A state legislator from Davenport known for her focus on education is running to retain her seat in a three-way race.
Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, who has served 12 years in this position, is facing opposition from Republican candidate Ryan D. Roberson and independent Mark J. Riley in Iowa House District 90.
In addition to questionnaires they answered, posted online at qctimes.com, get to know a little more about them below:
Mark Riley, independent candidate
Mark Riley, a 47-year-old engineer with the Canadian-Pacific Railroad, said he is running for state office for the second time in two years to help change the political system, which he said is too “partisan and polarized” to run properly.
He learned this the hard way while running for office on the Republican ticket the first time, he said.
On several occasions, Riley saw lobbying groups and businesses acting in ways that would show they only give campaign money to get candidates on the hook to support their missions. He admitted the experience jaded him, but “it’s made me more determined than ever to win a race without going the conventional way.”
He switched his party affiliation to become an independent, calling himself “more middle of the road.”
“And I don’t take money, so I’m not beholden to anybody,” he said, adding that both Republicans and Democrats have said when they go to the other side with ideas, “they’re immediately shot down.”
“We’re so partisan and polarized, I think state government is failing to do their jobs,” he said. “They are hostages to special interests and to the parties.”
Riley said some of his campaign signs bear the phrase “Ethanol is death,” referring to how the ethanol lobby has influenced state government to subsidize ethanol production, which he describes as “burning our food” while food costs continue to rise.
“We burn our food in our gas tanks, increase the gas tax and then build up road infrastructure in other parts of the state,” he said. “Our roads don’t get built up. We send our food money to the farmer, and now we’re sending our gas tax money.”
Speaking of farmers, he said the value of Iowa farm land has skyrocketed, which should be sending more money into schools. But farmers are getting tax breaks, so they don’t have to pay for the high value of their land in taxes, he said.
“We have this rural economy and rural mentality that has invaded the Republican Party and we haven’t developed good policies in Iowa because of it,” Riley said. “We’ve forgotten urban areas.”
He said Iowa also needs to invest more in early childhood education, which has been “slashed and burned” in the budget process because of lobbying and party interests.
Riley said he would work “for the common good.”
“Our future depends on people getting off their butts and being involved,” he said.
Ryan D. Roberson, Republican candidate
Ryan D. Roberson, a 39-year-old property manager, said the idea of running for state office has “always been in the back of my mind.”
He cemented that goal after earning his graduate degree from Western Illinois University in Macomb and moving back to Davenport with the hope of using some of what he learned to “continue to make Davenport a better place.”
“It was because of the way things are going,” he said.
Roberson feels strongly about making sure the state is taking care of veterans when they come home after military service. He said he has several veteran friends and he is “kind of appalled by the level of treatment and level of care and benefits they aren’t receiving.”
“I know too many veterans who have gone into service to our country and have come back to not be honored with what they were told would happen when they came out of the service,” Roberson said. “I would like to see the state get involved and do whatever they can to make sure the guys who sign up and are going overseas, that we have a way to honor our commitments to them.”
Roberson said he also is trying to change his lifestyle to get healthier, and he’s really confused about food labeling.
“I would like to see Iowa be a leader of food labeling and disclosure about what’s in our food,” he said, adding that he also would like to see better nutrition offered in public schools, while working within state and federal mandates.
“I really would like to work to change the quality of food,” he said, mentioning Jamie Oliver’s “Food Evolution” movement. “That’s a positive trend that I’d like to see: Kids eating more fresh foods and having more choices, and equipping children with the education of how to cook food for themselves.”
Roberson holds a graduate degree in recreation, park and tourism administration, and says the Quad-City area is “way ahead of the curve to make this an international and national destination.” As a state lawmaker, he would continue to sell this area as a place worth investing in, he said.
Along those lines, he said he also would push the state to offer more incentives to help people make energy-efficiency improvements to their homes and commercial properties and lower their utility bills.
Roberson described himself as a “people person,” who gets involved in the community by serving on advisory boards and joining groups and events in the area.
Cindy Winckler, Democrat incumbent
A former teacher, Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, has served in the Iowa House of Representatives for 12 years. She is running to keep her position because she believes state-level issues “are really important to everyone” and “we have huge things on the agenda,” she said.
“I appreciate the opportunity to frame those decisions,” Winckler said.
In the education arena, Gov. Terry Branstad is looking at ways to refine the teacher-evaluation system, and how college students prepare for teaching as a career.
The state also will be looking at its student assessments, and “one of the most exciting pieces in those conversations is around competency-based education” for kindergarten through 12th-grade students, she said.
“This would eliminate the requirement for seat time and replace it with students showing when they have met expectations and allowing them to move at a different pace,” she said. “That’s just so exciting.”
Some have criticized state lawmakers for failing to take action on more education initiatives proposed in the last legislative session, but Winckler said the process was difficult, in part, because of new Iowa Department of Education director Jason Glass’ “huge learning curve in understanding exactly where we are in education as a state, and trying to move the governor’s expectations forward.”
She said Branstad also was not familiar with the progress the state had made in education over the 12 years he was not in office.
“There’s some great research out there about how the world leaders in education moved from fair to great, and what they put in place first,” Winckler said. “The governor’s blueprint had none of that in there.”
“We can’t take shortcuts,” she added. “That’s where I saw the education conversations going.”
Winckler also wants to continue working on the state’s revisions to its mental-health system. She served on the task force on this issue last year, and now serves on a work group that is looking at performance measures and outcomes, she said.
She also is concerned about job creation in Iowa, and how the state can grow its communities.
“We are one of the leaders in the nation in the percent of paved roads per capita, but there are so many parts of Iowa where they’re losing significant population because there’s no business and industry there. How do we grow that?”
She also wants to continue to encourage bipartisanship.
“I truly believe that’s how we get things done,” she said. “That’s how we make a difference.”