For Sen. Izaah Knox, the new Democratic state senator for central Des Moines’ SD 17, his candidacy, his campaign and service in the Senate are a community-driven effort.
“When redistricting happened for the Senate, a couple of people said, ‘oh, are you going to run for the Senate?’” Knox said.
For a long time, he’d talked about getting involved in politics because he thought it sounded intriguing and several of his mentors served in the statehouse. But he didn’t think he was ready yet, especially juggling his children, his wife being elected to the school board and going back to graduate school, and his own PhD program.
“I thought my time had really passed,” Knox said. “I’m thinking the same conversation in my head. There’s just no way I can’t do it. There’s no time. There’s no place. Everybody then kind of responded, ‘Well, there’s never a perfect time.’”
Knox started making calls and talking to people who had run for office before, he sat down with his family to talk about the commitment it would take. It took a while to gain traction, but every time he mentioned it to another member of his community, Knox said he got positive responses. One of the most memorable came from a student who recognized him from the regular work Knox does at the high school.
“From that point on, it was like, cool, go, alright, I have to do this for him. I have to do this for all these people in the community that said that they wanted me to run,” Knox said.
And as he knocked on people’s doors in the community, the inspiration only got stronger.
There, Knox connected with community members he hadn’t met before and heard about all of the things they cared about. He said it was incredible, and incredibly valuable for him to take to the Capitol. Being executive director of Urban Dreams, a social services organization in Des Moines, already gave him connections, but campaigning helped him reach even more people.
“I went seven days a week knocking doors every single day, no matter what,” Knox said. “I got some doors in every single day in person, and that’s what really kept me going, knocking on the doors, having real, authentic conversations with so many people.”
In office, Knox said he’s interested in protecting public schools and the environment. He also said he’s already been talking with constituents on the phone about what they want to see from him.
Of course, being a member of the minority party puts some barriers on a lot of what he can do.
“I heard a lot on the campaign trail if you can at least make bad bills better, you know, that will help in many ways, right?” he said. “Or if it does some things that are really terrible, eliminate it.”
“I think we have a better shot at doing that,” Knox continued. “And that’s about building relationships and trust and making sure that people know that you’re really telling them, not only do I personally think this is terrible—because there are many terrible things out there that I personally think,—but also Iowans think this is terrible.”
At A Glance:
Name: Izaah Knox
Position: Iowa Senator for District 17
Committee Assignments: local government, judiciary, technology, commerce, natural resources and environment (ranking member)
Residence: Des Moines
Education: Drake University (grad school), Iowa State (PhD)
Experience: Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission,
Family: Wife, a son, two daughters
Interests: biking, travel, hanging out with his kids
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