Fort Madison State Rep. Jeff Kurtz today became the first Iowa lawmaker to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling him a politician that “has been consistent through his entire career on the issues that matter to the 99%.”
Kurtz, elected to represent District 83 in the Iowa Legislature in 2018, told Starting Line he caucused for Sanders in 2016, but kept an open mind this cycle when considering who to support.
“One of my criteria for endorsing is, how do I think it works for this district?” said Kurtz, who defeated his Republican opponent for the open seat, left vacant by the retirement of 10-year Democratic Rep. Jerry Kearns of Keokuk. “I figure, one of the things I have to take into account is how their policies would look in Lee County, and I think he matches up well. With the support of labor, for doing something about climate change, health care, things like that — that is some of the needs that we have here in Lee County.”
Lee County, which at its southern end borders Missouri, is one of several Mississippi River counties that voted twice for President Barack Obama but flipped to Republican President Donald Trump in 2016, with 54.5% of the vote.
Though Kurtz is the Vermont senator’s first Iowa legislative endorsement, last month his campaign released a list of other prominent Iowa supporters, including LULAC state director Nicholas Salazar, Kate Larson, a member of the Dubuque City Council, and IDP Central Committee member Emma Schmit.
Misty Rebik, Sanders’ Iowa state director, described Kurtz in a statement as a “progressive leader in the Iowa Democratic Party.”
“As a life-long union member, Rep. Kurtz understands the true working class values of the Democratic Party and we are proud to have a leader like him stand with us as we fight for issues Iowans care about like Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage and a union no matter where you work,” Rebik said.
Before he was elected to the Legislature, Kurtz worked 41 years as an engineer with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
“Wage stagnation has been a big thing with me because of what is going on down here in southeast Iowa,” Kurtz said, referring to a region where household wealth often lags behind the state average. “If people don’t have economic power, I don’t care how they identify themselves — straight, gay, black, Latino or a white-haired, old guy like me — if you don’t have economic power, you don’t have much power.”
Kurtz said he discussed the issue of wage stagnation with Sanders, and felt “Bernie is probably the best on that issue, as far as I’m concerned.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Photo by Josh Cook