MANNING: Longtime ag-businessman Craig Williams, the GOP nominee in Iowa Senate District 6, which stretches across Carroll and area counties, says he wants to represent local voices in the Legislature.
“I spend my days talking to people about everything, and when a client comes to me and asks for — ‘We want to know about X, Y or Z’ — I’ve got my own preconceived notions about X, Y, or Z,” he said in an interview with the Times Herald. “But I don’t put those out there. I spend my days talking with other people and accumulating their collective intelligence and — here’s what other people think, not what Craig thinks, and I would do the same thing in the legislature.”
Williams, the chairman of the Carroll County Republican Party, is an independent consultant from Manning who long has been involved in Republican politics. He faces Democrat C.J. Petersen in the general election and will enjoy a comfortable voter registration advantage in November. Registered Republican voters outnumber Registered Democrats in the district by nearly 6,000.
Asked whether he is running a different style of campaign from Republicans in seats who are more competitive on paper, he said he is very focused on his own campaign.
“I’m sure that in this area, clearly there’s some conservative issues that ring well for me,” Williams said. “The pro-life stance, I think, is very good in this area, and Second Amendment rights play well with people in this area, and it’s not something I have to pretend to be in favor of, and nor would I pretend if I wasn’t.”
Like all politicians on the ballot in 2020, Williams has seen the ongoing coronavirus pandemic change the style and strategy of his campaign.
“Definitely COVID put a damper on everything,” he said. “Before the primary, our intention was to get out and knock on a lot of doors, and we just weren’t able to do that. So we had to change everything in our marketing plans.”
Williams noted the secretary of state sent out absentee ballot request forms to all active registered voters in the state, which also changed the primary campaign to a degree.
“It made it a little more difficult to figure out who may vote, but we did kind of assume there would be a lot of absentee ballots, which there were,” he explained. “I think this was a record year for (turnout) in the primary as well.”
Paul Pate, Iowa’s secretary of state, sent the absentee ballot request forms to voters well ahead of the June 2 primaries, resulting in record-high turnout statewide for a June primary. In Iowa’s 6th Senate District, where Williams easily won the Republican nomination, more than 5,000 voters took part in the Republican primary. While there was not a contested primary in 2016, the number of participants in June exceeded the 2012 primary figure by more than 2,300.
Parades, a staple of grassroots campaigning, are a lot “fewer and further between” this year, Williams said, so it’s “very different” from what he has seen over the past few decades. While he has not yet held any public Zoom events, he told the Times Herald voters are always welcome to call him, text him or email him at any time.
The 6th District spans from Buena Vista County through Sac County, part of Crawford County, all of Carroll County and into Audubon County, encompassing a generous geographic range of agriculture-oriented communities.
“I think most people realize how agriculturally dependent the state of Iowa is,” Williams said. ”We’re No. 1 in corn and soybeans and hogs and eggs; I think we’re No. 4 in cattle production. This is a very heavily agricultural state, and this is a heavy agriculture district. It’s not all we do, but it’s a lot of what we do, and a lot of other businesses work off of the agriculture businesses that we have.”
Williams noted Iowa also is No. 1 in ethanol production, and that the industry is “hurting badly right now.”
Much of agricultural policy comes from the federal government, but Williams said he would work with agricultural associations and other legislators to see what they can do at the state level to help the industry.
“I’m not quite certain what all we can do as a state to improve that; I’ll be looking forward to talking to a lot of farmers and the farm bureau and other associations and of course other legislators on thoughts that they might have,” he said. “I can tell you that in the business that I’m in with the consulting work that I do, we work with everyone, from the smallest of agriculture companies to the largest in the world, and we do stuff locally and globally and everybody is looking at, ‘What does the world look like in 2050?’ ”
The candidate explained agricultural businesses are looking at how many people there will be, how many mouths there will be to feed and what changes need to be made today to ensure the resources will be available to do that.
“There’s really no other state better positioned to help feed the world than Iowa,” Williams said. So I think a lot of people see — we overproduce, which we do — we overproduce corn, we overproduce soybeans, and could you just take those acres out of production and do something else with them? Well, OK, then in 20 years when you have to have them, are you going to tear down buildings and streets and houses and things so you have more room to grow? The answer is obviously not.”