UI student wins Iowa House race


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Some University of Iowa students get an internship after they graduate. Others find jobs in their fields of study, and many go on to graduate school.

But UI student Jake Highfill, who majors in business with a minor in exercise science, is jumping straight into the world of politics, and he will soon be the youngest member of the Iowa Legislature after being elected on Nov. 6 to the Iowa House of Representatives for House District 39.

Highfill, a Republican, edged out a victory over the incumbent Republican Erik Helland in the June primary, then went on to win the House seat by defeating Democratic candidate Kelsey Ann Clark.

“It was a good race, with a very tough opponent,” Highfill said. “We had been door-knocking since last August and fundraising well. Now, we’re ready to move forward.”

Both candidates in the race are relatively young, Clark at 27 and Highfill at 22, but Highfill doesn’t see that as a disadvantage, nor does he think the other politicians in the Iowa House will treat him differently.

“They really respect how hard I’ve worked,” he said. “We ran our campaign grass-roots style, the old-fashioned way.”

Clark could not be reached for comment as of Monday evening.

UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said youth in the Legislature offer advantages, with some drawbacks.

“Age is a political characteristic that doesn’t get as much attention,” he said. “But [younger politicians] can speak directly for young people and really understand what they’re going through.”

However, Hagle said, young people may not have as much life experience in dealing with issues, using the example of property tax.

“The issue might not be as clear to you if the money isn’t coming out of your pocket,” he said.

Highfill said there were many professors at the UI who influenced him, even though he may have opposed their political views.

“The university really guided me and helped me find who I am,” he said. “I sometimes didn’t agree with professors, but they were welcome to my ideas.”

UI business adjunct lecturer Scott Hauser, who taught Highfill, said he was a very motivated and bright student.

“[Highfill] was in my class studying to eventually start and run a successful business,” he said. “And my guess is that someday, he will do just that.”

Highfill said he had always loved politics, even when he was studying for business, and he developed his political views throughout college.

“I think our state and country are going to have too much government,” he said. “I wanted to change the way things have been done.”

Hauser said he didn’t know at the time that Highfill was interested in politics, though he remembered him being vocal about an issue before the Iowa City City Council.

As for what Highfill has planned now? The first item on the agenda is a well-deserved rest.

“[The campaign] was a draining roller-coaster ride,” he said. “I’ve got until next Friday, and then it’s time to get to work.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated Highfill is a UI graduate. In fact, he will graduate in December.

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