Republican candidate Ben Brown feels he is deeply connected to the City of Ames and the 45th State House District in which he is running.
Should he be elected, Brown hopes to pass laws he says could change the way politics unfold in the state.
After being born in Ames and growing up on a farm just north of town, Brown attended Iowa State and received his master’s degree in biochemistry. While some might question biochemistry’s applicability to politics, Brown believes more people with a science background should become involved in politics.
“Why did I get involved with politics? It comes down to books,” Brown said. “I love reading. I read the thick, old books on politics and government. I love sitting and thinking through what needs to be done. I am not a big fan of politics but love looking at the process of government and how to make it more effective.”
While most Iowan political campaigns focus on conventional issues like health care, education or agriculture, Brown believes larger change is possible. Brown wants to change the way Iowans vote for state senators and representatives.
“The process of government upsets me,” Brown said. “Right now we have a single vote. Whoever gets the most votes is the winner. This leads to the two-party system. It is not an accurate representation of what the people want. I looked at different voting methods. Rather than getting a single vote, people would get to rank the candidates instead.”
The reasoning behind this change in procedure is to potentially increase choice and decrease partisan power in politics. Although this proposal will automatically be compared to the ranked-choice voting method Maine is trying to implement, there are distinct differences.
The Maine system incorporates multiple rounds of voting until a candidate receives a majority, where the procedure change here would give different candidates a certain number of points based on whether they were someone’s first, second, third, fourth or fifth choice, according to Maine's voting website.
If successful in the Iowa legislature, Brown wants to eventually amend the way Iowans vote for governor, federal representatives and one day, president. Even though some Iowans might support such a change, it is unlikely such a change will occur.
“It would take agreement from the two parties,” said Dirk Deam, professor of political science at Iowa State. “That would not be easy to get. The parties like the winner-takes-all method because it allows them to follow a clear-cut agenda.”
With a novel issue like this, partisanship does not play as major of a role. Brown’s opponent, Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell is taking a more cautious and conservative view of the idea. She believes Iowa should learn from other states, watching the laboratory of democracy do its work.
“Maine has instituted a ranked voting system,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “The Maine law is currently tied up on the courts. This is the type of law where it is a good idea to watch and learn. I would be interested in learning more. There are several different types of ranked voting proposals out there. As I have watched what is going on in Maine, I believe it is important to do research and move slowly on large changes regarding voting.”
Although novel issues are being discussed, the old one’s get just as heated. Brown believes cuts to Iowa State’s funding was necessary to lower Iowa’s above average corporate tax rate.
“I approve of business taxes being cut,” Brown said. “Iowa needs to remain competitive. We have awesome universities. The issue is that we invest all the money in students, they graduate, if there are no jobs then they leave the state. If we invest by decreasing business taxes, we are primed to become a biotech hub.”
As a DMACC professor, Brown has a personal connection to higher education. However, he agrees with Gov. Kim Reynolds that K-12 education should be the main focus.
“Iowa had to cut spending somewhere,” Brown said. “The majority of spending for the State of Iowa goes to education and healthcare. It’s going to have to come out of those areas.”
On the issue of abortion, Brown has some strong opinions as well. He believes the fetus has a right to life and liberty under 14th amendment protections.
“I am a scientist,” Brown said. “I know that a fetus is not just a part of the mother’s body. It has its own DNA. It’s not just another appendage. No state can get rid of life or liberty without due process of law.”
Brown supports the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ and believes it might go to the Supreme Court. However, he does not think Roe vs. Wade would need to be overturned.
“In Iowa, we already have restrictions on abortion,” Brown said. “It was at 20 weeks and was not overturned by the courts. We’ll see what happens. You don’t need to overturn Roe vs. Wade to have the bill stand.”
However, Roe vs. Wade ruled any state was in violation of a woman’s right to privacy if they interfered with an abortion within the first trimester. The detection of the fetal heartbeat falls within this time frame. In addition to this, Justice Blackmun, in the Opinion of the Court, did not support the idea that a first-trimester fetus had protection under the 14th Amendment.
“With respect to the state’s important and legitimate interest in the health of the mother, the compelling point in light of present medical knowledge is at approximately the end of the first trimester,” Blackmun said in his court opinion.
On the issue of healthcare, Brown believes hospitals should be more transparent with prices and insurance companies should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of illicit drug use. With all these ideas, there is plenty to discuss.
“What I really love is just the chance to talk to people and get their opinion,” Brown said. “We have one of the highest education per capita in the United States. There are a lot of smart people here.”