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At least one UI alum will make the ballot for State House this fall

BY NICHOLAS MILLER | JUNE 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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At least one recent graduate of the University of Iowa will see his name on an election ballot in November.

UI alumni Maison Bleam and Jake Highfill competed in primaries for the Iowa House on Tuesday in their respective districts. In House District 39, Highfill defeated Rep. Erik Helland, R-Johnston, with roughly 52 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results from Tuesday night.

Bleam was not, however, able to defeat his opponent. He gathered roughly 35 percent of the votes casted for House District 10, while his incumbent opponent Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, won with 65 percent of the votes.

"I am going to sleep for three days, then go back to work at Acceleration Iowa and Hy-Vee," Highfill told The Daily Iowan after the results were posted Monday night.

The two UI alums credited their political experience to their time at the university.

Bleam, 25, said he caught the "political bug" from his grandmother, Elaine Bleam, when she involved him as a junior delegate in state Republican Conventions.

"I started going to those with her at a very young age and I guess she just kind of inspired me to get involved in the political process," he said.

Highfill, 22, took an interest in politics during his freshman year of high school.

Both Bleam and Highfill ran against incumbents.

One UI political expert said running against an incumbent can have both positive and negative effects.

"A negative for both is that they are running against incumbents who have more experience and name recognition," said Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science. "But that can force them to work harder to get people to take them seriously, which can take the incumbents by surprise."

Bleam studied political science, ethics, and public policy while at the UI. He was also elected as the president of UI Student Government.

Bleam said he believes he became most prepared for his post-college political career when he wrote a brief to the UI administration against an increase in tuition and mandatory student fees.

"What really gave me the best preparation from being involved in student government wasn't necessarily doing the speeches or going to foundation events and making a presence," he said. "It was literally about going and advocating on behalf of the student body to not have a tuition increase, to not have a mandatory student activities fee … and actually learning about where these different pots of money go."

Current UISG President Nic Pottebaum said working with UI alums is always favorable.

"It's great to see former student leaders seek elected office after their time at the University of Iowa," he said. "Being a Hawkeye and a public servant is a great combination."

Highfill had similar political outreach experiences at the UI.

Highfill majored in business and minored in exercise science, but his political involvement at the UI began during the 21-ordinance debate in 2010.

"I worked the [21-ordinance] with a good friend of mine, presenting classes; I was swamped busy, I had fun, we learned so much," he said.

Bleam and Highfill said they remained confident throughout their campaigns despite the age difference between them and their opponents.

Helland said he welcomed the idea of a younger candidate, remembering his first campaign.

"I was only 27 when I first ran. It is fantastic when young people get involved," he said. "I wish more would."

When reflecting on his campaign experience, Highfill said he enjoyed meeting new people and giving them a face to his name.

"The overwhelming support is incredible; I door-knocked so many people … and they really enjoyed it," he said. "One-on-one contact with the candidate, when they look at the ballot, they feel like they really know that person."


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