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Des Moines City Council Elections

On Nov. 2, Des Moines will hold elections for three seats on the Des Moines City Council: Ward I, Ward III and At-Large, with eight candidates running across the three races. Drake University sits just within Ward I, with University Ave. serving as the boundary between Ward I and Ward III. You can find your polling place at the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

The past two years have been contentious for the Des Moines City Council. Among the issues driving this election cycle are the questions raised by Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 about reforming police practices and the criticism the council faced for the way it handled protestors and public comments at its meetings. In their platforms, candidates have also focused on issues like improving Des Moines’ infrastructure, community cohesiveness and housing security.

Ward I
Bill Gray is the incumbent for Ward I. In a written interview with the Des Moines Register, Gray said he is campaigning on continuing to improve Des Moines’ infrastructure. According to his campaign website, Gray also wants to continue prioritizing more private investment in Des Moines if reelected.

“When I ran the first time, it was plain and simple,” Gray said during KCCI’s Ward I candidate forum. “There were three things I wanted to do under the umbrella of neighborhoods, and that’s improve infrastructure, improve our parks system and make sure we have adequate staffing for our first responders. That worked well then, and I think it works going forward here, too.”

Marcus Coenen is president of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association. His platform includes making more data-driven decisions when it comes to creating policies and managing budgets for city services.

“For the last decade I’ve been an urban planner working with communities to solve problems in cities around the state,” Coenen said during the forum. “I understand how to take a problem and really move it into a solution. For me, I think of success in a city as a series of four S’s: safer streets, safer neighborhoods, smarter government; and finally, we need to make a city that’s more sustainable.”

Indira Sheumaker is a community organizer with Des Moines’ Black Liberation Movement and Des Moines People’s Town Hall. In a written interview with the Des Moines Register, Sheumaker said her goal is to make the city council more representative of the people it serves in both its members’ identities and their priorities.

“I grew up here, I live here and I love it here,” Sheumaker said during the forum. “This is my home. I care so much about this community, which is why I started organizing this community in the summer of 2020…I just want to be a representative for the people of Des Moines who have not been represented by our current city council.”

Ward III

Josh Mandelbaum is the incumbent for Ward III who previously worked for former Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack. He is running to continue addressing the climate crisis in the Des Moines community and to encourage more economic and infrastructure development both downtown and in the outer neighborhoods.

“My great-great grandfather came here as a German Jewish immigrant at a time when he didn’t have opportunity everywhere,” Mandelbaum said during KCCI’s Ward III candidate forum. “But in Des Moines, he did. He built a store, and a life, for generations of his family. That’s what a great city can do. It builds opportunity for everyone and anyone who wants to be a part of the community, and that’s what I want to do for the city of Des Moines.”

Cory McAnelly is a Drake University Law School alumnus who advocates for new leadership that will bring the community back together after too long operating under what he calls an “us versus them” mentality.
“This city council race is about trust and accountability, it really is,” McAnelly said during the forum. “Between city council and the citizens, between police and the citizens. We need a city council member who’s going to bring us together to find out common ground, to overcome and rebuild the trust and [reverse] the fundamental erosion of the relationship between the citizens of this community and the city council.”

Brandi Webber is a Des Moines native running on a platform of prioritizing people without housing and reforming the Des Moines City Council’s rules of procedure.

“You have a voice, and that voice should matter to your local elected officials,” Webber said during the forum. “If you had a problem with something on the agenda that was released on Thursday, you have three days to send in an email and that email will more than likely be ignored. You cannot speak on the consent agenda. They [the current city council members] are abusing their power and you can hold them accountable on Nov. 2 with your vote.”


Connie Boesen is the incumbent for the At-Large seat. Her platform is centered on revitalizing housing, expanding mental health crisis response teams and working more closely with the Des Moines Public School Board of Directors.

“Many people will always ask … ‘Why are you going to run again?’” Boesen said during KCCI’s At-Large candidate forum. “The same reason I ran initially: because of the need, I thought, for Des Moines to improve their neighborhoods, [to] rebuild them. Also, to provide great public safety. To work on the infrastructure. There is a lot of need in the city, and I think with the passing of the sales tax we’ve been able to start [to] make headways in that area.”

Justyn Lewis is the founder of Des Moines’ Selma, a group dedicated to educating Iowans about “injustices faced by the Black community.” Lewis is running on a platform of healthcare, restorative justice in policing and counteracting climate change.

“As an African American, more than ever [I believe] we need to be leaning into what people’s lived experiences are,” Lewis said at the forum. “That’s why I’m running. I want to lead with people’s lived experiences in their communities and facilitate government from that level.”


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