Senate candidate C.J. Petersen says: Western Iowa ‘forgotten’ in Des Moines
C.J. Petersen, the lone Democrat running in Iowa Senate District 6, discussed his motivation for seeking office and the COVID-19 pandemic in a Facebook Live broadcast Friday.
“I decided to run for the state Senate because I grew up in Western Iowa and I’m tired of seeing our communities sold off to the highest bidder and be kind of forgotten in Des Moines,” Petersen said. “What always ends up happening is politicians come around here during election time and they talk to us and they say they care about us and they care about rural issues and issues, (which) is just a code word for flyover country.”
The candidate was joined by Patricia Ritchie, the vice president of Denison’s League of United Latin American Citizens chapter, who discussed the voter engagement the group has undertaken and the ongoing pandemic.
“Of course because of the pandemic what our focus is on is absentee ballots, that’s what you have to focus on right now,” Ritchie said. “So we’re doing a lot of Facebook education, a lot of putting out the word by our page.”
More than 8,400 voters in the 6th Senate District had requested absentee primary ballots as of Wednesday, according to the secretary of state’s website. Petersen dismissed the assertions by some elected officials of the potential for voter fraud to take place with mail ballots.
“There’s a system in place … there’s no evidence that voter fraud is some kind of rampant issue,” he said. “It’s usually just about the wrong kinds of voters voting from certain perspectives.”
Ritchie said she did not care who people vote for, as long as they are exercising their right to do so.
“You are absolutely right,” Petersen said. “The only thing I’d disagree with you is I care who you vote for, I hope you vote for me. I’m kidding.”
Petersen added he wants voter turnout to go up no matter who is voting because that would be a sign of a “healthy democracy.”
“If that means that I lose an election because more people are voting, then I just didn’t do my job,” Petersen said.
“Our job as candidates really is to tell the voters why you should vote for us, and you have the opportunity to kick our butts back out if we don’t do well or to reelect us. But you know trying to choose the voters rather than let the voters choose you is just crazy to me.”
The discussion turned to the health implications of the pandemic specifically, especially in terms of how it has disproportionately impacted ethnic minorities.
“The reality of this is Crawford (County) is a hotspot, unfortunately — we’ve had two deaths — but what we have done from the beginning as a public health standpoint is be honest, be direct, try to squash the rumors and get the information to educate everybody as much as possible to the point that I’ve even gone on Facebook and translated some of our posts,” Ritchie said.
As of the latest update Wednesday, Hispanic or Latino Iowans accounted for 26 percent of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, according to the health department’s website. Hispanic or Latino Iowans account for 6.2 percent of the state’s population, according to 2019 census estimates.
Ritchie said the crisis has been hard on the Latino community, adding they are in “fear.”
“Have they been scared to go test? Yes,” Ritchie said. “Actually in the first few weeks of the pandemic, as a board member, I volunteered my bilingual services to help do some of the investigation, and that was hard for me because I was actually hearing the fear of people actually wanting to give up the information of who was in their home, and I had to assure them that I was not ICE, that I would not share numbers.”