CORALVILLE, Iowa—Johnson County Republicans nominated John Etheredge as their candidate for county supervisor in a special convention Wednesday night. Etheredge will face Democrat Terry Dahms March 5.
Twenty delegates met at the Coralville Public Library to nominate Etheredge, 28, the only candidate who stepped forward. The Kalona-area resident ran for county supervisor in 2012 by petition and received 10,857 votes (14 percent). Republicans are hoping that a low-turnout contest could help Etheredge.
“We have a really steep hill to climb, and I would ask you all for your help in this election,” he said.
Etheredge’s campaign manager Deb Derksen told about 40 delegates and observers that they were welcome to join the “shoestring” campaign for an event this morning at the Pentacrest to reach out to students.
“I congratulate John on his nomination,” Dahms, a retired information technology professional, told TheIowaRepublican.com. “I don’t know John but look forward to meeting him. I also look forward to hearing how he sees Johnson County moving forward.”
Etheredge cast himself as a “common man” who would represent the interests of average voters. He holds an associate’s degree in science from Kirkwood Community college and works at Lowes.
“Just as rural communities come together to help each other in their time of need, we need to come together and reform the government,” he said. “I would like to be your conservative rural voice on the board of supervisors for Johnson County.”
Etheredge voiced concerns about high taxes, noting that Johnson County is the second highest taxed county in the state and one of the highest taxed counties in the United States (in the top 15 percent). He acknowledged that a growing community needs infrastructure funding but said that politicians need to spend more efficiently.
“I will be your voice on the board of supervisors to hold the line on new taxes,” he said.
Etheredge also criticized proposed regulations, such as the county maintenance code, which would set a property management standard for “eyesore” buildings that need to be fixed, fined or demolished.
“In North Liberty, you have to get a permit to put in a water heater,” he said. “I don’t remember every voting to give my property rights to elected officials. I will be your voice on the board of sups defending property rights.”
Etheredge and Dahms, an Iowa City resident, will vie for the seat of former supervisor Sally Stutsman, who resigned after she was elected as a state representative. The remaining supervisors all have Iowa City addresses. Etheredge says that the county needs a rural voice as well.
“Yes, I’m young, and I have not held office before. This is a good thing,” he said. “We don’t need another party insider. One conservative voice out of five is more balance that it has had in more than 50 years. I want to represent you on the Johnson County board of supervisors.”
Etheredge has been married to his wife, Debbie, for nearly four years.
“I found out she had a really good slide tackle,” he said, mentioning that he met his wife at a soccer contest. “She literally swept me off my feet.”
Check out Adam Sullivan’s coverage in the Iowa City Press-Citizen and John Deeth’s commentary. Deeth provided a useful history lesson describing how difficult Republicans have it in Johnson County:
The last Republican to win a courthouse office in Johnson County was Gary Hughes. He got elected in 1972 with just 48 percent, thanks to a factional split in the Democrats, and proved to be a pretty popular guy once he was in. Hughes won his last term in 1984 and retired in 1988.
As for the supervisors, the drought is even longer. The last Republican elected to the Board was Oren Alt, who won his second term in 1958 and lost in the 1962 general election.
Now, the Republican losing streak is not a Democratic undefeated streak. Don Sehr won an April 1994 special as an independent. But he’d been a multi-term Democrat on the Board from 1976 to 1988, and he was already filling the vacancy by appointment when the liberals petitioned for the election. He tried and failed to win the party nomination at convention. Nasty, nasty party split that year. Sehr ran as an “independent Democrat” long before Joe Lieberman did, and he won the special. But when he tried to re-join the party fold he lost the 1996 primary.
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