Iowa Senate District 1 will have a new senator serving in Des Moines when the gavel falls on the 2019 legislation session. Republican Zach Whiting won a three-way primary in June, and ran unopposed in the general election.
Whiting, whose grandfather was a history teacher for about 35 years, said he has always wanted to do something where he could use his God-given skills, abilities and talents to serve others.
“I’ve tried out a lot of different avenues of doing that in my life and been very happy and fulfilled in so many of those endeavors,” he said.
Whiting ran for Iowa House in 2010 and lost the primary by 55 votes. Following the loss he moved on — quite literally. Whiting went to law school, got married, started a family and had a job.
“I thought elected office wasn’t for me,” he said. “Then everything happened the way it did with Senator David Johnson and his decision to leave the Party. There was a call by Republicans back in this district and in northwest Iowa to have someone replace him. I thought about it, prayed about it and talked about it with my family and realized I still had that desire to serve others in this capacity.”
He announced his candidacy in August of 2016. Two more Republicans eventually entered the primary, but Whiting won with a sizable margin. In the general election Whiting said he garnered support from a variety of folks along the political spectrum.
“We had a lot of Democrat support and a lot of No Party support,” he said. “I know who my base is and I know what my principles are, but it was nice to see people willing to give me an opportunity to serve them regardless of maybe having a different political affiliation.”
One priority for Whiting is to remember his role as servant to his district.
“I view this office as being the caretaker of this office on behalf of my 60,000 constituents for a period of time and then I’ll move on and go back to normal life,” he said. “It’s a good reminder and perspective that needs to be kept throughout. It’s something I never want to lose and, frankly, if I do lose that perspective then I need to decide it’s time to go or more likely the constituents will decide it’s time for me to go.
“Too often politicians get wrapped up in the idea that it’s about them and they’re so important and they have this big voice and vote and ego.”
Considering how things ended with Sen. Johnson’s tenure in the Iowa Senate, Whiting is eager to get things started and provide his district with a voice in Des Moines.
“For this district, the decision that (Johnson) made to change political parties and leave the Republican Party in protest of Trump’s impending nomination coupled with his voting record — he was a reliable voice and vote for Democrats down in Des Moines on every consequential issue except for life — that motivated the people of this district to realize they weren’t being represented,” Whiting said. “The conservative principles, which I hold dear, are values more reflective of these people.
“That’s not to say him having those values, beliefs, opinions and thoughts are wrong, I happen to disagree with them, but it is not the right fit for this district.”
His biggest priority in Des Moines will be restructuring the state government. It’s a tall task, but one Whiting said is worthy of his time and attention.
“We need government oversight, accountability and restoring of the proper balance or separation of powers between the branches,” Whiting said. “For too long the other branches have taken law-making authority away. I think that’s wrong and it’s unconstitutional. As a legislative body, we need to reclaim our authority.”
Both the executive branch and judicial branch share responsibility for this, Whiting said. But it extends to agencies that are allowed to make rules and regulations as well.
“Unfortunately the legislature in its laws gives broad discretion to agencies to make rules,” he said. “I’m on a number of committees and a couple important ones that give me a great opportunity to look at those bigger issues and ensure that as a legislative body we are fulfilling our duty to make laws and not ceding that authority to anybody else.”