Jeff VanDerWerff, professor of political science at Northwestern, is back in the running for state representative of House District 4.
In the June 7 primary, VanDerWerff ran against Kevin Van Otterloo of Rock Valley and Skyler Wheeler of Orange City. Wheeler came out as the Republican nominee, winning 44 percent of the vote. VanDerWerff had 25 percent. With no Democrats running for the seat, the Republican nominee’s name would typically appear alone on the Nov. 8 general election.
“Around here it’s usually all said and done in June,” said VanDerWerff.
With only one name on the ballot, there is only one nominee to vote for, so many House District 4 citizens encouraged VanDerWerff to give voters a choice. In early August, the opportunity opened up to get on the ballot by petition.
“Repeatedly people were saying, ‘Yeah, we really should have a choice,’” said VanDerWerff.
A petition was started, and after receiving more than 110 signatures from residents across Sioux County, VanDerWerff was officially back in the running, this time as an unaffiliated candidate.
The candidacy title, however, means nothing in regards to VanDerWerff’s Republican stance.
“I’m no less a member of the GOP today than when the primary concluded,” said VanDerWerff. “I will not only campaign as a conservative, but I will remain committed to the Republican Party.”
Leading up to the election, VanDerWerff will continue to campaign door to door, post on social media and attend various meetings and gatherings.
“I’m going to speak at a Kiwanis Club gathering and will attend some economic development meetings,” said VanDerWerff. “I’ll likely hit a few coffee clutches and just meet people and citizens where they are at and give them a chance to ask me questions and get to know me.”
VanDerWerff’s campaign efforts, however, will not be done alone.
“There are also going to be a few volunteers, friends, and students helping out and they’ll probably do a little door-to-door campaigning as well as phone calling on behalf of Team VanDerWerff,” VanDerWerff said.
This team effort is especially helpful in balancing the campaign process with his responsibilities at NW.
“I won’t have that luxury this fall,” VanDerWerff said, “so it will truly take a ‘team’ effort to get the message out while I continue my full-time responsibilities as a faculty member.”
VanDerWerff noted that getting help from others, not only in Orange City, but in other communities like Sioux Center, Rock Valley, Hull, and Hawarden will be critically important in this election cycle.
If VanDerWerff is elected in November, life as a professor at NW will look a little different for him than it has in the past. The legislative session runs from the middle of January to the end of April, meaning adjustments would need to be made to his second semester teaching load. The sessions run from noon on Monday to noon on Thursday, meaning VanDerWerff’s availability would be on Fridays and the weekend.
“The college has been quite supportive and accommodating,” VanDerWerff said. “There is the possibility for me to teach an overload of four classes in the fall, and maybe push another course from spring into the summer. The college has said that we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
For now VanDerWerff will focus on spreading the word that voters have a choice.
“At the end of the day, I keep wanting to remind voters that they’ll have the choice between two Republican conservatives this November,” VanDerWerff said. “The biggest difference between [Wheeler and I] is our approach to governing as well as how well we each know the county and, in turn, are known.”
VanDerWerff, who has called Sioux County home for nearly 30 years, believes he has a track record of accomplishments and a background that will serve the citizens of House District 4 well in Des Moines.
“Experience like mine is far more likely to translate into effectiveness as a state legislator. Wheeler is passionate, there’s no question about that, but he’s unproven. He’s lived in the county