Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, the Culver Public Policy Center and Latinos Unidos invited five Latinx people from Iowa politics to speak at a panel discussion on October 12. They talked about the challenges they faced and the importance of Latino representation in the state of Iowa. .
The event was moderated by Trenity Rosenberg, a junior serving as an undergraduate assistant for the Culver Center. The panel included Iowa House candidate Adam Zabner, West Des Moines school board member Anadelia Morgan, Latino Politic Network co-founder Rob Barron, activist and former candidate Marlu Abarca, and board member Ed Moreno. West Liberty school board.
In Iowa, 6.6% of citizens identify as Hispanic or Latinx, making it one of the fastest growing voting blocs in the state, but is disproportionately represented in the voter in Iowa, less than 1% of those elected being Latinx. Panelists discussed their experiences in Iowa’s predominantly white political landscape.
Adam Zabner is the Democratic candidate for House District 90. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Iowa City and went to the University of Chicago, being involved in the Institute of Politics. Since graduating, he has worked for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign and Jon Ossoff’s Senate run-off campaign.
After the 2016 presidential elections passed, Zabner said he felt demoralized and jaded. Because of this experience, he intended to obtain his doctorate. in neuroscience. Yet after political action brought him back to the political stage in 2020, Zabner is now in the running to be among the first Latinos elected to the Iowa legislature.
Working on numerous campaigns, Zabner limited himself to one definition of what it means to engage voters here in Iowa: It’s about showing up.
“I think what people want is like a quick fix [to engage Latinx voters], but there is no miracle solution. Showing up is 90% of that,” Zabner said. “It shocks me when people ask how to reach Latino voters. Just introduce yourself.
Elected to the West Des Moines School Board last November, Anadelia Morgan has a background in federal grant management and community organizations. ShWe also co-founded the Student of Color Family Support Group.
“The big picture of wanting to bring communities together, especially for underrepresented and marginalized communities, is my driving force,” Morgan said. “So I said to my husband: you make money and I will make the change.”
Morgan saw disparities and inequities in the West Des Moines School District and used her voice to bring about change.
“I wanted to make sure our district was moving in a direction where all students were treated fairly,” she said. “I needed to talk.”
For two terms on the Des Moines School Board as an at-large member, Rob Barron served on Senator Tom Harkin’s staff as education policy advisor and is now the Executive Director of Campus Compact of Iowa and Minnesota.
Barron also helped co-found the Latino Political Network, a nonpartisan organization that works to empower, educate and empower future Latinx elected officials. He has seen success across the state and continues his efforts to ensure that the state’s electoral seats accurately represent the people.
“We talk a lot about why we race and why our community needs to be represented, and what happens when we are represented,” Barron said. “It can’t be just one [person], it must be multiple because there are so many different perspectives. It’s just a narrow slice running for office.
In 2019, Marlu Abarca ran for a seat on the Des Moines City Council. They have been involved in the Iowa Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus and numerous presidential campaigns. They also served on the board of Al Exito, a statewide organization that prepares Latinx students for college.
Finding her political spark in an AP economics class with city council candidates coming to speak, Marlu found her political passion – being able to engage with the community around her and giving voice to others – being active .
“I loved going out and talking to people about things that matter to me, even though I was only 17 and couldn’t vote,” Abarca said. “The process [of activism] helped me feel independent.
Ed Moreno was elected to West Liberty on the school district’s school board last November and grew up in Davenport. He is currently president of his local League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the West Liberty Chamber of Commerce.
Moreno worked to give Latinos a voice through the school board, making room for accurate representation in the city with a population of nearly 50% Latinx.
“If you’re sitting at the table, you can interact with people who may never have interacted with someone who looked like you, or acted like you, or taught like you,” Moreno said. “You are representative of who you represent.”