State Representative Curt Hanson of Fairfield has passed away, House Democrats confirmed this morning. The Democratic lawmaker and retired teacher had represented House District 82 in Southern Iowa since 2009.
Hanson was a very well-liked and respected member of the Legislature, known for his kind personality and dedication to his work.
“Iowa lost an exceptional public servant today with the passing of Rep. Curt Hanson,” House Democratic Leader Mark Smith said in a statement. “Curt taught thousands of students to drive safely on the roads in Jefferson County and was an active member of the Fairfield community his entire life. Rep. Hanson was the model for thoughtful, diplomatic, and constituent-centered representation. He worked tirelessly for his constituents every single day. His passion for education and expertise on transportation issues will be sorely missed in the Iowa House.”
Most everyone involved in Iowa Democratic Party politics worked on or helped out in some way on Hanson’s initial special election back in 2009. The incumbent John Whitaker had been appointed to serve with the USDA by then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, opening up the Southern Iowa seat. It was the first election following the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum decision on gay marriage, and conservative activists poured money and volunteers into the race to pressure Democrats on the ruling.
Instead, Hanson won by just over 100 votes, thanks to his strong ties to the community (he was a driver’s ed teacher who knew most everyone in Jefferson County) and a very strong absentee ballot effort by Democrats. Doing so helped calm Democrats’ nerves over the potential backlash of the Varnum decision and strengthened their resolve to defend it. Hanson’s victory was actually used as a model nationally in the years afterward for how the party could win in rural legislative districts.
Hanson easily won his subsequent reelection efforts, despite his district slowly moving toward Republicans (and sharply so in the 2016 election with Donald Trump).
by Pat Rynard