Meet the Iowa House District 35 Candidates for the 2022 Election

Two new legislative candidates are running this year for an open seat at Iowa House in Des Moines.

Democrat Sean Bagniewski and no-party candidate Dennis McCullough face off in Iowa House District 35, a Des Moines-based seat that includes the Beaverdale neighborhood.

To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to all federal, state and Des Moines-area legislative candidates running this year. Their responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Early voting begins Oct. 19 for the Nov. 8 election.

After:A guide to voter rights in Iowa. What you need to know before voting

Who is Sean Bagniewski?

Age: 38

To party: Democrat

Where did you grow up? monks

City of current residence: monks

Education: Roosevelt High School, Central Campus, Truman State University, Drake Law School

Occupation: Lawyer

Political experience and civic activities: Former president of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association, former president of Des Moines Neighbors, current chairman of the Polk County Democratic Party, co-founder of the New Iowa Project

Who is Dennis McCullough?

Denis McCullough

Age: 44

To party: no party

Where did you grow up? monks

City of current residence: monks

Education: Grand View University

Occupation: Business owner/truck driver

Political experience and civic activities: This is my first time running for office, politics was never meant for elites. It was always designed for people who want to do the right thing and ensure a good future for the next generation.

What would be your main stake if you were elected?

Bagniewski: As someone who left for college and chose to come back and start a family here, I want Iowa to be a thriving state again. We topped many national lists, but six years of extreme one-party rule have been devastating on almost every measure. Our education system has moved from top to middle in national rankings. Our population growth has stalled while rural Iowa has been decimated. Cutting and burning the state budget has not resulted in a boom in new businesses or jobs. Conservation is an afterthought. The governors I admire – Bob Ray and Tom Vilsack – would not tolerate the divisive and negative atmosphere we see today. It is our responsibility to change things.

McCullough: To keep politicians in check and remind them that they work for the people of Iowa, not the other way around. After all, it’s the people who vote for them. These are the people they should be listening to, not a special interest or whoever is bribing them for their vote.

After:Where Iowa House District 27 candidates Kenan Judge and Kristen Stiffler stand on key issues

Iowans are grappling with rising costs and inflation. What can the state do to help them make ends meet?

Bagniewski: We must fight for Iowa workers in everything we do. There is no better guarantee for the middle class than the unions. We need to restore the Chapter 20 protections they had in our state. We must end the attacks on their organizing rights. As a parent, I know childcare can be extremely expensive for the average family budget. We should fight for better access across the state. The cost of college in Iowa continues to rise every year. We could do a better job encouraging students to attend our trade schools and community colleges. In addition to childcare and college tuition, many Iowans are sandwiched with the rising costs of caring for their parents and other family members.

McCullough: Iowa doesn’t have the ability to print money like the federal government does, so we have to find another way. One way to do that is to lower taxes for the middle class and maybe lower property taxes and find other taxes that could be lowered for now that might help families struggling with rising costs.

After:Where Sonya Heitshusen and David Young stand on key House District 28 race issues

What do you think Iowa’s abortion policy should be? Do you think abortion should be completely banned? Do you think Iowa should have no restrictions? If you think there should be restrictions, please be specific about the restrictions and exceptions you support.

Bagniewski: I oppose the reversal of Roe in the Dobbs decision. I support and have always supported a woman’s right to choose. I agree with the vast majority of Iowans on both sides that these decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor. More than 80% of Iowans disagree with our Republican candidates and think there should – at the very least – be exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is in danger. Like so many other issues, the only thing that gets in the way of sensible politics are hardline politicians trying to fill their time on TV or their tastes on social media.

McCullough: Rape, incest or the life of the mother and that’s it. Otherwise, I’m pro-life and I make no apologies.

What’s the best way to improve Iowa’s education system?

Bagniewski: We must stop the attack on public schools. The people of Iowa do not support giving public money to private schools where some bad actor is not responsible and can refuse anyone. We know that vouchers could have a devastating impact on schools and rural communities, in particular. Politicians targeting educators with bills requiring cameras in the classroom, imposing criminal penalties on teachers and trying to ban books are a national embarrassment. Not only has this led to a general shortage of teachers and school staff, but it is also more difficult to convince families to move here.

McCullough: Instead of simplifying the program, let’s start challenging the kids again! Let them rise to the occasion! Let’s resume the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic, science and history in schools! Schools used to prepare children for the real world, now many of them barely know how to read at the 4th grade level; or what was considered a 4th grade in the 80s. I have kids in their twenties who come to my store who can’t sign their own names in cursive because schools have stopped their learn to write in cursive! Parents also need to become more involved and play a more active role in their children’s education.

After:Meet the candidates for the seat of South Des Moines’ District 30 Iowa House

What new laws, if any, do you think Iowa should enact regarding firearms?

Bagniewski: I come from a family of hunters and we do not recognize the political bombardment surrounding any discussion of guns today. I am a parent like many others who sends their child to school every day and wonders why we are the only country that seems unable to do anything to stop regular school shootings. There is a broad consensus on background checks and prohibiting abusers and criminals from buying guns. The only thing standing in the way of bipartisan reform in Iowa and across the country is political cowardice.

McCullough: We have a constitutional postponement. I don’t think we need new laws restricting guns.

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