When three new members of Waterloo’s city council are sworn into office in early 2022, a majority of the council’s members will be black for the first time in Waterloo’s history. Nia Wilder, one of the victorious Waterloo city council candidates, said she hopes her win inspires others in the community.
“I didn’t start off my life to be a city councilwoman,” she told Iowa Public Radio. “I just feel like…representation is everything.”
Nearly a third of Waterloo voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, far higher than normal for city elections. Quentin Hart, Waterloo’s first black mayor, was reelected to a fourth term. A political action committee called Cedar Valley Backs the Blue endorsed Hart’s opponent and other city council candidates, none of whom won. About 16 percent of Waterloo residents are black.
West Liberty voters have also made history in their community, where a majority of residents are Latino. When new members elected Tuesday are sworn into office in January, four out of the five city council positions will be held by Latinos — the first majority Latino city council in Iowa.
In Des Moines, a political newcomer who’s a Black Liberation Movement activist, defeated an incumbent and will become a member of the Des Moines City Council in January. Twenty-seven-year-old Indira Sheumaker said in a written statement she won on “a platform of Defunding the Police for Safety and Justice.”
She addressed supporters on Tuesday evening: “I am so excited, but more than that I am so ready. I have been planning what I’m going to do as a councilperson since before I announced.”
There was a mixed record for high-profile school board candidates opposed to mask mandates. Critics of masking requirements won seats on the Ankeny and Johnston School Boards, but mask mandate critics lost in Waukee and West Des Moines. Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed a candidate who won a seat on Ankeny’s school board and was asked at a news conference on Wednesday morning to comment on Tuesday’s election results. Reynolds replied by focusing on the GOP candidate who won the governor’s race in Virginia.
“Virginians were looking at the economy. Education was important to them. Their kids were out of school for a year and a half. They weren’t going to be told to go home and shut up,” Reynolds said, “that these are their children, they’re going to engage in the process and that parents matter.”
University of Northern Iowa political science professor Christopher Larimer said there are no party identifiers next to names of candidates for city and school board elections on the ballots, but it appears the country’s partisan divide helps explain the outcome of many contests.
“Is this the start or maybe just the amplification of the trend of really every single level of politics essentially being nationalized to the point that even in non-partisan elections we’re able to very clearly start to see partisan leanings?” Larimer asked rhetorically during an interview with Radio Iowa.
The Iowa Republican Party’s chairman said “the extreme left and their attempts to indoctrinate our students, while shunning parents, hit a brick wall” in Tuesday’s elections. The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party said he was “inspired by the number of people of color, LGBTQ+ and women” who were elected Tuesday.