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‘Sick’ of tribal politics, O’Leary running as independent for Congress


Ryan O’Leary, a Carroll High School graduate and Auburn businessman, is running for Congress as an independent.

AUBURN: Auburn businessman and Carroll High School alum Ryan O’Leary has filed federal election and related paperwork to run for Congress as an independent, he confirmed to the Times Herald Sunday morning.

O’Leary, who supported President Donald Trump, a Republican, and Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten in 2020, said both major parties have failed the nation and rural Iowa specifically.

“The polarization of the parties is ridiculous to be honest,” O’Leary said. “I’m sick of it.”

In an interview, O’Leary offered a range of views, some that fit into Republican and Democratic boxes of the political day — and others that were more of a maverick variety.

O’Leary is running in the new 36-county 4th Congressional District. which includes Carroll County and his home of Sac County, and runs border to border from Minnesota to Missouri, and stretches east to west from the Missouri River to Marshalltown.

“I think it’s the time because, honestly, I don’t think either party has really done much for this country in the last decade or so,” O’Leary said.

U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, the Hull Republican who represents much of the territory in the current 4th District, is running for reelection to Congress in 2022 in the new district. No Democrats have formally announced in what is a highly secure Republican district.

Independents historically have gained little traction in congressional and statewide elections in Iowa.

But O’Leary, 34, thinks he will get a hearing from voters who are as exhausted as he is by the zero-sum politics offered by the two-party system.

O’Leary said he is particularly concerned with income inequality in the nation.

“The only ones whose income really increased, like hand over fist, during COVID was basically the top 10 percent,” O’Leary said.

The American middle class is decreasing, O’Leary said.

“This rings even more true in the rural areas,” he said.

O’Leary supports an increase in the minimum wage with the rate based on geography, where the wage floor is different in Des Moines, Carroll and New York City.

“Obviously people in Des Moines should probably have a higher minimum wage than somebody in Carroll,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary said a fair minimum wage would be $15 to $17 an hour in Carroll. He thinks large employers with more than 100 employees should have a higher minimum wage than small “mom-and-pop” businesses.

O’Leary said millionaires and billionaires should be taxed more.

“I think our whole tax system needs an overhaul,” he said, adding that “hoarding” of wealth in the nation is a problem.

O’Leary said he would not have supported the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress and expected to be signed (as of press time) by President Biden. O’Leary said the price tag is just too high.

O’Leary said he believes Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “So look, I didn’t vote for Biden this last election. I voted for Trump. The stuff that happened on Jan. 6, regardless if it was ANTIFA or the right wing, that was completely out of line and illegal. I hope those people get jail sentences.”

“Yeah, Biden is the president,” O’Leary added.

Asked directly if ethanol is good for rural Iowa, O’Leary said, “No.”

He wants to see the Renewable Fuel Standard and other ethanol-lifting federal programs dialed back.

“Ethanol was promised to be this thing that would be financially solvent, and you know, it would change all this and that,” O’Leary said. “But in reality the only way ethanol survives right now is with subsidies.”

O’Leary said he supports free community college for certain students going into “blue-collar” professions that are in high demand.

“I don’t think we should be paying free college for someone to be a librarian unless we need librarians,” O’Leary said.

He opposes the legalization of marijuana, but wants to eliminate the DEA and ATF.

O’Leary said he is “sitting in the middle” on the issue of abortion. He opposes late-term abortions but does not think the government should ban abortions for women who are victims of rape and incest.

A National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, O’Leary is a 2005 Carroll High School graduate, and a son of Mark and Linda O’Leary of Carroll. He attended Des Moines Area Community College and the University of New Orleans and served in the National Guard for a decade.

O’Leary has developed two small businesses, KO Pressure Washing, which he sold recently, and Sicarii Industries, a weapons company O’Leary said is working on a new hand grenade.

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