Throughout the debate over Secretary of State Paul Pate’s voter ID bill, the most vocal and consistent critic came from Johnson County. County Auditor Travis Weipert attended nearly every committee meeting and public hearing that discussed the bill, pushing back on Pate and Republicans’ assertions on voter fraud and challenging the need for new voting restrictions that would make it harder for Iowans to vote.
Now Weipert, 36, may face off with Pate at the ballot box next November.
“I’ve been meeting with auditors of both parties across the state, and there’s wide agreement we need new leadership in the Secretary of State’s Office,” Weipert said in a press release Sunday in which he announced the formation of an exploratory committee. “I’ve been encouraged to run by people from all over the state, so I might as well say I’m considering it.”
Weipert was first elected as the Johnson County Auditor in 2012, and turned around an office that had suffered from a controversial and divisive previous auditor. As elections chief for the state’s most Democratic county, Weipert has overseen an increase in voter turnout, despite statewide trends in the opposite direction in 2016. He became one of the main point persons for county auditors’ concerns during Pate’s bill.
“We don’t have a problem with election integrity in Iowa,” Weipert said. “We should be helping people vote, not making it harder.”
Democrats could see an usually large primary field for their Secretary of State nomination. Nathan Blake, an Assistant Attorney General in Des Moines, is seriously considering a run, and Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker’s name has been brought up often. Other potential candidates may yet surface as well. Weipert would enjoy some advantages in such a contest from Johnson County’s very large Democratic primary turnout.
“This is nothing more than putting unfunded mandates and more work on the auditors across the state,” he said at the House’s public hearing on Pate’s legislation. “How many people are you going to disenfranchise? I’d really like to know the number.”
Weipert lives in Tiffin, where he served three years on the city council. He was raised in Clayton County.
by Pat Rynard