Izaah Knox, executive director of the Des Moines nonprofit Urban Dreams, is the Democratic candidate for Iowa Senate District 17, Drake’s state senate district.
A Drake graduate twice over, Knox is running against Libertarian ToyA Johnson and independent Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz.
Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Knox graduated from Des Moines Area Community College before moving to Des Moines and attending Drake, where he earned a B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing.
After graduating, Knox was a life coach to children and adults. He eventually came back to Drake to earn an M.A. in Organizational Leadership and Policy Studies, now called Leadership Development.
“From that, I worked in the community colleges, then I thought I was going to become a community college president, so I started my Ph.D. at Iowa State,” Knox said. “Then I left DMACC and slowed down on my PhD and now I’m at Urban Dreams.”
Knox’s first job after graduating from Drake with his undergraduate degree was at Urban Dreams, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that works on a variety of community issues, from community-police relations to mental health services.
“When I took over, we evolved quite a bit of money to not lose everything, but focused on like five things and running really well. Instead of being an inch deep and a mile wide, [we want to be an] inch wide and a mile deep because we can’t cover everything,” Knox said. “Food insecurity, community connectivity, mental health, substance abuse, and then educational pieces, and that education piece goes from at-risk youth at the high school level, a little bit of junior high to workforce education with diversity, equity and inclusion and creating pipelines into our community and communities that are typically underserved.”
Knox’s status and experience as a community leader primed him to run for state senate. Others in the community encouraged him to run for the district when it opened up with the redistricting after the 2020 census.
“I started calling people in District 17 and there were a lot of people that when I asked them, ‘Hey, are you interested in running?’ And they said, ‘No, because you are.’ I got a lot of that answer,” Knox said. “You want to have that support before you kind of go in there and just say ‘I’m going to run,’ right? Like, let’s figure out if it’s the best thing for the community as a whole first before you step forward, because you want it to be sustainable, you want it to be successful.”
The top issues that Knox hears while knocking doors include issues like educational funding and abortion rights.
“Public education, fully funded, out of (an equitable) funding formula so that people in low income, underserved communities would still get the same quality facilities…also while I was on the doors, abortion, right,” Knox said. “Protecting women’s rights and human rights and civil rights are important, right? So that’s another thing to consider was (that) we’re not falling backwards in what we’re doing…and (we) hopefully make gains. And then gun violence, right? The Uvalde Elementary School shooting happened while I was on the doors, so that definitely kept me up at night.”
For more information about Knox’s campaign, visit izaahforiowa.com.
The general midterm election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Polling information can be found on the Secretary of State’s office at www.sos.iowa.gov.