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Iowa's Youngest Lawmakers Hope to Bring Fresh Perspective to the Statehouse

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers will gavel in the legislative session on Monday with several newly elected members getting sworn in. One of them will be 22-year-old Carter Nordman, who will become the youngest lawmaker in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers will gavel in the legislative session on Monday with several newly elected members getting sworn in. One of them will be 22-year-old Carter Nordman, who will become the youngest lawmaker in Iowa.

Nordman of Adel, led House District 19 with a total of 14,703 votes. Democrat Nick Miller, 22, had 9,430 votes. Republican Chris Hagenow currently holds the seat, but did not seek re-election.

Throughout the campaign season, Nordman said he frequently got asked: “aren’t you a little young to be running for office?” But he thinks his age will be an advantage, not a disadvantage.

“We see a lot of problems – not just at a state level but at the national level — that our generation is going to have to take over and deal with, so it is our idea and our position that the sooner we can get some young people in there, the better off our country is going to be,” Nordman said.

His political interest started after meeting one of Iowa’s most senior politicians, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, when he was about 10 years old. Now, Nordman will be serving as the youngest.

“I’m excited to get there with new ideas and see which different ways of thinking I can bring as a 22-year-old working with the other young legislators,” Nordman said.

The young Republican said he has always been drawn to giving back to his community though serving in a political capacity. He said his top priorities in the legislature will include lowering taxes, making Iowa more competitive and advocating for more mental health expansion.

Some of those priorities are shared by Iowa’s current youngest legislator, 23-year-old Rep. Joe Mitchell. Mitchell joked about paving the way for other members of his generation like Nordman — but the two have already forged a friendship over common interests.

“We’re taking that activism and turning it into action. I think that’s why you’re seeing the continual rise of young people running for office,” Mitchell said.

Nordman took interest in an organization that Mitchell founded, Run Gen Z, which aims to recruit and train the next generation of conservative leaders running for office. Democrats also have a similar group called Run for Something.

“I just saw that there’s a gap where conservatives have not reached yet,” Mitchell said. “There is just a ton of competent, young people that are conservative that don’t really know how to get started. And so that’s you know why we started Run Gen Z.”

Alex Leichenger, the strategic communications director for the progressive PAC NextGen America, said the trend of millenials and Gen Z running for office and getting more involved in politics is not surprising.

“Young people have always been passionate about politics and are increasingly so” Leichenger said. “In reality, young people are a little fed up with the way that things have always been.”

An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University shows that 53 percent of eligible youth voters (ages 18 to 29) cast votes in this election, versus 45 percent in 2016. Leichenger said the record turnout of young voters in 2020 was not just fueled by the issues, but also seeing faces of their own generation on the ballot.

“Seeing that it’s possible for the AOCs [Alexandria Ocasio Cortez] and the Abby Finkenauers and the younger politicians of the world to get out there and run for office was an inspiring factor for people to get out and vote as well,” Leichenger said.

While as Republicans, Mitchell and Nordman will have different priorities and viewpoints on policy, both welcomed the idea of having more young faces in the arena.

“I really believe that younger people, regardless the party, want to get things done and want to work together,” Mitchell said.

Nordman said he is excited to make sure “young voices are represented at the table” while working with older colleagues in the statehouse who can offer guidance during the start of his legislative career.

The new members of the Iowa Legislature will be sworn in on Monday before the start of the 2021 session.