BOYDEN, Iowa | John Kooiker has worked as a mail carrier, math teacher and farmer. On Monday, he'll be sworn in as a state representative.
Kooiker won a special election Tuesday for the Iowa House District 4 seat left vacant by the death of longtime state Rep. Dwayne Alons, of Hull.
"Right now, I am just getting used to moving from a very nonexciting life to a more adventuresome life," Kooiker said Wednesday. "I like adventures and challenges. Being a representative is both."
Kooiker, a Republican from Boyden, got 61 percent of the vote in the Sioux County district. Coming in second was write-in candidate Dennis Wright, a Republican from Hull who got 25 percent. John Buntsma, a Democrat from Orange City, got 13 percent.
Kooiker said some Republicans may have been attracted by Wright's electoral wins as a Sioux County Board member and formerly as mayor of Hull. Kooiker said he'll defend Republican principles in the Legislature.
"I am fiscally and socially conservative," he said.
Kooiker knew Alons, a fellow Republican who died in December after battling cancer, for more than three decades.
"He was an honorable man, and he had core values that he professed and lived by," Kooiker said.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Kooiker will be a good successor to Alons.
“I’m confident he will be a conservative voice who will work to make Iowa an even better place to work and raise a family,” said Paulsen.
Kooiker, 68, is the father of Rapid City, S.D., Mayor Sam Kooiker, 40, who will wrap up his second term in June.
"I'm very proud of him," Sam Kooiker told the Rapid City Journal. "He's someone I look up to. I consider him a mentor and a friend. It's exciting to see him doing this."
The elder Kooiker said he will make sure the state budget remains lean. He also plans to support conservation measures to keep Iowa land clean.
Kooiker is a U.S. Army veteran. He also taught math and physics at a Christian academy in Japan in the 1970s before moving back to the family farm in 1975.
He considers former presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and George H. W. Bush to be iconic Republicans. Kooiker supported former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa caucuses, in the last presidential election.
Other House lawmakers were selected in November. The District 4 special election took place in time so that Kooiker can participate as the session begins Monday.
Republicans control the House by a 56-43 count. The final composition will be set after one more special election, in District 23. That likely will take place in a few weeks, although a date hasn't been set.
The seat came open when Mark Costello, a Republican from Imogene, won a special election to move to the Senate District 12 seat vacated by Joni Ernst, who defeated Democrat Bruce Braley to win a U.S. Senate seat in November.