Orange City Democrat to challenge in HD 4

John Buntsma of Orange City is the Democratic nominee for the Iowa House District 4 special election to be held Tuesday, Jan. 6.

John Buntsma of Orange City is the Democratic nominee for the Iowa House District 4 special election to be held Tuesday, Jan. 6.

By Jacob Hall



Orange City resident John Buntsma was nominated Thursday night by the Sioux County Democratic Parry as its nominee for Iowa House of Representatives District 4. Buntsma works at Staples in Orange City and had pondered jumping into the race for Iowa House a while ago.

“This was not something I had planned to do,” he said. “I was approached about a year ago by the Assistant House Minority Leader (Todd Prichard) from Charles City (last spring). At the time I was just finishing up my term as president of (East) Sioux Classis for the RCA (Reformed Church of America) and didn’t feel like I had the time. I am also the treasurer of the Library Board and have a long list of volunteer activities. When this special election came up, I was contacted again and also contacted by (other Sioux County Democrats) and received encouragement from a number of people to seek this office.”

Though he did not run against incumbent Rep. Dwayne Alons in November, as Alons ran unopposed, Buntsma now says it is important the voters have a choice in the Tuesday, Jan. 6, special election to fill the seat after Alons’ passing due to cancer earlier this month.

“It’s just important people have a choice and there’s not just one name on the ballot,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons. We’re a constitutional democracy and people need to have a choice.”

Buntsma said he is concerned about education, health care and infrastructure issues.

“(Iowa) has slipped in (education),” he said. “We have issues with infrastructure. I talked with our county engineer and he said some counties may need to turn paved roads into gravel roads because there aren’t funds to maintain the paved roads. Thousands of bridges in Iowa need repaired.”

He also mentioned the issue of immigration. Buntsma, who was born in the Netherlands and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, said we need to deal with that issue in a “fair and equitable sort of way.” He told the nine Democrats in attendance he would support driver licenses for illegal immigrants in Iowa.

Buntsma would like to see smoking banned in casinos in Iowa along with more funding for tobacco control. He added that the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ObamaCare) should be fully implemented.

Another issue he mentioned during the question-and-answer phase of the convention was raising the minimum wage to $10.10, potentially over the course of a few years.

While the path to the Iowa House seat seems long, it’s just a short time before voters head to the polls. No absentee voting will take place.

“I’ll look to (Sioux County Democrats) for help,” he said. “It’s such a short time that I cannot be all over the place. I have a daughter coming in on Christmas Eve who I need to spend time with. I’m trying to finalize a budget for the Orange City Library for presentation to the city council. I maybe will look to our media too to help me out in that regard. As far as going door to door, there is no time for anything like that for anyone.”

In addition to his professional background, Buntsma has been an advocate for other issues, including the American Cancer Society.

“When I first started at the Le Mars Daily Sentinel (as editor), they asked if I wanted to be the vice president of their unit and said, ‘You never have to do any work,’” he said. “I became VP of the American Cancer Society unit in Plymouth County. The president, who was a pastor, moved out of town, so I ended up as president. The thing that drives me in that regard is I hate the thought of a mom having to say goodbye to a child for the last time. I still remember going to a 14-year old’s visitation. She had been to one (Relay for Life) in her life and about two-thirds of the things on her table were related to that one relay she had been to.”

Buntsma will face Republican John Kooiker of Boyden in the special election. Immediately following his nomination, Buntsma sat down with The Iowa Statesman for an exclusive one-on-one interview. You can read the full text of that Q&A by clicking here.