With Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch’s decision not to seek a third term, voters have plenty of options to choose from when picking the city's next top elected official.
Following the Aug. 29 deadline to file paperwork with the Scott County Auditor’s Office, six mayoral candidates have qualified to appear on the Oct. 8 primary election ballot. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election Nov. 5.
Before Klipsch, the last mayor to bow out of Davenport politics without a re-election fight was former Mayor Ed Winborn, who served one term and chose not to seek office again in 2007. Former Mayor Bill Gluba emerged as the victor that year, defeating two challengers including former Mayor Phil Yerington, who got cut from the ticket during the October primary.
Municipal elections in Davenport – like many cities – can often be low-turnout affairs. And primaries are typically lower turnout than the general election in November. But a mayoral election with a big field may offer a heightened interest and greater voter participation, said Scott County Auditor Roxanna Mortiz.
Moritz predicts a voter turnout between 15% and 20% during the October primary and between 25% and 30% in November given the circumstances.
If the upper end of Moritz’s prediction comes to pass, that could be an increase from 2007, when the last primary for an open mayoral seat took place. Only 10,640 of the city’s 67,000 registered voters hit the polls during the primary that year – a turnout of roughly 16%. In the following general election, roughly an estimated 22% participated, according to data with the Scott County Auditor’s Office.
Other thoughts behind her reasoning, Moritz said, include paired school board elections on the ballot and a heightened political awareness among Davenporters this year as 2020 presidential candidates stream through Iowa seeking support ahead of the Feb. 3 Democratic caucuses. Moritz said she hopes people remain involved in the process following the city primary regardless of whether the candidate they support wins or loses.
“Our local elections are where we’re closest,” Moritz said. “I mean I know people like to vote in the presidential election but our local elections are where we can actually touch and feel somebody and make a difference in the way that we’re governed on a daily basis.”
The six candidates range in political and professional experience. They are Steve Duffy, a retired insurance claims administrator; Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward; Alderwoman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward; CEO Dan Portes; Dean Weber, a public works employee; and Elizabeth VanCamp, a University of Iowa Hospitals employee.
The mayor does not wield broad executive power compared to some cities. But the title does come with the ability to cast a tie-breaking vote whenever the council is split 5-5 and veto any council-approved legislation – both rare events in City Hall.
Policy direction is also offered by the mayor, the city’s chief executive, in broader terms often related to citywide issues. Those proposals will occasionally be drafted by city administration and considered by the city council.
The mayor also appoints residents to sit on the city’s various decision-making commissions and advisory boards. In Klipsch’s case, that’s been an issue with his picks for the Civil Rights Commission.
Other duties typically involve participating in an array of regional governing boards that handle public services, cutting ribbons during groundbreaking ceremonies and being the city’s top cheerleader.
But being mayor is hardly a plum position in City Hall. Whoever takes the helm next year will be expected to propose ways to address several complex issues, including riverfront development, condition of city streets, crime and affordable housing needs.
Among the most pressing issues is finding a better way for the city to protect itself from Mississippi River flooding that has cost downtown some of its hard-gained business growth in the wake of the Flood of 2019. The disastrous temporary flood wall breach that occurred in April has sparked community-wide debate around flood protection.
Here's a closer look at who’s in the running:
Duffy, a retiree, joined the race in April with a campaign promise to focus on economic growth and addressing city crime.
Duffy is a retired insurance claims administrator who once oversaw municipal accounts, including Davenport’s. He had long been heavily involved in youth sports as a coach and points to that characteristic as indicative of his leadership style.
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He’s pointed to increased public safety and fixing city streets as top policy concerns.
Alderman Matson, the candidate with the longest record in city politics, was first elected to the city council in 2007. He ran a brief campaign for governor two years ago.
Matson is a retired U.S. Army Ranger. He teaches Junior ROTC at Davenport’s Central High School.
After Klipsch announced in late 2018 that he would not seek a third term, Matson quickly became the first declared candidate to join the race. He officially announced his campaign in February, identifying city crime and business growth as top priorities.
An area businessman and political newcomer, Portes is the latest addition to the mayoral race having formally announced his campaign a few weeks ago.
Portes is the CEO of Management Resource Group, Ltd., a consulting firm specializing in human resources management. He points to his business experience along with time on area boards and groups among his credentials.
As top policy goals, he has pointed to city crime, flood protection and growing jobs.
Rawson is one of two city officeholders seeking the mayor’s open seat. She joined the council in 2016 and represents the 5th Ward.
Rawson is a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Before joining city council, she led discussions on building up many of the city’s blighted and older corridors.
Launching her bid for mayor in April, Rawson kicked off a campaign focused affordable housing, urban revitalization and economic development.
VanCamp is a first-time office seeker. She announced her intention to run for mayor in July.
VanCamp works as a social media specialist with University of Iowa Hospitals. She previously was the director of development and marketing for Q-C Hand-in-Hand, a local non-profit.
Juvenile justice reform, climate change, and poverty are big issues she’d like to help address if elected.
Weber, a public works employee, is the only candidate who’s run for Davenport mayor before. He lost in the October primary four years ago, the same year Klipsch was first elected.
Weber has worked for the city nearly 17 years. He has long pointed to financial management of the city as a chief concern.
As he hits the campaign trail, Weber also points to city infrastructure as a major focus of his campaign.