SIOUX CITY | After moving from an upbringing in a tiny Monona County town to earning three degrees to serving as a top college official, Cyndi Hanson is now undertaking the formidable task of trying to unseat a Republican congressman who has won eight straight victories.
"It is the old Zig Ziglar (saying), people want to know if you care, and I do. Putting yourself out there has a lot of risk, but I care. Northwest Iowa has a lot of great people and they need to be represented," Hanson said in an interview.
That's why Hanson, who lives in Sioux City, is running to oust Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King, who is a blunt-spoken political juggernaut from Kiron. Hanson readily admits she is an underdog with little name recognition, but she's ramped up her campaigning since January arrived, since a Republican party primary June 5 will determine whether she or King moves to the Nov. 6 ballot.
Hanson, 45, was raised in Castana, which now has a population of 147, and graduated from Maple Valley High School. She worked in the human resource management field for 15 years after getting a degree from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City.
She then shifted gears and got two additional degrees, including a doctorate from the University of South Dakota.
For the last year, Hanson has served as executive director of the College Center in South Sioux City, an academic center operated jointly by Northeast Community College and Wayne State College. That came after four years in an administrative role at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City.
Hanson said education has been a great second career, because she likes helping people as they are figuring out their roles in the world.
"It is a good job to combine my creativity and my passion for growth," she said.
At the College Center, Hanson leads a team of 13 employees and is confident her leadership has been a boon for the college. Hanson said the programs to pick from are plentiful and beneficial to new or nontraditional students who prefer not to travel to Northeast's main campus in Norfolk.
"I've moved us in a direction that would not have happened if I had not been there," she said.
Helen Jacobe first met Hanson about 15 years in a community club, and they quickly became friends. Jacobe said Hanson showed great organizing and people skills when helping set details when Sioux City was the host site for a Toastmasters International state event.
"She is very driven," Jacobe said. "She is very studious, she is a proactive person and I have noticed she gets the job done."
Hanson is a single mother to her 9-year-old daughter, Bradey Hanson. Away from work and her busy campaigning, Hanson likes to have dinner with friends, watch movies at home and scrapbook. She said she has the ability to connect well with people, which would help in representing people as a lawmaker.
"I am just who I am. I don't put on airs. I like to listen to people, because I am a learner at heart," Hanson said.
Hanson said she has shown in her professional life that she understands complex issues, and could readily transfer those abilities to addressing public policy as an elected official. She said the inability of lawmakers to solve major national problems shows the time is at hand for compromise by the two political parties.
"The best solution is not usually this or that, but in the middle of this or that...It comes back to collaboration and finding middle ground," Hanson said.
She cited President Abraham Lincoln as a political role model in that regard.
"He wasn't always interested in being right. He wanted the best outcome, and it didn't have to be what he initially thought," she said.
Hanson said she's been variously registered as a Republican, Democrat and independent in her adult life. She said she's changed her affiliation depending upon certain candidates she wanted to support in party primary votes.
She said the nation will benefit from more fiscal responsibility ("We have to stop spending more than we take in"), which means some program cuts must be made, but not too deeply to social programs, she added. Hanson said the government funding set through short-term continuing resolutions must be set aside for a longer-range set of funding bills.
Hanson announced her candidacy in December. In campaign finance disclosure reports that covered the last three months of 2017, she reported raising $5,771. During the same period, the incumbent King brought in $87,543.
In late January she began setting plentiful public campaign events in the 4th District, and has now visited all 39 counties. She's doing that on nights after work and weekends, but eventually may take some leaves from her job to do more.
Hanson said voters have told her they want assurances that health care can become accessible and affordable, a sound balance of agriculture and environment, immigration reform and opportunities for a good education. She said people ask if she has legislative experience -- she doesn't -- but said they don't dismiss her candidacy once she answers.
Hanson said Iowans deserve a better representative than King, since they tell her of dislike for some of his "inflammatory" comments.
"After (King) being in there 16 years, it is time for someone new," she said. "There is a perception that he is more interested in being on TV than representing the people of Iowa, and my interest is in representing the people of Iowa."
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's administration appears unbowed by broad domestic and international criticism of his planned import tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying Sunday that the president is not planning on exempting any countries from the stiff duties.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: "At this point in time there's no country exclusions."
Trump's announcement Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets, rankled allies and raised prospects for a trade war. While his rhetoric has been focused on China, the duties also will cover significant imports from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.
The Pentagon had recommended that Trump only pursue targeted tariffs, so as not to upset American partners abroad. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Sunday that was not the direction the president would take.
"He's talking about a fairly broad brush," Ross said on ABC's "This Week." He rejected threats of retaliation from American allies as "pretty trivial."
Few issues could blur the lines of partisanship in Trump-era Washington. Trade is one of them.
Labor unions and liberal Democrats are in the unusual position of applauding Trump's approach, while Republicans and an array of business groups are warning of dire economic and political consequences if he goes ahead with the tariffs.
Trade politics often cut along regional, rather than ideological, lines, as politicians reflect the interests of the hometown industries and workers. But rarely does a debate open so wide a rift between a president and his party — leaving him almost exclusively with support from his ideological opposites.
"Good, finally," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat and progressive as he cheered Trump's move. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who has called for Trump to resign, agreed.
"I urge the administration to follow through and to take aggressive measures to ensure our workers can compete on a level playing field," Casey tweeted.
This moment of unusual alliance was long expected. As a candidate, Trump made his populist and protectionist positions on trade quite clear, at times hitting the same themes as one of the Democratic presidential candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class," Trump told voters in the hard-hit steel town of Monessen, Pennsylvania, during one of his campaign stops. "It doesn't have to be this way."
Trump's criticism of trade agreements and China's trade policies found support with white working-class Americans whose wages had stagnated over the years. Victories in big steel-producing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana demonstrated that his tough trade talk had a receptive audience.
Both candidates in a March 13 House election in Pennsylvania have embraced the president's plans for tariffs. They addressed the topic Saturday in a debate that aired on WTAE in Pittsburgh.
"For too long, China has been making cheap steel and they've been flooding the market with it. It's not fair and it's not right. So I actually think this is long overdue," said Democratic candidate Conor Lamb.
"Unfortunately, many of our competitors around the world have slanted the playing field, and their thumb has been on the scale, and I think President Trump is trying to even that scale back out," said Republican candidate Rick Saccone.
But Trump's GOP allies on Capitol Hill have little use for the tariff approach. They argue that other industries that rely on steel and aluminum products will suffer. The cost of new appliances, cars and buildings will rise if the president follows through, they warn, and other nations could retaliate. The end result could erode the president's base of support with rural America and even the blue-collar workers the president says he trying to help.
"There is always retaliation, and typically a lot of these countries single out agriculture when they do that. So, we're very concerned," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., asked the administration to reconsider its stance. He said American companies could move their operations abroad and not face retaliatory tariffs.
"This scenario would lead to the exact opposite outcome of the administration's stated objective, which is to protect American jobs," Walker said.
The Business Roundtable's Josh Bolten, a chief of staff for President George W. Bush, called on Trump to have "the courage" to step back from his campaign rhetoric on trade.
"Sometimes a president needs to, you need to stick to your principles but you also need to recognize in cases where stuff you said in the campaign isn't right and ought to be drawn back," he said on "Fox News Sunday." ''The president needs to have the courage to do that."
Tim Phillips, president of the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, noted that Trump narrowly won in Iowa and Wisconsin, two heavily rural states that could suffer if countries impose retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural goods.
"It hurts the administration politically because trade wars, protectionism, they lead to higher prices for individual Americans," Phillips said. "It's basically a tax increase."
The president wasn't backing down, at least on Twitter, where he posted this message: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win."
WINNEBAGO — Dulcie Greene points to the drab, red-brick one-story house with boarded-up windows — one in a long line of government homes on a steep hill in one of the poorest neighborhoods in this reservation community.
She describes the fate of many of the homes in the neighborhood — abandoned for lack of maintenance or severe damage caused by renters. She raised her three daughters here for nine years before finding better housing just down the road last year.
“They call this the ghetto,” she says. “I don’t know why. There are a lot worse places I’ve seen.”
In November, the 30-year-old Winnebago woman moved her family into a new walkout home on the southern edge of town, a home she designed and bought along with her husband, Amos Two Bulls.
And unlike her old home — with its worn linoleum floors and deteriorating exterior — her new house has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, laundry room, two-car garage, fence and patio. All on a quiet cul-de-sac with a pretty view.
She’s one of many new homeowners in a place where home ownership was a foreign concept just a few years ago.
With $32,500 in down payment assistance from a tribal housing program, Greene and Two Bulls were able to afford the $172,000 home. They received another $16,000 in support from two other grants.
Without that help, she said, the couple could not have afforded to buy their first home.
“I’m even excited for my first payment,” she said. “Is that weird?”
Since 2002, 52 Winnebago families have received more than $2.3 million in down payment assistance to purchase homes through the Winnebago Down Payment Assistance Program. The average amount received by program recipients was $45,000.
The Winnebago Tribe estimates each dollar of down payment assistance provided to its citizens leads to $3.72 in home investments, and the program has helped generate $5.97 million in home investment.
The initiative has reshaped this tiny reservation in northeast Nebraska.
Visitors to Winnebago — especially those from other reservations — are often surprised to see how much new development has taken place in recent years.
A new hospital, new football field and new businesses, such as a Dollar General, a Mexican restaurant and a coffee shop, have been constructed in recent years.
The renaissance began in 2002 with the purchase of 40 acres on the north end of town by the tribe’s economic development corporation, Ho-Chunk Inc. (HCI). And much of the new development has occurred within that 40-acre plot, known as Ho-Chunk Village.
Lance Morgan, president and CEO of HCI, said much of his company’s work has been focused on creating revenue for the community and creating jobs. However, he said, the company realized the lack of quality, affordable housing on the reservation was dampening the company’s economic development efforts.
“You can’t have a solid community, you can’t have good workers, you can’t have a good education system, if you don’t have a good home,” he said. “It’s one of life’s basic necessities, and it’s a necessity that we’ve struggled with for a very long time.”
The company began working with the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation (HCCDC) — a nonprofit affiliated with the Winnebago Tribe — to begin seeking grant funds to contribute to a down payment assistance fund for tribal members.
Tribal leaders also decided to earmark some of the revenue that HCI provides to the tribe from the corporation’s profits to fund the Down Payment Assistance Program. Those dividends have provided 64 percent of the program’s funds, with another 15 percent coming from grants and 21 percent from tribal gas tax revenue.
Sources of grant funding have included the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, federal HOME funds and support from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
In 2015, the Winnebago Tribal Council set a goal of adding 200 new homes or apartments to the reservation’s housing stock over the next five years.
“There’s such a shortage of decent, affordable housing for folks,” said Brian Mathers, executive director of HCCDC. “It’s really been a priority of the council for a long time.”
The tribe matched a recent $250,000 grant from the Nebraska Affordable Housing Program with funds already in the Down Payment Assistance Program’s fund.
A certified community development financial institution under HCCDC also recently received a $150,000 boost from the U.S. Department of Treasury to help tribal homebuyers establish and protect their credit so they can qualify for mortgages and the Down Payment Assistance Program.
Qui Qui St. Cyr, residential manager for Ho-Chunk Community Capital, said her organization works with potential homebuyers to ensure their credit will qualify them for a mortgage and participation in the assistance program.
She hosts homebuyer seminars that educate people about what it takes to qualify for a mortgage and construct a home, if that’s what they decide to do. For those unsure about designing their own home, BluStone Homes offers a host of different floor plans for homebuyers.
“It’s up to them what they want to do,” St. Cyr said.
Ho-Chunk Community Capital also connects potential homebuyers to lenders.
In order to take part in the Down Payment Assistance Program, homebuyers must be Winnebago tribal members, able to qualify for a home mortgage and abide by applicable housing covenants, which often stipulate that homebuyers keep junk cars off their property and build homes with garages. Program participants must remain in their homes for at least five years.
The program provides up to $65,000 in assistance for new home construction and as little as $5,000 for purchase of an existing home. A new initiative provides $35,000 in assistance to buyers of lower cost homes.
Mathers said many challenges face potential homebuyers in Winnebago, much like on other reservations. For example, many homeowners won’t actually own the land upon which their home is located. That’s not always true, as buyers of homes within Ho-Chunk Village actually own the land and have to pay property taxes like homeowners who don’t live on federal trust land.
Another challenge is finding banks that are willing to approve mortgages for homes built on federal trust land or within a reservation.
Between 2000 and 2013, the Down Payment Assistance Program helped increase home ownership rates by 4.6 percent, compared with a 1.2 percent increase in home ownership for Nebraska overall. Median home values on the reservation have increased 29 percent.
St. Cyr said she’s begun receiving inquiries from tribal members who live off the reservation who have wanted to move back but didn’t have many housing options until now.
“I have more older adults wanting to move back to Winnebago because of the growth of the community and because it doesn’t look like a typical rez,” she said.
In June, Andy Snowball, 33, and her family moved into a newly constructed home in Ho-Chunk Village with support from the Down Payment Assistance Program.
She and her husband, John Snowball, received $65,000 in assistance and now live in a home valued at $270,000. That’s a major upgrade for the couple, who most recently lived in a duplex in Sioux City, Iowa, some 20 miles to the north.
Living in Winnebago has helped simplify her family’s routine, which once involved her husband and son commuting to Winnebago each day and her other children attending school in Sioux City. Now the entire family either works or attends school in Winnebago.
In addition, the couple is building equity rather than paying rent while getting to live in a four-bedroom home with a three-car garage, back deck and big yard.
“My husband and I, we have been a team working our way up to a better position for a while now,” she said. “We wouldn’t have really been able to build a house in Winnebago that’s as nice as the one that we have for a while.”
Morgan said getting to see a family move into its first home is the most rewarding aspect of the Down Payment Assistance Program.
“We’ve done all these things to make housing possible, but what actually excites me is seeing one family move into their home, signing the paperwork, getting their key and starting a whole new phase of their life,” he said.