The first Democrat running to win back Senate District 44 in the Iowa Legislature announced his candidacy today in front of friends and family gathered at his Burlington farm.
Rex Troute, a retired newspaperman from Burlington, is a first-time candidate for elected office.
He launched his campaign Wednesday morning from Troute Farm, in the family since 1835.
Though Troute announced his candidacy in his hometown of Burlington, the 44th District encompasses more than the small southeast Iowa city.
“It’s one of the most diverse populations in the state,” said Troute, of the 44th District, noting the African-American and Latino populations here.
Growing up in the 1960’s, at the time of the Vietnam War and civil rights movement, shaped much of his beliefs around social and economic equality, Troute said.
“I believe in treating every human equally,” he said.
If elected to the state Senate, Troute said he would advocate for a $10.25 minimum wage in Iowa; legislation to repeal the privatization of Medicaid; and vote to strengthen the education system so it was more nationally competitive.
Senate District 44 encompasses Des Moines County, including Burlington, in addition to Louisa County and rural Muscatine County.
In 2016, Democratic Sen. Tom Courtney was unseated by his Republican challenger, Tom Greene in a surprise upset. Courtney held the seat from 2003 to 2015 before his loss to the first-time candidate from Burlington.
Greene, a retired pharmacist, has not said whether he will run for re-election in 2020, but is expected to make his decision by the end of September.
Greene bested Courtney by about 1,400 votes between the three counties. In Des Moines County, which used to be a Democratic stronghold, Greene received 623 more votes than Courtney. He also won rural Louisa County and the rural portion of Muscatine County.
The loss came as a surprise to Courtney, a local labor leader, and many of his constituents. At the time, he attributed the loss, at least in part, to the election of Republican president Donald Trump.
Just as Des Moines County voted for Greene, it also voted for Trump, the first time the county had voted for a Republican presidential candidate in decades.
With the two-to-one voter registration advantage Democrats have over Republicans in Burlington, Democrats consider the 44th District a prime pick-up opportunity in 2020. Democrats currently face a 32 to 18 deficit in the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate.
Troute, a graduate of Iowa State University, described himself as a fiscal conservative but socially liberal, a mix he felt would fair well in the district.
“I just want to run and try to build a stronger Iowa,” he said.
More Democrats are expected to enter the race, but Troute was the first to announce.
By Elizabeth Meyer