John Raley of Iowa City will run for Iowa Senate District 45 after Joe Bolkcom's retirement

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John Raley of Iowa City will run as a Democrat for an open Iowa Senate seat, becoming the second candidate to enter the race.

Raley, a Democrat, is a first-time candidate and hopes to succeed state Sen. Joe Bolkcom as Iowa City representative in the state's upper chamber. Iowa City Councilor Janice Weiner is the only other candidate who has announced for Senate District 45.

"I feel that this is a pinnacle time in our democracy to get things on the right path," Raley said.

Raley, 62, works as an Iowa City-based agent at American Family Insurance and has been in business for more than 40 years. He grew up in Glenview, Illinois, and moved to Iowa to attend and graduate from Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

John Raley, Iowa Senate District 45 candidate, poses Thursday in Iowa City. The longtime insurance agent is looking to bring that experience to the Statehouse.
John Raley, Iowa Senate District 45 candidate, poses Thursday in Iowa City. The longtime insurance agent is looking to bring that experience to the Statehouse.

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"I got into the insurance career from scratch. There was an opening in Iowa City, so I came to Iowa City and started my own scratch agency right out of college," he said.

Raley is also a member of the Iowa City Business Partnership, the Iowa City Area Development Group and is the past president of National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

Raley said he still remembers the slogan on the welcome sign when he first came to Iowa: "A state of minds." He said he wants to help get Iowa back to being the top state for education like it once was.

"We need to invest in our education and we need to keep people here when we graduate," he said.

Raley said he also wants the state to have a better playbook for helping small businesses like his, especially as the state braced for the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters like the derecho of August 2020.

"We need (small businesses) to know that we are behind them every step of the way," he said.

Raley said he thinks education and small business support go hand-in-hand and that he would like Iowa to create a better financial literacy program for high school students. He said he also thinks the state should implement emergency programs to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.

"If these kids are taught at a young age about credit rating, interest rates, how to save, that spills over into their homes and they will tell their parents about all the things they're learning," he said.

Raley said he thinks being a businessman with leadership skills will lend him credibility among constituents, rather than being a career politician.

"I think if you can be authentic and sincere, then that gives people an outlet to voice their opinions, their concerns, their dreams, their fears to where we can work together to collaborate," he said.

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If he is elected, Raley would enter a Legislature that is becoming increasingly polarized by issues like education, something Bolkcom cited as a reason why he chose to retire.

Raley said he is optimistic that he can find common ground with Republicans and even find compromise to make progress.

"We need to have those conversations, because I think oftentimes we're not doing the collective voice of Iowa. We're letting certain people that have certain power make decisions," he said. "We need to go across party lines to work together for what we want as a collective group."

Proposed Senate map, second plan
Proposed Senate map, second plan

Raley would be joined by at least three other freshman representatives from Johnson County due to redistricting, the retirements of Bolkcom and state Rep. Mary Mascher, and state Rep. Christina Bohannan's choice to run for Congress.

Raley said as a senator he wants to mirror Bolkcom's accessibility and carry on the senator's tradition as a good listener. He said he thinks getting more new people involved in the Legislature will encourage more Iowans to be active in democracy.

"I think people are ready for somebody like myself to bring those leadership skills into play," Raley said.

The filing deadline for this race is March 18 and the primary election is set for June 7. The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is May 23, according to the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

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George Shillcock is the Press-Citizen's local government and development reporter covering Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be reached at GShillcock@press-citizen.com and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge

This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa City insurance agent John Raley runs for Senate District 45

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