Meet the Candidates: State Senate District 28

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Mike Klimesh (R)

Matt Tapscott (D)

Republican Mike Klimesh and Democrat Matt Tapscott will face off in the Nov. 3 general election for the opportunity to represent District 28 in the Iowa State Senate. Michael Breitbach, who has held the seat since 2013, is retiring. District 28 includes all of Allamakee and Clayton counties, as well as most of Winneshiek County and northern Fayette County. Klimesh and Tapscott recently shared their thoughts on key issues with Times-Register reporter Willis Patenaude.


Mike Klimesh

Mike Klimesh was born and raised in Spillville and still calls it home today. He attended South Winneshiek High School and went on to Luther College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science. There, he met his wife Kate, who is a nursing home administrator and has been working on the front lines every day to ensure the safety and wellbeing of her residents and staff. The couple has one son, Benjamin, who graduated from Luther in 2020. Klimesh has been the mayor of Spillville for 20 years and, during that time of service, has sat on county and regional boards and commissions, including the Winneshiek County Community Foundation, Winneshiek County EMA, Upper Explorerland Regional Planning, Winneshiek County Solid Waste and, Winneshiek County Conference Board and Winneshiek County Tourism. Klimesh said he’s lived life and served his community by two simple rules: Always leave it better than you found it and never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.  

Q: What is the single most important policy initiative you want to see enacted or built upon?

A: My biggest priority is rebuilding the economy in the wake of the lockdowns from the coronavirus. I think the best way to achieve that goal is to work on tax relief for working families and small businesses. I also want to find ways to create more opportunities for Iowa farmers and eliminate needless regulations for small businesses. My goal is to create an environment to encourage new career opportunities so northeast Iowans can choose to stay in our communities and enjoy this beautiful area. 

Q: How do you feel Iowa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled, and what does recovery look like for individuals and businesses?

A: It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting our health and not destroy people’s livelihoods. As the mayor of Spillville, I know we did a lot to try and keep our residents safe and help protect the most vulnerable of our residents. I am proud to see how Iowans have stepped up across the state to not only do what we can to keep each other safe and healthy, but also help keep local shops and restaurants in business. Moving forward, helping create certainty for businesses trying to open, supporting their employees and keeping their customers safe will be crucial in our recovery.

Q: How will you ensure rural school districts receive the support they need when it comes to education funding and legislation?

A: What our rural school districts need is reliable funding they can depend on each and every year. Additionally, what would be really helpful to rural schools is giving them more flexibility so schools can spend this money to fit their unique needs. The needs of each school district can be very different, and they should have the power to make those dollars work for their district and ensure they are meeting the needs of their students.

Q: What is your take on the job vacancies in area communities (particularly in manufacturing, trade jobs and health care) and the shortage of qualified individuals to fill those positions? How would you work to facilitate connections in those areas?

A: Before the pandemic hit Iowa, a skilled workforce shortage was one of the biggest challenges our state was facing. I would like to work to develop more technical and skills training in high schools so students can be aware of the potential career opportunities, prepared to fill them and meet one of the economic development needs in our communities.  

Q: What are your thoughts on the state of health care in Iowa? Which area(s)—such as Medicaid, mental health, nurse/doctor shortages—would you like to focus on and why?

A: All of those areas are important, especially in rural areas. When it comes to Medicaid, the most important thing we can do is keep improving on the system and building on the system to make it work for those who need it. The same needs exist for mental health. We need to make sure the resources and the doctors are there when people need them the most. I also want to work on slowing the rapid rise in health care costs in a way that doesn’t limit choice and access. 

Q: How will you support northeast Iowa farmers and the agricultural economy?

A: Agriculture is key to Iowa’s economy, rural communities and small towns like ours. Farmers already have a difficult job, and we’ve seen how difficult it can be, especially this year when things started shutting down. The state does not need to make a hard job any tougher, and can help support farmers and agriculture by getting rid of regulations, supporting renewable fuels and working to develop more opportunities for them to grow. 

Q: Natural resources are key to northeast Iowa’s agriculture, recreation/tourism and quality of life. How will you protect them?

A: Maintaining the balance between the environment and agriculture is an important goal for me. Tourism and recreation are important economic drivers to our community. Agriculture is important not only for farmers in our district, but also for the jobs created around agriculture. Fair, balanced and reasonable regulations at the state level can ensure all industries can flourish.


Matt Tapscott

Matt Tapscott, was born and raised in Des Moines, but relocated to beautiful northeast Iowa in 2010 after vacationing in the area for several years. He now resides in Decorah with his wife, Denise, and has three children, two daughters and a son. He is a Marine Corps veteran and is currently the sole proprietor of Almost Home early learning, a state registered child development home program. Tapscott is also the statewide president of the Iowa Family Child Care Association and serves on the National Association for Family Child Care board of Directors. In addition, Tapscott has served on the Decorah Library Board of Trustees, Decorah Human Rights Commission, and on the board of directors of the Toys-Go-Round Lending Library. 

Q: What is the single most important policy initiative you want to see enacted or built upon? 

A: Republicans in the Iowa legislature want ever “smaller government.” That approach serves well placed, well monied corporate interests. I want our government to work for Iowa’s hardworking families. The legislative Republicans have or want to privatize Medicaid healthcare services, public school education, natural resource protection, the United States Post Office, mental health services and prison management. Such privatization of vital public services means many hardworking Iowa families will have less access to services they need and deserve. Providing vital public services for all citizens is one of our government’s most important duties. 

Q: How do you feel Iowa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled, and what does recovery look like for individuals and businesses? 

A: The pandemic has been handled poorly in Iowa. COVID should have immediately been treated as the public health issue it is. Instead, inconsistent information and outright misinformation from elected Republicans have made the virus much worse. That is true in Iowa and at the federal level as well. Because of this, the recovery will take longer, and individuals and businesses will struggle longer. Busy, hardworking Iowa families should never have to question whether the information we get from our government is accurate, based on sound research and science. Recovery from COVID is going to require both the strength and the oversight of government to assist and ensure relief funds get to the individuals and small Main Street businesses they are intended for. 

Q: How will you ensure rural school districts receive the support they need when it comes to education funding and legislation? 

A: I will fight for full funding of our public schools and reverse the decades-long downward trend of underfunding our public schools, most years less than the annual cost of living. I will fight to restore collective bargaining to public school teachers and staff and protect IPERS. I will be a vocal, active advocate for our public schools. I believe passionately in what I learned in my “History of Education” class at Iowa State University: “Public schools are America’s great equalizer,” where a child can walk through the door and know they have equal educational opportunity. 

Q: What is your take on the job vacancies in area communities (particularly in manufacturing, trade jobs and health care) and the shortage of qualified individuals to fill those positions? How would you work to facilitate connections in those areas? 

A: I will expand creative partnerships with educational institutions at every level to ensure all Iowans have the experiences and opportunities they want and need to stay and grow here. I will ensure working people, not only corporate executives, are part of the decision-making process in rebuilding our post-COVID economy. COVID has clearly identified serious gaps in numerous systems (food production, childcare, elder care, unemployment) that do require government investment. The free-market alone cannot address the needs of many low-profit-margin, yet vital, industries, like childcare. Government investment is required. Hardworking Iowa families need these vital public services. 

Those in control at the Iowa capitol need to invest in rural Iowa, not just use “rural roots” as talking points during elections. Legislative investments in vital public services will stabilize and grow our rural communities by taking economic pressure off hardworking Iowa families. Government’s job in a thriving for all representative democracy is, when necessary, to level the field and provide vital public services that allow hardworking Iowa families to live life, not just work it. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the state of health care in Iowa? Which area(s)—such as Medicaid, mental health, nurse/doctor shortages—would you like to focus on and why? 

A: Health care access and cost is the number one issue people have shared with me over the past year of campaigning. The privatization of Iowa Medicaid has hit our rural communities and our health care facilities hard. Additionally, and far too often, people have to make their health care choices based on their lack of ability to cover out of pocket expense. By investing in vital public services, we create a more supportive environment for working families and provide the medical and behavioral health services they need. Vital services also create a more attractive workplace for recruiting medical personnel.     

Q: How will you support northeast Iowa farmers and the agricultural economy?

A: By investing in the vital public services rural communities need: access to affordable, local health care, fully funding our public schools, protecting our natural resources and affordable childcare and elder care options for hardworking Iowa families. We can support Iowa’s agricultural economy, and critical natural resources, by helping agriculture diversify and by providing additional incentives for those who want to. The legislature must champion 21st century infrastructure: roads, bridges, rail systems, internet and cellular service that works everywhere and alternative energy systems that create local jobs and revenue in our local communities. Small, mid-size and diverse farms must have equal opportunity to move their products to market. This is government doing its job in the 21st century, by investing in the vital public services, particularly in rural Iowa, that hardworking Iowans need and deserve. 

Q: Natural resources are key to northeast Iowa’s agriculture, recreation/tourism and quality of life. How will you protect them?

A: The beauty and uniqueness of northeast Iowa was one of the reasons we relocated our family here. We must engage every sector of the Iowa economy for environmental stewardship: education, agriculture, industry and our citizens. We must commit Iowa to 21st century energy systems and jobs, infrastructure systems like broadband internet and agricultural traditions that regenerate our soil, air and water. Environmental action is economic action. Every sector of our economy is impacted, and every sector can be part of the solution. 

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