spring Kickoff Celebration will close out the Wahls campaign’s Week of Action, in which Wahls encouraged supporters to make calls and canvass in Iowa City and Coralville from March 18 through March 22.

“I’ve really enjoyed being out knocking on doors, over 20 hours this last week and another four hours today, spending time with people in the area, and hearing the issues on their minds,” he said.

Local beer, appetizers and yard signs will be available at Friday’s celebration.

The primary election will take place Tuesday, June 5.

“It’s kind of wild to think we’re already halfway through,” Wahls said. “The election is less than 12 weeks away. Not that I’m counting.”

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