Adam Zabner only thought it was natural that what he thinks is Iowa’s youngest house district be represented by someone who is close in age to its primary constituents.
The 23-year-old is the new representative for Iowa House District 90 in Iowa City, which includes most of the dorms at the University of Iowa, Kinnick Stadium, and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“There’s a lot of really incredible research happening there,” Zabner said of the hospital system. “A lot of really great minds and that’s been, I think, probably one of the greatest things that made me feel comfortable doing this because a lot of the issues that we’re discussing in the legislature, I can go back to Iowa City and there’s folks who it’s impacting their lives and there’s also folks who are experts on a lot of those issues.”
Zabner’s background is in campaign work, but he became a first-time candidate last year so that he could have a stable role to perform the organizing work he believes could help turn around the fortunes of Iowa Democrats. He also wants to bring his unique point of view to the statehouse.
“Being the first Latino Democrat and bringing that perspective [and] the perspective of a 23-year-old to the Legislature, I think allows me to have different issues come across my plate back in the district and then also look at the legislation we consider here in a different way,” Zabner said.
Zabner’s parents immigrated to Iowa from Venezuela. His great-grandparents had immigrated to the South American country from Poland and they maintained their Jewish faith in the predominantly Catholic nation. The young legislator even brought his great-grandfather’s prayer book with him on the first day of the legislative session.
I was proud to hold my hand on the prayer book of my great-grandfather Abraham Zabner. He immigrated from Ostrowiec, Poland to Venezuela. I can't imagine he would think that his great-grandson would be an Iowa state representative. pic.twitter.com/lZzGbCYHTY
— Adam Zabner (@AdamZabner) January 9, 2023
Growing up in Iowa with such a unique heritage, Zabner said he sometimes felt out of place until he attended the University of Chicago for his undergraduate degree.
“In Iowa, with my parents being immigrants—I feel Iowan but I never felt like that’s where my family was or how I could explain my identity and then I went to college and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you’re just a kid from Iowa,’” he said.
One of Zabner’s big legislative priorities is writing a bill to legalize fentanyl test strips. Those test strips are currently illegal under Iowa Code 124.414 as they are considered drug paraphernalia.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, fentanyl has been a factor in most of Iowa’s recent deaths caused by drug overdose.
“Alabama passed a bill last year, Georgia, Ohio—so it’s not a Democratic issue necessarily, it’s an issue, I think, we can bring people together on,” Zabner said.
At A Glance:
Name: Adam Zabner
Position: Iowa Representative for District 90
Committee Assignments: Appropriations, Environmental Protection, Natural Resources (Ranking Member), State Government, Transportation; subcommittees: Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee
Residence: Iowa City
Education: Graduated from Iowa City High School in 2017; earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Chicago in 2021.
Experience: Worked on political campaigns in college including Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign and John Osoff’s 2020 US Senate run-off campaign; worked as an organizer in Northwest Iowa for the Iowa Democratic Party, also worked as a Spanish medical interpreter.
Family: Single. Parents, Joseph and Kineret Zabner; siblings, David, 31, and Jonathan, 29.
Interests: Antiquing, watching movies, sailing on Lake MacBride near Solon.
by Ty Rushing
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