• C.J. Petersen

Iowa Senate candidate spotlights Templeton in personalized campaign ad

Written by: Jake Webster, Carroll Times Herald

Templeton - The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly all aspects of life that people had taken for granted, and it changed the way people campaign for office.

Nearly all campaigning has been forced online and to virtual formats — with Zoom calls, tele-town halls and advertising taking the place of pressing the flesh on the trail. Local campaigns in western Iowa are no different from national and statewide campaigns in being forced to the digital realm.

Democratic state Senate nominee C.J. Petersen of Templeton released a new video supporting his candidacy late Sunday. The 6th District Democratic nominee’s political turf is a sprawling district stretching through all or part of Buena Vista, Carroll, Sac, Crawford and Audubon counties. He'll face Republic Craig Williams in November.

He told the Times Herald his campaign will run digital ads, and with the pandemic they are running a “nearly entirely” virtual campaign.

“Being engaged online is a great way to reach our supporters and potential voters,” he said in an interview.

The video introduces Petersen and relates parts of his biography to policies with impacts on rural Iowa. He notes he grew up in western Iowa and knew his neighbors and felt safe and like he “belonged here.” The candidate uses sign language throughout the video, as Petersen uses hearing aids and has had multiple family members who are deaf.

“My grandparents were deaf, and they owned and operated a small business for nearly 50 years,” Petersen said in the video. “It’s because of them that I knew what it means to be strong and grounded in faith. I hadn’t planned to come back to rural Iowa, but I fell in love with someone who shares my values: faith, family and community. We put down roots here because there’s no better place on earth to raise a family.”

As Petersen says he fell in love with someone, the camera pans to him holding hands with his fiancé. Petersen is openly gay.

“I think that gets at the heart of a misconception that a lot of folks have of rural Iowans, and I think there’s this perception that rural Iowans are bigoted, or uneducated or not willing to engage and get to know people who are different from them, and that’s just flat-wrong,” he told the Times Herald when asked whether he thought his sexuality would have an impact on his electoral chances. “I have every belief that my campaign will be judged on the merits of what we’re talking about: rebuilding our local communities — we have storefronts closing, and a closed storefront can mean several hundred thousand dollars in lost revenue for a community over the course of a year or several years.”

The Templeton Democrat’s video then pivots to some of the ills plaguing small-town Iowa, with backdrops of the city of Templeton.

“We know the challenges we face,” Petersen said in the video. “Our restaurants are closing, more and more storefronts stand empty and young people feel like there’s more opportunity in the big cities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can grow our local economies with apprenticeships and business succession plans. Stop the consolidations and cuts to our rural schools and just help our towns thrive. There’s nothing wrong here that can’t be fixed by what’s right here.”

Petersen then takes a personal turn in the video, saying he “wasn’t supposed to make it this far.”

“By the time I reached my mid-twenties, my struggle with alcoholism had nearly killed me,” he said in the video. “Luckily, I was able to attend treatment, which saved my life. But many people don’t get that chance. Maintaining our rural hospitals is an important part of rebuilding our communities — and that includes mental health and addiction care. When I’m in the Iowa Senate, I’ll fight to put Medicaid back on the side of the people where it belongs.”

Acknowledging his party’s difficulty in winning seats in western Iowa and the 6th District especially — the closest a Democrat came to winning the current seat was a 14-point victory for now-retiring Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, in 2012 — Petersen said in the video he’s not the “typical” candidate that gets elected “around here.”

As of June 2020, the number of registered Republicans in the district outnumbered the number of registered Democrats 15,189 to 9,577, with 13,535 no-party and other active voters, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.

Petersen, 29, added in an interview that his young age and sexuality also would set him apart from “typical” candidates who win in the area.

“But that’s OK,” he said in the video, “’cause these are not typical times. The decisions we make in Des Moines are going to affect our schools, our communities and rural health care for years to come. And I’ll work with anybody. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, or a Democrat or an independent. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit — as long as the job gets done.”


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