MAHASKA COUNTY — Lance Roorda, a Mahaska County native and small business owner has announced plans to run for state senate.
Roorda will be challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Ken Rozenboom to represent District 40 in 2020. Rozenboom said while he intends to run for re-election, he has not yet made any official announcements.
District 40, which includes Mahaska county as well as portions of Appanoose, Marion, Monroe and Wapello counties. Rozenboom has served the district as senator since 2013.
The state’s mental health crisis is what prompted Roorda, a mental health provider, to seek election.
“What I’ve seen in this field since moving back to this area has been pretty bad,” he said. “And so I just decided that I can’t sit back and watch what’s happening happen anymore.”
Iowa is ranked poorly when it comes to the number of licensed psychiatrists, mental health workforce and psychiatric in-patient beds, Roorda said.
“Before I started my own business, I worked at Mahaska Health Partnership, kind of in the front lines of the emergency room,” he said. “Right now in our state, our emergency rooms are just backlogged with people who need mental health care and that mental health care doesn’t exist. I just feel like our current system does not have good outcomes. It’s certainly not a good return on our investment of tax dollars.”
A graduate of Pella Community High School, Roorda moved to Des Moines after college. He now lives on his family’s Century Farm in Mahaska County with his wife and children. Roorda owns Eunoia Counseling in Oskaloosa.
Roorda said he also feels strongly about educating students in rural districts.
“I think we’ve shortchanged our schools for long enough. On the back of a quarter, the 2004 edition, it says “Foundation of Education,” he said. “Well, the last 10 years we’ve shortchanged our schools and now we’re in the bottom half.”
School funding is based primarily on property tax dollars. Roorda said he believes rural Iowa communities like Oskaloosa, New Sharon, Centerville and Albia have been shortchanged.
“The school systems need more adequate funding,” he said. “You have the Waukee and Ankey districts of the world and I’m sure they’re doing just fine – or they’re better off than rural Iowa anyway because they have a higher property tax base. Their enrollment is growing. That’s not the case in rural Iowa.”
The privatized Medicaid system is not going well in Iowa, Roorda said.
“It’s costing more money, the outcomes are far worse. To hit home, kids on Medicaid in Osky don’t have anywhere in town to go to a dentist,” he said. “They’re needing to go to Ottumwa or they’re needing to go to Albia because it’s not worth providers’ time to even mess with these managed care organizations who are these for-profit organizations that I believe are making profits on the back of providers and the back of vulnerable Iowans.”
Roorda said he wants to run a campaign he can be proud of.
“I want to raise awareness into issues that I think everybody needs to know about that affects everybody. This isn’t self-serving for me. This isn’t something that I just willingly jumped into,” he said. “I had a lot of reservations about being a public figure and whether or not this was a good idea for me as being a new business owner with young kids.”
Partisan politics is not something Roorda, who is running as a Democrat, has an interest in.
“I think all these issues... are not partisan issues at all. I think they are issues that everybody needs to know about and be aware of,” he said. “I just cannot do the divisiveness and the partisanship. I won’t do it, and I don’t want to be a part of it.”