Name: Mark McHugh, Republican
Office/District: State Representative District 3
Profession: CNC Operator
Why running for office: “Service has always been something that’s been ingrained in me forever. When it was the day after my 17th birthday, I signed the paperwork to enlist in the Iowa Army National Guard. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I went and I attended basic training at Fort Benning, GA in 1999. And so when I was looking at that, I knew that I wanted to serve. I looked at the possibility of all the branches and both their active and reserve components, but I settled on the Iowa Guard because I liked the ability not only to serve my country but my state as well. In the back of my mind, it was only about six years later the big floods that we had in 1993, so I was remembering out there the Guard sandbagging. When I was going through that, that’s why I settled on the Guard. After I was done there, I still had a desire to serve. I eventually made my way here to O’Brien County, got involved with the O’Brien County Republicans and then when Randy Feenstra came by the central committee meeting and mentioned both he and Dan Huseman were not going to seek re-election, I thought this might be an opportunity to do what I have felt called to do. And so after I heard about that, on the way home from the meeting I called my wife and said, ‘hey, when I get home, we need to talk about something.’ So I talked with her and thought about it and reflected on it and prayed about it. I talked with a gentleman who is my uncle and he had tried to make a run at state senate back in 2012. That way I could find out just what exactly I was going to get into. It really comes back to just having this desire to serve. That’s been a desire of mine since I was a kid. First of all in the military and now that I’m well out of that, this is another opportunity for me to serve.
“The first thing that I was thinking of is I want to be able to make sure to keep an open ear to voters. I’ve found that so often it seems that people say whatever they need to stay to be able to get elected and then you don’t see them again for another two, four or six years, whatever the case may be. I kind of want to change that. I’ve been a Second Amendment supporter my whole life, all the way back to when I was a kid on the farm walking around with my BB gun. So, I’ve been seeing the Second Amendment come under fire from various state legislatures across the country and I just can’t let that happen in Iowa. That’s just not OK for me to let happen in Iowa. And then the other thing is I’ve been pro-life my whole life. I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, and so the roots of being pro-life is right there. It actually bothers me just a little bit when I hear my opponents speak and they don’t really want to mention either of those subjects. Those subjects are both very important to me. I’d like to see Iowa go to a constitutional carry state and I would like to see the constitutional amendment saying people do not have a right to an abortion in Iowa passed. So those are a few very strong things that I feel I want to keep on top of.
“I have a thing in my campaign and it’s going to continue after the election that I’ve called the three As. First of all, accessible. Second of all, approachable. Third of all, accountable. Accessible — I’ve got my Facebook page up. I’ve got my website up and going. I’m actually going to be starting up doing Facebook Live events during this COVID stuff because I’m not going to let it stop me from talking to people. As far as being approachable, I’m almost never the guy in everyday life who is wearing a suit. I’m very much a jeans and T-shirt type of guy. So, I’m not an intimidating guy. I’m thrilled when people come up and talk to me about one thing or another — whatever is important to them. And, as I was hearing things while I was getting signatures for my nomination petitions, listening to people, of course, I got Second Amendment stuff from people and other people were worried about other things. One gentleman was concerned about the fact Iowa does not have a cold case unit any more at DCI. Another gentleman was concerned about how difficult it is for his 16-year-old son to be able to access mental healthcare. So they felt the ability to be able to approach me with that. Last of all is accountable. What I’ve told people is if I’m honored enough to be elected to go down there to Des Moines and serve, and I don’t represent the district, I’m no longer accessible, I’m no longer approachable, vote me out of there. Hold me to account. So three is accountable.
“Another thing is I’ve been actually growing the Republican Party. I’ve been soliciting people that I work with, people who are 21, 22 years old. I’ve been telling them, ‘look, I need you to get registered and when you register, you’d better register as a Republican. Everything you’ve been telling me aligns with that party. Your pro-life beliefs, Second Amendment beliefs, lower taxes.’
“I’ve gotten my kids involved. They’re pretty young yet, but my son for example, I pull him along to sit at the fair. I brought him over to Sanborn to our Winter Gala. On the way home from there, he asked me, ‘how do I know if I’m a Democrat or a Republican.’ I tried to explain to him about wealth redistribution and that kind of stuff and he just didn’t get it. A couple weeks later, we had a nice bit of snowfall. He asked me if I could post on Facebook that he’d shovel somebody’s sidewalk. For Christmas, he got a laptop and he was saving up to buy a printer. I said I suppose. I posted it and sure enough, somebody wanted someone to shovel their steps and sidewalk. We took my truck. It was 8:30 at night. It was pitch black out, 18 miles an hour winds, minus-2-degree temperature and he was shoveling by truck headlight to be able to earn himself some money to put towards this printer he was wanting. He went and the lady ended up paying him $25 and as we were driving home he was feeling like he was a king on top of the world. He earned himself $25 and that was the best. I told him now he had to give his sister $15 of that. And he goes, ‘What! I was out there shoveling and freezing my butt off and throwing down ice melt and Aspen just stayed home watching TV and she didn’t do anything and I have to give her $15. That’s just not fair!’ I go, ‘Well son, welcome to being a Republican.’
“I’m not a real old guy, I’m 38 years old. I’ve been bringing youth into the Republican Party. I honestly don’t think that we can be the party of ‘old white men.’ We just can’t sustain that way because that’s not who we are. We’ve got people who are young telling me about how they love to be able to go hunting. They want to be able to carry a firearm. I have people telling me that it’s just not right to see all of these babies getting aborted, and so they’re Republicans. They’ve just been afraid to be able to say it because they’re told Republicans are old, white men and they’re young guys and young girls. So I’ve been pulling them into the party, saying look, if Republicans align with what your beliefs are, let’s make it official.”
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