Why the Dec. 5 Waterloo run-off election is big for the LGBTQ community

Waterloo At-Large City Council Candidates Jonathan Grieder and Steve Simon. The two will face off in a Dec. 5 run-off.

By Amie Rivers

November 21, 2023

The Dec. 5 run-off election in Waterloo will be a match-up between a progressive voice on the city council who fights for LGBTQ protections and one who “clearly doesn’t.”

That’s according to Jonathan Grieder, the progressive voice in that race and the current Ward 2 representative on the Waterloo City Council. He gave up his seat this election to run for the citywide at-large seat this year. (Dave Boesen, the incumbent at-large councilor, successfully ran for Grieder’s Ward 2 seat unopposed.)

Grieder went up against three others for that seat in the Nov. 7 election. None of the four candidates reached the 50% threshold, meaning the top two vote-getters head to a run-off election on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

Those two candidates are Grieder, who garnered 2,194 votes (almost 34%), and Steve Simon, who took 2,923 votes (nearly 45%).

Simon did not respond to Starting Line’s request for comment. However, he told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier he thought there were “a lot of dynamics to be played out and hard campaigning by both of us … It’s a whole new election.”

Conversion therapy ban

One of the stark differences between Grieder and Simon is their views on conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that targets LGBTQ youth and seeks to change their sexual or gender identities.

Grieder introduced an ordinance to ban conversion therapy on minors in Waterloo, which passed on a 6-1 vote in May. Boesen was the lone “no” vote.

That ordinance was short-lived, however. After the city was threatened with an expensive lawsuit by Florida-based, anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, the city council in August voted to repeal it on a 4-3 vote.

Grieder and two other council members voted against repeal, saying at the time the council “shouldn’t give up just because we don’t like the odds.”

Months later, Grieder told Starting Line he was “having conversations with other partners to continue to have this conversation.” Simon, by contrast, said after the repeal that the ordinance “should not have happened in the first place.”

“We should not be getting between children, parents, and their health professionals,” Simon said in a release.

LGBTQ support

Grieder alleged Simon was “surrounded by folks who are anti-LGBTQ,” including “the folks who donate to him from my former colleague” and “his campaign manager.”

Simon’s campaign chair is Jacob Tayloe of Waterloo. Simon was endorsed by former Waterloo police chief and current Black Hawk County supervisor Dan Trelka, as well as Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, per his website.

Simon also received a donation and endorsement from former councilor Margaret Klein, according to financial disclosures. Klein, who lost her bid for mayor in 2022, voted against a 2020 resolution encouraging the state of Iowa to ban conversion therapy for minors and called the most recent ordinance the “Parental Interference Transgender ordinance” on her Facebook page.

Grieder, meanwhile, has received donations from Mayor Quentin Hart and former councilor Pat Morrissey. Grieder also received a sizeable donation from Aliya Rahman, a Waterloo resident who spoke in favor of LGBTQ rights during the debate to repeal the ban.

“Frankly, I am more than happy that Mr. Simon wants to make the distinction that there’s one person in this race who cares about every kid in Waterloo, and there’s one person who clearly doesn’t,” Grieder said.

“I have stood up for LGBTQ folks. I am proud of the fight that we had on the conversion therapy ban,” he continued. “We need only look at what the state is doing to showcase what happens when we have policymakers who don’t like LGBTQ people and what that can mean.”

Find more information about voting in the Dec. 5 run-off election here.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.



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