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May 30th, 2012

Primary Preview: Helland vs. Highfill in HD 39

The race in House District 39 has been heated from the start. It is one of 12 races across the state where a sitting House representative is being challenged. In this case, Majority Whip Erik Helland faces college student Jake Highfill for the opportunity to represent the Johnston/Grimes area. Helland has served the area since 2008.

This race made news early on. Highfill alleged that Helland tried to bribe him. Highfill claimed Rep. Helland offered him a job in exchange for not running against him in the GOP primary. The House Ethics Committee dismissed the complaint on a 4-2 vote.

“It was a baseless political allegation,” Helland told “I didn’t have a job to offer him. The party wasn’t hiring. I gave him some advice and he either misunderstood or flipped it around.”

Since the dismissal, Highfill has continued to go negative against Helland. “I am running because Helland voted for an unbalanced budget last year that raided $53 million out of the states rainy day fund to balance the budget, he voted for the health and human services budget that included money for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and voted against allowing law abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons,” Highfill said in an email.

Highfill is running as a true social conservative. However, statements he made in January contradict many of Highfill’s claims. “I am stauchly (sic) pro life, with no exceptions and I’m for allowing the people of Iowa to for a constitutional amendment on the definition of marriage,” he told

In an article published on January 4 by NextGenJournal, Jake Highfill is quoted saying the exact opposite. The article focused on several college-aged Ron Paul supporters from Iowa.

“Are there any positions Ron Paul has taken that concern you,” each participant was asked. Highfill responded, “I’m not sure what he believes in gay marriage, I am for it— not big on the social issues, I more support him based on his fiscal policy.”

There are other statements in the article that differ from Highfill’s claims. NextGenJournal quotes him saying he would not vote for Mitt Romney in the general election. He told that he “will be the first in line to vote for Governor Romney and do everything I can to defeat Obama”.

In the same email to, Highfill made his attacks against Erik Helland personal. “Helland is running from his own record and is attacking me because he can see that the voters of the district want a true conservative and not someone who only pays lip service to our values without having developed any for himself,” Highfill said.

Representative Helland says he is proud of his record. “I’ve got about as conservative a record as it can possibly get and I feel good about that in a Republican primary,” Helland said. “I told people I would go down there and vote to cut taxes, cut spending, protect marriage and protect life and I did exactly that. I will stand by my record and clearly you can trust what I say. I’ll let voters draw their own conclusions as to what Jake says and Jake does.”

Jake Highfill’s claim that he is a “true conservative” is once again at odds with his previous reported statements. When NextGenJournal asked Highfill why he supported Ron Paul he said, “He is almost a true libertarian. I am too.”

Highfill, who is one of 13 candidates endorsed by the Liberty Iowa PAC, did not give specific denials to any these quotes. Instead, he offered a blanket statement disputing the entire article. “That article is no more accurate than the Register’s article that had me married to my sister,” he said.

Both candidates are working hard to earn votes. Helland spent part of Memorial Day door-knocking in the district. His campaign has sent numerous mailers during the past two weeks. Highfill said he was door-knocking on Tuesday. The winner of the June 5 primary faces Democrat Kelsey Clark in the November general election. Republicans hold a registration edge of about 3,000 voters in House District 39.

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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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