The candidates at the Gaza Forum held at Producers CO-OP.

About 100 area people trekked to the Producers Coop warehouse in Gaza, Iowa on Tuesday May 3 to hear questions and answers to and from each of the five candidates vying for 2 seats in state level representation. The event was organized by a group of active local individuals that meet for discussion and prayer. Their early morning meetings have been graced with the attendance of each of the 5 candidates. Those early morning meetings led to the organization of a public forum for each of them to be publicly questioned.
The forum began with statements from Chuck Virgil of rural Sutherland. Virgil read the statements made by General Douglas MacArthur at his Farewell address to the 1962 graduating class at West Point. His remarks were to the civilians reminding them of their responsibilities to the nation.
Pastor Mike Cooper provided an opening prayer and Dave Hicks, manager of Producers Coop gave words to the public about how the location was selected for its representation of Iowa agriculture and the plight of agriculture dependent communities across Iowa. In his remarks, Hicks credited the go-getter who promoted the event to Dennis Fogelman of Sutherland, Iowa. Chuck Virgil enforced the 2-minute response limit.
Three men are running for the reorganized District 5 House of Representatives. Tom Kuiper of Sibley, Zach Dieken of Granville and Dennis Bush of Cherokee.
Two men seek the District 3 Senate seat. Lynn Evans of Aurelia and Anthony LaBruna of Storm Lake wish to serve citizens of northwest Iowa.
All candidates are on the Republican primary ballot.
Dani Rehder moderated the forum. She also accepted responsibility for making sure candidates’ responses were about the question asked. Her first duty was to introduce each candidate.
Tom Kuiper hales from Sibley where he is a 1985 graduate. He received a degree from ISU in 1990, bounced around the country for a few years including a short stint on a cruise ship and 11 years in northern California. He returned to Iowa in 2007.
The first question asked each candidate was which Constitutional Amendment is your favorite and why. Kuiper, an author, believes most strongly in 1A for its 5 distinct rights for citizens: free speech, freedom of religion or to exercise that religion, freedom to gather peacefully and to redress grievances of the government.
Zach Dieken lives in Granville and has been a northwest Iowa resident all his life. He is a Northwestern University, Orange City graduate and became an Iowa State trooper in 2012. His pursuit for office is driven by a desire to eradicate abortion and to protect families from the liberal agenda of sexual perversion.
In expressing that the constitutional amendment most important to him was 2A, the right to keep and bear arms, Dieken’s long, hard to follow explanation came down to his belief that the second amendment is the protector of all the other amendments and for the people to revolt with force, if necessary, against a tyrannical government.
Dennis Bush is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County. He has farmed his entire life and has been married to the same woman for 48 years. Bush is the incumbent candidate for District 5. He has served as a member of the Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn School Board, the Cherokee County Veterans Affairs Commission and as a Cherokee County Supervisor. He was appointed by Governor Kim Reynolds State Mental Health Board.
Bush is torn for his favorite constitutional amendment. Both 1A and 2A are important to him. He sees the freedom of worship and a key for American freedom and he likes the way the constitution give citizens a voice in government.
Anthony LaBruna came to Iowa to attend Iowa State University. There he worked in a congressional district office assuring that citizens had access to officials and could navigate the complicated federal government. He seeks office to improve the rights of citizens focusing on regulation on farmers and small businesses and various public safety initiatives. He was appointed by former President Donald Trump as the White House liaison to the Department of Commerce under Wilbur Ross.
LaBruna is a first amendment man. He worked on legislation in 2018 while at the statehouse. He sees that free speech, particularly conservative speech on college campuses as being treated unfairly and gave examples.
Lynn Evans is a northwest Iowa native. He currently lives in Aurelia and calls himself a pro-life, pro-second amendment and pro-tax reform Constitutional Conservative. He and Midge have been married for 37 years. Evans served as school superintendent to Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn and most recently to the Alta-Aurelia school district, his hometown. His political ambitions as an Iowa Senator are to increase access to mental health care, building the rural economy and assuring all children have access to a world-class education.
Lynn Evans most supports the Second Amendment. Evans too believes 2A exists to protect the people from a tyrannical government and gives the right to protect ourselves.
The topic of public education, parental involvement and vouchers brought a question to the candidates. Kuiper says parental involvement needs to be absolute and is a parental responsibility. He is not necessarily in favor of vouchers for their potential effect on rural public schools, although he expressed concern for the direction public schools are going.
Dieken put the question into his terms and was clear that he is always in charge and protective of his children. He went on to state that public schools are attempting to teach children not even biological science and attempting to destroy them before our very eyes.
Bush is the only sitting elected official. The legislature is currently debating parental access and is tied in with vouchers. He says the government’s purpose in this election is a referendum for the voucher program. He says he is the only candidate for the House of Representatives standing with public schools. He reminded the audience that private schools could get tax dollars and not be required to accept every student – those with learning or physical disabilities or behavioral problems. Bush firmly expressed his dislike for “painting all school districts with the same brush.”
Evans, and educator for his entire career. He likened the “transparency” discussion with “current best practices.” He went on to compare the proposed transparency bill with current practices that many school districts undertake that include making lesson plans and assignments available online and other methods for parental involvement. He fully supports transparency.
LaBruna agrees that not all districts are the same, noting the teachers are part of our community. He also believes the concern is more about knowing where the money goes and that it’s following the student. He states clearly that parents are free to send their kids to a different school if you don’t think you are getting benefit from your money.
Toward the end of the forum the candidates were asked: “We’ve witnessed elected officials lying to media and constituents, and even when it’s on camera nothing seems to happen to hold these individuals accountable. Should lying to media or constituents be an impeachable offense? Explain.”
Each candidate responded clarifying that anyone lying under oath should certainly face accountability. All candidates avoided answering if, as an elected official, making false statements to their constituents directly or through media, they committed an impeachable act.
So, each candidate was emailed a question for clarity about how they view honesty. They were asked: “Every elected official must swear an oath of office. As an elected official do you feel that you are “under [that] oath” at all times  during your term? Please explain your feelings about when an oath of  office is not in affect for elected officials.”
Only 2 responses were received. The first came promptly from Zach Dieken. The response was long and twisted its way through many caveats of oaths, such as his State Trooper oath of office and when he sees himself held accountable to that oath. He does not while off duty. For elected officials Dieken says, “Elected officials should not be allowed to lie period. There is no excuse for it and the consequences should be removal from office via the ballot box or they should be criminally charged if lying under oath. The media should absolutely be asking the right questions and doing investigative journalism to find these things out. Thus holding people accountable.” The entire reply can be seen on our website at
Lynn Evans’ reply was in my inbox for press time. His reply was short and clear. “When you take an oath of office as an elected official you are always bound by that oath. I can’t think of a situation when that oath is not in affect.”
No oaths of office demand truthfulness.

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