Why did you get involved in politics?
My parents were farm activists from the 1960s forward. They were members of the NFO (National Farmers Organization) and Farmers Union. They started taking me along to farm organization meetings when I was in 6th grade. My mother is also one of the original McGovern Democrats. They agreed with George McGovern on food and hunger issues, on family farm agriculture and on peace.
My parents received a “drop dead” letter from their bank on December 15, 1984. It gave them sixty (60) days to pay back all of their farm loans, including the mortgage. They were paying 23% interest at the time. Plus the bank froze their checking account and would not release any money to buy feed for the livestock, fuel for the tractors, or even to pay the electricity bill. I worked with my parents to save their farm, and began volunteering at one of the first Farm Aid clinics, located in Hills, Iowa. That lead me to a career as an ag law and bankruptcy attorney for the last 27 years. I have always been an advocate for small farmers and business owners.
My parents saved their farm and retired last year. They still live on the family farm.
In my precinct in Clarence, I have been the caucus chair since 1992. In 2000, Governor Tom Vilsack called me to ask me to run against an 18 year Republican State Senate incumbent, Jack Rife. After thinking about it, I agreed. My family and I knocked on over 14,000 doors and I beat Jack Rife. I was the only Democrat to beat a Republican incumbent in Iowa State Senate races in 2000.