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Scharper hopes to bring health care expertise to Iowa legislature

Scharper hopes to bring health care expertise to Iowa legislature
By James Grob,

Iowa Senate candidate Deb Scharper said she believes one of the biggest problems Iowa has when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is a lack of elected officials with a background in health care.

“We need to have more health care providers down in the statehouse. We need to have a voice for patients, for doctors and nurses, for hospitals and everything else,” Scharper said at a media briefing in Charles City on Friday. “I just don’t feel like we have that voice down there right now.”

Sharper, a Democrat from rural Osage, is running for a seat in Senate District 26, which consists of all of Floyd, Chickasaw, Howard, Mitchell and Worth counties, and parts of Cerro Gordo and Winneshiek counties. Waylon Brown, a Republican from St. Ansgar, is the incumbent and Scharper’s opponent.

She met with members of the local media Friday morning at the office of Jim Davis, former Floyd County Democratic Party chairman, who often hosts candidates passing through town.

Davis said that with the pandemic, face-to-face meet-and-greets, as well as canvassing and knocking on doors, are off the board this election season.

“I’ve never done a campaign in a pandemic before,” Davis said. “This COVID-19 has affected every community in the district alike. It’s very hard to navigate through this.”

Davis said he and Democrats would still continue to try to get their message out, particularly on topics like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other health-related issues.

“She (Scharper) comes from a health care background as someone who works in that industry, and that’s really unique to this time,” Davis said. “I think she would be a real asset as part of that discussion down in Des Moines.”

A graduate of Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock schools, Scharper has been a radiology technician for more than 27 years. She is registered in X-Ray, ultrasound, vascular ultrasound, mammogram and CT. She is active in the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD), where she serves as an ambassador for the state of Iowa, and she is an Alzheimer’s Association advocate.

Sharper said she has been frustrated watching elected officials in the state of Iowa politicize the pandemic. She said COVID-19 is the biggest issue Iowans are confronted with right now, and clashes between Iowa school districts and Gov. Kim Reynolds have only made navigating the situation more difficult.

“We are never going to stop this if we don’t start working together as a team,” Scharper said. “Teachers are working triple-time, pretty much, as they try to protect themselves along with their students.”

She called all the work teachers and school districts have done this year “amazing.”

“I want to thank the teachers for the way they’ve jumped in and really helped the kids,” Scharper said. “It’s such an unfortunate situation, but the kids do need to get back and try to get back into a routine.”

Scharper said that every district has its own situation, and the one-size-fits all approach the state is taking is not the right one.

“Local teachers and parents, local school boards and superintendents need to have the say as to what is the best approach for their own school system,” she said. “We can fight for our teachers and fight for our districts, so that they can make those decisions for themselves, as to how to best manage their students.”

Scharper was also critical of Iowa’s privatization of Medicaid, and said it is causing a health care crisis in many rural areas.

“Our rural health care has been hurt by that,” she said. “They aren’t getting the payments and they’re not getting the specialties that they need.”

She said delays caused by the system are leading to tragic outcomes for patients.

“We need to have a system where both the patients and the facilities can get medical care certified in a timely manner,” she said. “That’s not happening right now — if a cancer patient needs treatment, sometimes it’s several weeks before that patient can get certified for that treatment, and sometimes that’s too late. That’s just not acceptable.”

Scharper’s husband owns and operates Scharper Services in Osage, a small business that provides electrical, snow removal, tree removal and trucking services. Their children all attend or graduated from Osage schools. She has lived in Osage for 25 years.

Scharper said she decided to run for office because she’s “tired of not being heard by our current lawmakers.” She has a loved one who was diagnosed at the age of 44 with frontotemporal dementia, and said that she grew frustrated navigating Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system as she tried to get help for him.

A newcomer to politics, she said she doesn’t like loud, contentious debates, and promised more reasonable discourse.

“I’m a fighter, though. I try not to take no for an answer, and I will follow through,” Schafer said. “I’m a person who follows up and follows through. If I don’t know that answer, I will find out and follow up on it.”

Scharper has socially-distanced meet-and-greet opportunities scheduled in Nashua at Cedar View Park on Thursday, Sept. 24 and on Rockford at Rockford Park on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Early voting in Iowa will begin Oct. 5. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

“We just want to make sure people look at the options, and really consider the choice they have between the two candidates,” Schafer said. “We all need to get out and vote, because it’s our choice, and we have to make a change.”

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