Meet your Candidate: Karin Derry

Meet your Candidate: Karin Derry

Andrew Maresca, Editor-in-Chief

Disclaimer: The Black & White does not endorse any political candidates. However, it is part of our job to report on relevant and important news, including politics. Karin Derry contacted the Black & White to do an interview. Her opponent has been contacted.

“I’m Karin Derry and I’m running for the Iowa House of representatives, District 39. District 39 includes Johnston, Grimes, and precinct 4 in Urbandale and Jefferson Township. I am a first time candidate, I will tell you I honestly never thought that I would run for office before, but I was really unhappy with the results of the election in November 2016, and then I was watching what was happening in our state legislature in 2017 and decided I could either complain about things or I could do something about it, so I decided to run.”


“My husband Jeff and I have been married for 21 years, we’ve lived in Johnston for the last 19 years. I have had a child in the Johnston schools since 1994. We have three kids: David, Joseph and Karleen. David’s been out for a while, he’s working. Joseph graduated in 2016, he went to DMACC for two years and now he is attending [University of] Iowa. Currently Karleen Derry is a junior here at JHS. My husband, Jeff, is a letter carrier, he has been for 25 years. He’s a union member of the National Association of Letter Carriers. My background is varied, I’ve done some different things. I graduated from the University of Iowa and then after I graduated from Iowa I worked in Human Resources for over 15 years, primarily with not-for-profits. So, I was at Broadlawns, Easter Seals, and Lutheran Social Service. Then, I had my bachelor’s degree and picked up a masters degree in public administration with a specialization in health care administration in 1997, but I always dreamt about going back full time so I could become an attorney. In the fall of 2004 I enrolled at Drake Law School. At the time I was 41 years old and had three kids at home, the youngest was two. Two and a half years later I graduated and passed the bar and fulfilled my dream of becoming a lawyer. After I graduated from law school, I clerked for Davis Baker, on the Iowa Supreme Court, and then I was with the Whitfield and Eddy Firm, downtown Des Moines. Then, I prosecuted dependent adult abuse cases for the state of Iowa. After that I worked as an in house counsel for DHI group, which is a company that has its largest office here in Urbandale, I did that until earlier this year and then earlier this year I did leave that job so that I could focus on the campaign.”


“I think that the very core of it, and I can talk a little bit about how this plays out in some of the policies that I am interested in, but at the very core of it I think it’s time that our Iowa policies, and our Iowa state budget reflect our common Iowa values. One is our public schools. The last several years the state has been underfunding our public schools. For example, last year they gave a 1.1% increase in funding to our public schools. 1.1% doesn’t even keep up with inflation, so how are you going to make sure that your public employees have the benefits and the pay increases? So, that was kind of concerning to me. Another example is, I don’t know if you’re familiar with our Medicaid problem that we have here in the state. Medicaid is a program that provides medical services to persons who have disabilities, or persons who are low income and what they did a couple years ago is they privatized the Medicaid system. What that means is rather than public employees, they hired for profit corporations to administer the Medicaid program. We’ve gone from administrative costs of Medicaid being approximately four percent to being approximately 12%, and now they just got a seven and a half percent increase this year. Even more importantly, the people who need those crucial medical services have been denied services. So that’s very concerning to me, and again that just does not reflect our common Iowa values. In Iowa we all take care of each other, we all work hard, but we take care of each other. And that’s just one more area where our budget isn’t reflecting what most of us think is important.”


Let me say first and foremost, I am so excited to see young people involved. Every single vote counts. Historically younger people do not vote at very high rates, and that’s too bad because by allowing people in your parents and your grandparents generation to basically make the decisions about who’s going to be elected, and then make these important decisions that impact young people, that’s just kind of giving away your right to have an impact, so again I am just delighted to have their involvement. For example, the GOAT events, this was an incredibly well attended event that was sponsored by the Youth Polk County Democrats and my campaign, and I will tell you for the most part, it was the youth who did the planning for it. They ordered the t-shirts, got the speakers, got the food. They had some assistance from volunteers with my campaign, but they ran it. They did just an amazing job, so I was just delighted that they were interested in working with my campaign on that event and just really pleased to see them continue to be enthusiastic about my campaign. As a mom, of course it’s really meaningful to me that what I’m talking about resonates with people my children’s age. The things I’m talking about; making sure we’re adequately funding our public schools. We’ve seen cuts to community colleges, and our regent universities in the last several years. One of my primary concerns is that if we continue to cut our public universities, a public university education is going to be beyond the means of middle class families. And kids are going to graduate with these astronomical student loans preventing them from then being able to buy a house, and do the things that we’ve all kind of thought. If we work hard, and we get a good education and we do a good job we’re going to be able to maybe own a home and save for retirement and save for our kids education, maybe even take a vacation. But if kids are coming out with these crippling student debts, that’s going to prevent them from living the American dream. The dream that my family has had an opportunity to live, and I want Iowans to have the opportunity as well.”


“I think that we’ve come a long ways, but we can always do better, we can always do more. Now of course, after Nov. 6 we’ll have a better idea of what turnout was for youth voters. We are focusing a lot on encouraging people to vote by mail, that’s a great way for example, college students to make sure that their vote counts. The can request an absentee ballot and do it all by mail. Certainly we’re pursuing that and absolutely encouraging people to vote by mail, it’s just an easy way to make sure it gets done because things happen. You know, people plan to vote on election day, and stuff comes up. Your vote counts, so we want to make sure everybody does that, and I think voting by mail is a really good way to do that.”


“There are more registered republicans in the district than there are registered democrats, and the seat has been held by a republican for years. About one third of the registered voters in the district are independents, and I have been knocking on a lot of doors of independents and moderate republicans who share the same concerns as I do. Who are concerned about the funding of our public schools, who are concerned about the Medicaid mess that we have, who are concerned about implementing health plans that would exclude pre-existing conditions. What I find, and have always thought is that we have so much more in common than what divides us. If I can get a chance to talk with voters, make sure they understand what my priorities are I think we have an excellent chance of winning this race, and we have an excellent chance of winning a lot of these house races that historically have not been seen as competitive.”


What I’m finding is that whether you have kids in public schools or not, an awful lot of Iowans still care about our public schools. And even people who have kids that are graduated, they may have grandkids in the Iowa public schools and they still care. I think that most Iowans, including Iowans in that generation, are interested in the long view. They do look at the future, they look at the long view and understand that the investment we make in education has a positive impact on all of us. As an example, social security, when we have people that are doing well in the economy, they’re helping to fund social security and people in older generation benefit from that. Of course there are exceptions, I’m sure there are a few people who think ‘My kids are done, I don’t care anymore.’ I don’t hear that. I think they do look at the long view. Iowans are smart, and people in this district are smart, we have a lot of well educated people in this district. Iowans are the first people in the nation to caucus, we’re used to paying attention and I think most Iowans think that through. It’s hard to get that long term message out though, I will say, in today’s political climate. I hear republicans talking about their tax cuts, and most voters like the sound of that, and I understand why. Residents of this district pay a lot of money in taxes, between income taxes, social security and Medicare, their property taxes. They have every right to be concerned at how those tax dollars are spent. They still want to make sure our priorities are funded, that includes those things like public schools and I do think that that goes across the board. One other point is, as well a lot of people in those older generations are feeling the impact themselves, or seeing the impact with friends or family members with the privatization of Medicaid, and again people being denied those services.”


“I would say a little bit of both, as a first time candidate, it is hard to run a race, especially in a competitive district. He has much more name recognition than I do, so that’s certainly motivating. It makes me motivated to go knock on more doors, and to recruit volunteers to come and help because there are a lot of doors in this district. I personally am not going to make it to every single one of them, but I am going to try and make it to as many of them as I can, so volunteers are really important. We do things like yard signs, you may have seen some yard signs with my name on them recently. Just doing a lot of things like contacting the Black & White and saying “Can I come in and talk with you guys?” to really increase name recognition. You are at a disadvantage being a challenger, but it’s motivating and if no challengers were ever successful, we would have even less turn over in our legislature. Challengers are successful, and I think 2018 is one of those years where a lot of challengers are going to be successful.”


“The most important thing is your vote matters. So, for heaven’s sake if your going to be 18 by Nov. 6 please be sure to vote. If you don’t know if you’re registered, they can call me, they can text me, they can email me and I will get them the information where they can check to make sure they’re registered. I can get them information to get an absentee ballot request, and make sure that they vote. That is most important, vote. Along with that is pay attention, you don’t have to feel you know every single thing about every single candidate in order to make an informed decision, you still need to vote. One of the real advantages of voting by mail, I will say, is you go into the polling area, and you’re not going to sit there and do your research. If you vote by mail, you’re going to get your ballot, and when looking at the ballot if you think you recognize some names, you have the luxury of doing a little bit of research and select the choice that is right for you. In addition to that, I just encourage students across the high school to get involved. The Johnston Area Democrats had their annual picnic. I had a young woman from JHS approach me after the speakers were done, first off I was incredibly impressed she was even there, and she said to me “I want to get involved, how can I help?” and you don’t have to be 18 to help. For minors, with your parent’s permission you can get involved with knocking doors, making phone calls, those are great ways. I think people seeing young people talking about a candidate they believe in can be really influential for voters. Other things you can do is talk to your parents. Ask “Mom and dad who are you going to vote for for the Iowa house of Representatives? Why do you feel that way? Do you know that Karin Derry is a really strong supporter of our public schools? Do you know that the state legislature has so much influence on the funding of our public schools?” The state legislature does so many things that impact our everyday lives. Talk to your parents. One other thing I will mention is we have become so polarized in this country and in this state, and that’s really too bad. If you’re a democrat and your neighbor’s a republican, have a conversation. I am not going to demonize all republicans. We may not agree on every single issue, but they’re not bad people, democrats aren’t bad people. Most Iowans are pretty good people, we care about our families, we care about our communities, we care about our neighbors. Have the conversation, we have to get back to being respectful.”


“I was just kind of part of that pink wave. Like so many other women in this country, I was so unhappy with the results of the Nov. 2016 elections. The idea that almost half of the voters in this country would vote for a man who talked about women in a way that our president talked about women, was terribly upsetting to me. That certainly motivated me to become much more interested and much more active. I think it’s kind of like a cycle, so people like me decided to run for office so that meant more people like me we’re thinking “Oh, maybe I should run.” And it really reinforced people’s thoughts of “Yeah, I can do this.” I’ve heard that women need to be asked to run for office far more than men do, women tend to think they’re not as qualified, and I certainly think that’s the case. Part of that pink wave was people like me saying “Wait a minute, why wouldn’t I be qualified to do this,” and deciding you can either complain about it or do something about it. It’s really exciting to be running in 2018.”


Resources (starts at about the 16 minute mark)