Grace Van Cleave on the Issues

Why Grace?

It’s important for a candidate for the State Senate to tell you exactly where they stand on the most important issues our state faces. The 2023 legislative session will offer difficult choices. Grace is no stranger to the big political fights. Her experience is:

  • Fighting for the right to vote and access to the franchise at America Votes.
  • Fighting for pro-choice women candidates at EMILYs List.
  • Fighting to elect candidates who share our values at the Democratic National Committee.
  • Fighting for the best of Iowa’s Governors, Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver.
  • Fighting to win seats, defeat Republicans, win and govern across five states.
  • And now, after a decade away, she’s back to take on one of the most important fights we face: the coming state-by-state battle over our basic human right to be free from government interference when accessing abortion.

Reproductive Justice

When it comes to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, Iowans are facing the most important election in 50 years. Grace will fight to be heard above all the noise, on behalf of Iowa women, to:

  • Protect Reproductive Freedoms in Iowa
  • Expand access to Reproductive Care Centers in Iowa
  • Increase funding for Women’s Healthcare
  • Prioritize Preventative Care
  • Address Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates especially in Communities of Color

A Woman’s Voice on Choice: There are 50 seats in the Iowa Senate – 12 seats are held by women, and only 7 seats are pro-choice women. Our basic human right to exercise our own reproductive health care decisions is under the gravest threat in 50 years. We have both an Iowa Supreme Court case pending and a Constitutional Amendment initiative to ban abortion being placed on the statewide ballot in 2024. At the end of that process, there will be no meaningful right to choose in Iowa.

Women Represented at the Capitol: Grace is different from 99 percent of the people who have ever served in the Iowa legislature because she is a pro-choice Democratic woman. In the Iowa Senate, with retirements taking place, there could be as few as 5 pro-choice Democratic women next session. Women are consistently more than half the voters in this state and have been severely underrepresented for every day of this state’s history.

There is much work to do to bring Iowa back to the middle among states when it comes to basic access to reproductive health services. Grace will be a voice for choice, helping to lead the fight to stop this assault on our rights and restore reproductive justice.

Economic Justice

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ economic agenda is a total failure: Stagnant wages and no population growth; an unprecedented workforce crisis and cuts to education; and attacks on worker’s rights and unemployment compensation, all while inflation takes more of what we earn.

Grace will fight for education, better wages and jobs:

  • No more tax breaks for big businesses that don’t pay their fair share.
  • No more state budgets that cater to the ultra-wealthy and leave working people out.
  • It’s time for an economic agenda focused on US:
  • Freeze property taxes for seniors on a fixed income
  • Raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour & tie to inflation.
  • Expand child care and paid leave opportunities for working families.
  • Increase worker protections for health care professionals, teachers, and union members.
  • Expanded enforcement of worker misclassification
  • Oppose all benefit reductions in state-funded pension programs including IPERS, 411, teachers and school staff.
  • Protections for essential health care and other frontline workers against anti-science harassment on the job.
  • Initiate paid family and medical leave to ease burdens on families facing health challenges.

Public School Students and Teachers

Iowa students and parents deserve the best public schools in the nation. Under Kim Reynolds’ administration, Des Moines teachers are quitting in record numbers and the quality of our public schools are suffering. We need a fighter for our students’ future.

In the Iowa Senate, Grace will fight to:

  • Fully Fund Public Education, No Public Dollars for Private Schools
  • Raise Pay for Teachers and School Workers
  • Stop Republican attacks on Teachers and Curriculum

A new investment in public education: Increase state education funding by more than the proposed 2.5 percent for 2022, with a target of 6.5 percent and a minimum of 4 percent. Guarantee that after the federal pandemic assistance dollars run out, schools will be held harmless against cuts. Stop diverting dollars intended for public schools to private options.

Collective bargaining: Give teachers and other school employees a voice at the negotiating table on all issues including discipline and discharge, and including the way in which school districts spend ongoing federal pandemic aid.

Teacher Recruitment: Focus on students for national programs that offer teachers to underserved areas, together with loan forgiveness for all teachers who agree to teach in the most rural districts for 5 years or more, and mortgage assistance for those who spend 10 years or more in the public school teaching role in one of Iowa’s most rural districts.

Teacher Pay: We should boldly re-enter the Top 10 among states by paying teachers an annual average wage of at least $68,500. For master teachers and those with more than 15 years of Iowa experience, a multiplier increasing pay by an additional 2 percent in every additional year of service should be applied.

When Iowa had the chance to place a design celebrating the state on the back of a quarter, we chose a schoolhouse and the words “foundation in education.” Nothing has changed, that history is true no matter who tries to erase it.

Affordable Childcare

Governor Reynolds’ focus has been on brick & mortar construction of facilities and loans to businesses starting up childcare provider businesses. That’s a small part of the challenge, and it’s especially acute in rural areas. But in 2022 Republicans loosened regulations and increase the danger factor for children in the child care setting. That’s the wrong direction.

Childcare We Can Afford: We need to start by expanding eligibility for Child Care Assistance. The current threshold for eligibility is 145% of the federal poverty level, or about $32,000 for a family of three – expand it to 250% of the federal poverty level and leading the way among states when it comes to providing access to quality child care for our kids. Nothing could be more important to building strong families.

End the Cliff: Where family incomes have increased, we should gradually ease families off of child care assistance, rather than cutting benefits off at once, eliminating the cliff that happens when a parent goes back into the workforce and meeting a pandemic-era challenge that has kept many women from going back to work.

Workforce Crisis: There is a workforce crisis that is perpetuated by a low-wage environment – we should have a complete overhaul of the wage structure for direct service providers in this state that includes child care and results in an immediate 30 percent wage increase for any entity receiving state or federal funds to support the services they provide.

Neighborhood Businesses

The pandemic years have been tough on our neighborhood businesses. As a small business owner, Grace will work hard so our local businesses thrive:

  • Support pandemic-strapped local businesses
  • Increase business opportunities for new entrepreneurs
  • Invest in new green economy businesses
  • Expand child care opportunities for small business owners


Building a New Democratic Majority

Grace is a 39-year-old first time candidate who connects with the energy and commitment women activists are bringing to organizing right now. As a business owner she can relate directly to those trying to hang on through the pandemic and re-emerge into a stronger economy. As a campaign finance professional she can fuel the grassroots in a way rarely seen here before outside the general election coordinated campaign. She has a vision that will help Democrats win in Iowa again.

Stepping Up: Grace created her campaign organization in November 2021, the first candidate in the race, less than two weeks after the new map passed. because she believed this would be the moment everything changed. She said in January reproductive justice would animate the grassroots in 2022 like nothing we’ve seen in 50 years, and Democrats should organize around it to win again across the state in Iowa.

How to Use a Safe Seat: There are seats in the legislature that are not competitive between the two parties. Grace believes if there is to be a Democratic comeback, it will be in districts like this one. Safe seats need to operate like little factories of grassroots work, pumping out votes, volunteers and support for issues that will expand the agenda at the statehouse.

Des Moines is the Key for Iowa Democrats: Where Democrats have had success nationally, it’s been because they maximized turnout in the cities. Des Moines isn’t yet big enough to out-vote the rural areas of the state, but it will be a lot closer with the right investment and commitment to organizing. Grace brings expertise in putting together resources, using messages to increase turnout, and focusing on successful statewide elections for Democrats in Iowa.

Law Enforcement and Corrections

Emergency Response: Grace supports the efforts of the city of Des Moines to implement Mobile Crisis Mental Health Response Teams (MCRT) as first responders where the call indicates the need for a mental health focus. This is the right direction for policing. It should be supported with state dollars and pilots created in regions throughout the state in 2023, including in rural areas. Democrats walk the talk on mental health in response to crisis situations.

Corrections: Iowa’s prisons are expected to be at 143 percent capacity by 2027. Of current inmates, 24 percent are there for a drug offense. The vast majority are nonviolent distribution convictions. Iowa should build on Gov. Branstad’s 2016 release of 800 nonviolent drug offenders by releasing all of them. That will put the state on the path to finding the budget sources for health care and education by reducing our need for the current corrections apparatus.

Legalize Marijuana: Grace supports full legalization, taxation and regulation of cannabis in any form for personal use by any Iowan over the age of 18. Legalization is one of the great lost political opportunities for Democrats in the past decade. Colorado tax revenues from highly regulated dispensaries over the 2020-21 period were $810 million dollars – this would represent an immediate 10% increase in Iowa’s state budget and fund the entire road and bridge repair budget.


Health Care

It’s about more than “access,” it’s about health care we can afford. Grace will fight for fair and equitable health care solutions that improve the health outcomes of all Iowans while reducing the pressure medical and prescription drug bills put on Iowa families.

Insurance Coverage: There are about 144,000 uninsured Iowans, about 4.7 percent. Grace would support a state insurance offering to cover anyone who needed it, with all of the listed categories and the addition of any long-term supports and services that would be necessary such as nursing home, skilled nursing or home and community-based services.

Social Determinants of Health: In Senate District 17, people’s health care needs are often connected to housing, transportation, food, employment, language barriers and other social determinants of health. Meeting these needs in the short term will dramatically reduce long-term health care costs. Pilot programs featuring prescriptions for healthy food as medicine, rental assistance, vouchers for gasoline or public transportation, and job coaching are taking place all over the country as Medicaid evolves to meet the real needs of Americans.

Iowa professionals including social workers, community health workers, direct care workers, EMTs and law enforcement all know the referral system is poor and the services are too few. At present, many Iowans eligible for Medicaid find their best chance at hot meals and a place to sleep is in jail. Iowa should do what we used to do when it came to caring for our people and lead on Medicaid Z-Codes — implementing, funding, studying and improving the safety net for all Medicaid members.



 Climate change is real and is human action is a very significant cause. Practical, community-based solutions should be the focus. State government spends a lot of money every year on buildings, vehicles and paper. It also has the opportunity to boost the green energy economy with the right investments.

At the statehouse, Grace would fight for a new Iowa environmental agenda:

  • Renew the Iowa Power Fund
  • Restore wind energy education programs
  • Expand the wind energy tax credit
  • Partner with utilities to build a more distributed power grid
  • Build small wind infrastructure
  • Incentivize large solar projects in communities and small solar for homeowners with generous refundable tax credits like those used in affordable housing
  • Develop next generation biofuels and the crops that support them
  • Strategically deploy electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state
  • Actively recruit the companies already involved in the manufacturing and distribution chain of electric vehicle parts and service products.

Sustainability: We need a statewide long-term plan for the development of sustainable farms. Grace is interested in what the SILT (Sustainable Iowa Land Trust) has accomplished. Their model is designed to remove the corrosive concepts of land speculation and mortgage interest out of the food production equation for farmers. There is no reason we couldn’t adapt the strategies we have used in affordable housing to sustainable farming.  The specific tactics such as prairie strips, cover crops and crop rotation are for the scientists to direct, but state policy should follow those best practices in a concerted and long-term way.

Ownership is the key. We can do more to reward land donation, bequest, sub-market sale and even covenants in property title to support food farming. Other programs that should be expanded are those that support local food being grown and the establishment of neighborhood famer’s markets.

Fresh Food: It’s not reasonable to assume low-income Iowans can afford to take an entire Saturday morning, drive downtown, pay to park and then wonder whether EBT will be accepted. Double Up Food Bucks program which is part of the Healthiest State Initiative and as applied to local farmer’s markets, creates an incentive for EBT transactions on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Water Quality: Figuring out how to finally pay for I-WILL initative, fund the trust, keep the commitment Iowans made on the ballot in 2010 and then move forward into preservation and renovation of our water infrastructure. We need to develop the courage to tackle nonpoint-source pollution in the form of ag runoff, incorporating the cost of cleanup into production costs or at the very least spread the costs throughout the state instead of asking just a few municipal and regional water agencies to bear the entire burden due to their locations in the watershed.

Infrastructure: In addition, there are still many municipal water treatment, sewer and water line infrastructure needs in Iowa. The federal infrastructure bill will address some of this, but the state will need to play a role and we likely will fall short of getting completely caught up and will need to fund the next round of projects as a legislature.

Air pollution: When it comes to air pollution, Iowa ranks 19th among states for its industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and 17th in toxic air emissions (which scientists say contribute directly to harmful climate change.)  The first step is to get the state’s policy out of the hands of the chemical producer lobby. The second is to restore leadership in the Iowa Senate, which has lost some of its greatest champions to recent retirements. We also need to aggressively fund a lot more science in this area.



Gov. Kim Reynolds has made it legal to hunt deer with an AR-15 in Iowa, and loosened gun permit laws that were working well.

Grace believes the time is now for commonsense gun reform that would take weapons of war off the streets, limit access to firearms for those who have been deemed a potential harm to themselves or others, and requirements for simple safety measures related to storage and use of firearms.

Grace will oppose the gun lobby’s chokehold on our legislature, amplify the voices of the survivors of gun violence, help educate Iowans about safety and responsible gun ownership, and take the side of victims who have been terrorized by domestic violence or other forms of abuse enforced by guns. She supports the efforts of groups like Everytown for Gun Safety to oppose the NRA and do the will of the vast majority of people.



No human being is illegal. We know refugee numbers will be going up due to President Biden’s lifting of federal caps, which is the right direction. But our Iowa agencies supporting immigrants are woefully inadequate when it comes to funding and staffing to meet any increase.

Grace will be the right kind of example of participation, cooperation and bridge-building across all of the neighborhoods of this diverse district, including support for legislation that improves health care, employment, education and housing assistance for immigrants. One of the biggest needs is for culturally appropriate information including in the appropriate language on basic life skills topics from finding a primary health care provider to registering a child for school.

Expand Rights and Roles: Beyond the service and support needs of the immigrant and refugee community, we need to change our policies. Here are two examples of the kinds of bills we need to expand the rights and roles of new Iowans:

  • Access to Medicaid health care services funded at the state level, including behavioral health and substance abuse disorder treatment;
  • Process for obtaining an Iowa Driver’s License

Dreamers and Tuition: Grace supports free tuition at all Iowa community colleges and universities for Dreamers who have lived in Iowa for more than two years and make satisfactory progress toward a degree program. The challenges and barriers Iowa Republicans are purposely building into the lives of these Iowans will be enough to overcome without getting sucked into the student loan debt trap we’ve lost an entire generation of workers to over the past 25 years.

In the Schools: Possibly the most impactful step on immigration long-term would be the restoration of a public school curriculum in Iowa that explains, contextualizes and provides information about the value of the immigrant experience in the United States.

Grace Van Cleave for Iowa

321 E Walnut Street

Des Moines, IA50309