CAMPAIGNING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: Mike Klimesh (R), Senate District 28

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In the midst of an election year, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how political candidates typically connect with voters. Over the past few weeks, the Times-Register has been sharing how some local candidates have adapted—how they’re “meeting” constituents and continuing to share their ideas.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

The third time’s a charm, or so the saying goes, and no one hopes those words are truer than Mike Klimesh. After suffering defeats in both 2010 and 2012, he’s currently running for the Iowa Senate in District 28, and expecting a different, more favorable result. 

When outgoing Republican Senator Michael Breitbach announced his retirement in February, the Republican Party needed someone up to the task of holding onto the seat in the upcoming election, and they appear to have found it in the South Winneshiek High School graduate and current mayor of Spillville, whose campaign is founded on the theme of “Leave it better than you found it.” 

Klimesh believes he has always done this as an elected official, ever since his high school debate coach sparked an interest in politics, leading to a stint as a city council member before becoming mayor of Spillville, a position he has held for 22 years and one he will give up should he win the election in November. 

The victory would give Klimesh the opportunity to expand the campaign’s “big-tent atmosphere” and implement a small government approach on a larger scale, while still serving the communities that have shaped his life. 

It’s community that is at the heart of Klimesh’s politics. “Community has always been important to me, and I have spent many years working to try and make our community better,” he said. 

Along with community, there is also a deep-rooted attachment to the heartland—and to Iowa itself—that spurred this latest run for higher office. Klimesh wants to help people beyond the immediate community and into neighboring areas to broaden the “big-tent.” 

There is an ingrained sense of duty within the campaign to help people, which is evident in the campaign’s goals. 

As Klimesh said, “My goal is to implement policies to help hard-working families and Iowans succeed and give them the ability to pursue more opportunities in our state.” 

It’s a state that is currently under siege according to recent reports concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, which shows Iowa having the worst coronavirus rate in the nation. This issue is not a foreign one and is a focal point of the campaign, as Klimesh stated the importance of “navigating how our state recovers from the consequences COVID-19 has inflicted upon our state and ensuring Iowa families once again are thriving.” 

Klimesh isn’t just talk, but also a man and mayor of action. In Spillville, the response to COVID-19 was met with efforts to assist and provide for the community. They implemented a program that allowed high-risk groups to shelter in place and still have their needs met. Those groups were provided with food delivery to the door in sanitary containers twice a week. People also provided mail delivery as well as prescription pickups. 

When the coronavirus arrived, Klimesh didn’t fail to respond. “I think those efforts were a success, and I will take that same problem solving approach to Des Moines,” he said. 

Having only filed in February following Brietbach’s retirement, Klimesh has been campaigning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This new reality has been front and center from the beginning. 

Still, though, Klimesh believes campaigning involves a lot of voter contact, but he is always astutely aware of “how each individual wants to interact” with him, never intruding or overwhelming their personal space. In the COVID-19 era, the campaign is still knocking on doors and talking directly to people, but always practicing social distancing. 

“Even though we are living in a tough time right now, people still want to talk about the issues that are important to them. It’s encouraging to see friends and neighbors looking out for each other and working together,” he said. 

As for expectations come November, Klimesh is optimistic given the feedback and reaction to the campaign. 

“It has been a very good reception, and people are responding positively to our message,” he said. 

It’s a message the campaign believes is relatable and relevant to the residents of the district, as well as Iowans in general. 

“My goal is to leave Iowa better than I found it. To me, that statement means improving mental health care, strengthening Iowa schools and rebuilding the economy from the impact of the coronavirus,” Klimesh said. 

Foremost, though, it’s  a message that strikes at the very heart of what it means to be Iowan: togetherness. It’s a message Klimesh hopes clears the path toward victory and brings true the “third-times-a-charm” notion.

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