I met Sara Huddleston a few years ago while searching for contacts in the Latino community in Storm Lake. Most everyone I spoke to would tell me the same thing: “You have to talk to her, she is an icon in our community, and she will help you for sure.”
Now Huddleston is running for the Iowa House of Representatives in District 11 for the second time. She is running against seven-term Republican Rep. Gary Worthan.
Sara was raised in Merida, Yucatan, in southeast Mexico. She was studying English back home when she came to Iowa as an exchange student and attended Simpson College in Indianola where she met her husband, Matt. They have a daughter, Alexis, a junior at Drake University.
When Sara moved to her new home in Storm Lake, in 1990, there were few Latinos living there. She jokingly told me she was ready to be the “conquistadora” (conquistador) of this picturesque Iowa town, and that she did.
Sara worked for 13 years as a counselor for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault at a nonprofit organization. She has been heavily involved with the community as a volunteer and has served on different boards and committees.
She served on the Commission of Latino Affairs, Iowa Empowerment Board, Iowa State University Extension, Lake Improvement Commission, the Municipal Airport Commission, and for the last three years she has served on the Board of the Judicial Magistrate Appointing Commission in Buena Vista County. In 2000 she became a naturalized U.S. citizen and at age 50 she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Buena Vista University.
Sara was compelled to make a broader impact, so in 2004 she ran for a seat on city council and won, making her the first Latina elected to a city council in Iowa.
Her political experience is solid. Sara’s desire to serve is deeply seeded in issues that matter to her, issues that impact constituents and issues that need improvement.
One issue near and dear to me is the lack of women serving in elected office. Sara’s statement online spoke volumes to me.
“I am a strong advocate for women in politics,” she said. “I believe that the participation of women in public office is essential to building and sustaining strong, vibrant democracies. It leads to greater responsiveness to citizen needs and increases cooperation between party and ethnic lines.”
I have watched Sara at work speaking and inspiring young women to enter the political arena, and some have.
Diversity and representation are also top of mind for Sara. The makeup of Buena Vista and Sac County is 77.4% white and 17% Latino. The majority are registered Republicans. Given these numbers, I wondered what drove Sara, a Democrat, to run for office there.
“When I see how things are in my district, our economy is not doing well, and health care is not accessible nor affordable for many Iowans,” she said.
Sara told me: “The issue of health care is personal to me, it hits home. What made me decide to run was the fact that we were not able to get any health insurance for my daughter who is currently a college student, and paying for doctor’s visits is extremely expensive. That’s something that affects everyone, so I thought that someone had to do something about all the problems we are facing in our state.”
Another important point we discussed is that Latinos, the largest minority group in Iowa, have no representation in the Iowa Legislature. Latino representation is imperative for legislators to understand issues impacting Latinos, and more importantly, for them to have a voice at the highest levels of power in the state.
“We need to terminate managed care contracts (privatized Medicaid) and reinstate the Medicaid family planning program, with preexisting conditions, making health care affordable,” Sara said, of her health care initiatives.
She also wants to reestablish education as a priority in our state.
Sara worries about the state of the Iowa economy where small businesses are suffering, and hardworking Iowans are struggling to make ends meet. Sara wants to increase wages, which supports and leads to small businesses growth.
The quality of water is particularly important for her and for many Iowans.
“I will work with agricultural and conservation partners so we can have clean water in our rivers and lakes,” she said.
There are three meatpacking plants in Buena Vista and Sac counties. We talked about the situation workers are going through at those plants with the pandemic and the government’s response.
“The response to the pandemic was very poor,” Sara said. “Many Iowans experienced long waits to get tested, delayed results, faulty equipment, and essential workers were denied care.”
In August 2020, Gov. Reynolds’ administration announced to the public that the COVID-19 data was incorrect due to a technology glitch and that several county public health officials had found inconsistencies between the state and local data.
“As a result, many people died,” Sara said. “The state government should have worked as effectively as possible, testing results needed to be released quickly. They shouldn’t have opened everything so soon and [they should have] mandated face masks.”
Sara’s experience as a Latina immigrant, an advocate and a city council member would be a huge asset for the Iowa House. She has a proven record, original ideas on how to address issues based on years of experience. Sara does not recite party lines. She understands how to go from words to action. She is transparent, ethical and genuine.
Sara Huddleston is ready to serve on day one, to lead and to work hard for Iowans. It is time to elect new blood with innovative and diverse perspectives that will move our state forward. I know for a fact that Sara will make us all proud as a legislator in the Iowa House.
By Claudia Thrane
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