Maria Bribriesco of Bettendorf says she decided to run for Iowa’s 94th House District seat to offer voters an option to three-term Republican incumbent Linda Miller, who has run unopposed in the previous two elections.

Miller, also of Bettendorf, says she’s glad to have an opponent because it gives her a chance to talk about the important issues facing the state.

Bribriesco, 54, was about six months into an early retirement from her job as an attorney at the Rock Island Arsenal when the Scott County Democratic Party called her in January, asking her to run against Miller.

Bribriesco said she raised her children not to sit on the sidelines when they had a chance to make a difference in their community, so she accepted the invitation.

“I really believe in our democracy, and I believe that for democracy to work, you have to have competition,” she said.

As the incumbent, Miller had a substantial lead in fundraising over Bribriesco in the June 1 reporting period, according to reports filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Miller started the June 1 reporting period with $33,955.21 in cash on hand, and finished the period with $31,217.14.

Bribriesco started the period with $4,332.43 and ended with $6,376.52.

Miller said while having Republicans in charge of the Iowa House and Democrats in charge of the Senate limited the amount of work that could get done in the last legislative session, she thought the work that did get done was important.

As chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, Miller said she was particularly pleased that the legislature approved reforms of the state’s mental-health system.

She said one area where she would have liked to see more progress was in education reform, which Gov. Terry Branstad has again made one of his top priorities for the coming legislative session.

Miller said while many people, including Iowa Department of Education director Jason Glass, agree that the federal No Child Left Behind program isn’t working, there has not been consensus in the education community about how to fix or replace it.

She said while there is no single way of educating children that will work best for all children, new technology, such as expanded online learning opportunities, can be used to tailor educational opportunities to fit the needs of students.

Models for new ways of teaching already are in use in some states, Miller said.

“It’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.

Bribriesco said education played a key role in her life. As the daughter of migrant workers in Texas, Bribriesco said she began working in the fields at age 11, but her parents taught her that through education, she could accomplish anything.

She said she believed part of the purpose of public schools is to give students a chance to interact with different kinds of people, and that the use of online education for public school should be limited.

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Bribriesco said she opposed allowing public school district to contract with for-profit education companies to provide online courses.

“I think that’s going the wrong way,” she said.

She also said the state should take a slow, “first, do no harm,” approach to education reform.

Miller said education also can play a role in helping Iowa’s economy through training programs to teach young people and unemployed or underemployed workers the skills they need to get good-paying jobs in Iowa’s industries.

Another way to help Iowa small businesses is through commercial property tax reform, Miller said. The issue was one of Branstad’s top priorities last year, and Miller said the legislature was close to reaching an agreement before election year politicking got in the way, and the legislature adjourned without reaching an agreement.

Miller said while many people think of commercial property tax reform as providing a tax break to large, wealthy corporations, she believes most of the large corporations already have some kind of tax relief, in the form of tax increment finance, or TIF, districts or other programs.

She said the businesses that are really hurt by Iowa’s high commercial income tax rate are small businesses.

Bribriesco said Iowa doesn’t seem to have trouble attracting large businesses to the state at its current tax rate.

“I don’t really think we have a problem,” she said.