Five candidates running for Iowa House District 34 in Des Moines

Gun Rights

Four Democrats are running for their party’s nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad in a Des Moines-based Iowa House District.

One Republican is running uncontested in her bid for the GOP nomination.

Iowa House District 34 encompasses parts of Des Moines, including the Drake, River Bend, Oak Park, Prospect Park, Cheatom Park and King Irving neighborhoods. Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, has represented the area in the Iowa House for 18 years. He announced in February that he would retire.

Retired labor leader John Campbell, teacher Samy El-Baroudi, pastor Rob Johnson and small business owner Dudley Muhammad are the four Democrats seeking the nomination. Danielle Duggan is seeking the Republican nomination.

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To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to all federal and Des Moines area legislative candidates running for political office this year. Their answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The primary election is scheduled for June 4 ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.

More: Everything you need to know about the June 4 primary election, including voting absentee

Who is John Campbell?

Age: 67

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up: Des Moines

Current town of residence: Des Moines

Education: High school GED

Occupation: Retired and lifelong community activist

Political experience and civic activities: Spent 10 years with the Teamsters and worked as a political director for United Steelworkers in Iowa. He has been a member of AFSCME and has collaborated with AFSCME and various trade unions in the state of Iowa.

Who is Samy El-Baroudi?

Age: 60

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up: I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and graduated high school from Montclair, New Jersey.

Current town of residence: I have lived in Des Moines for the last 35 years: 15 years in River Bend, and prior to that in Prospect Park and on the east side.

Education: Master of Arts in education (2022), Masters of Business Administration (2005), bachelor’s in secondary education (1997), AAS in business administration, management (1988)

Occupation: Business teacher, Des Moines Public Schools

Political experience and civic activities:

  • NEA, ISEA, DMEA member, 27 years
  • DMEA treasurer, 2011 to present
  • Founding member of the NEA Arab-American Educators Caucus
  • Treasurer for Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, 10 years
  • Precinct chair since 2007
  • Founding member and chair of the Heart of Des Moines Democrats
  • Volunteer for multiple political campaigns since 2004 involved in organizing, knocking doors, and voter registration.
  • Providing supporter housing for every cycle since 2004
  • Charter member, board of directors for The Iowa Kitchen
  • EdCo Community Credit Union Board of Directors, 8 years; 4 years as chair

Who is Rob Johnson?

Age: 36

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up: Chicago

Current town of residence: Des Moines

Education: Bachelor of Arts in politics, Drake University

Occupation: Field service representative for Wellmark and associate minister at Corinthian Baptist Church

Political experience and civic activities:

  • 2014 deputy campaign manager for Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad
  • 2020 Iowa faith outreach coordinator for Biden/Harris presidential campaign
  • 2022 faith outreach coordinator and treasurer for DeJear/Van Lancker gubernatorial campaign
  • Organizer of Rob Johnson Birthday Gas Giveaway
  • Board member for: Iowa Interfaith Alliance, Iowa Juneteenth, Back 2 School Iowa, I’ll Make Me a World, National Child Advocacy Board for Adoptions and Foster Care
  • Co-host of Code Red Mental Health Forums
  • Des Moines Public Library child literacy advocate
  • Classroom speaker at Des Moines Public Schools

Who is Dudley Muhammad?

Age: 67

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up: Des Moines

Current town of residence: Des Moines

Education: Some college. Presently attending DMACC urban campus.

Occupation: Small business owner

Political experience and civic activities: Worked on Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad’s first campaign. Have worked with several community organizations and been involved in community work for over 20 years.

Who is Danielle Duggan?

Age: 46

Party: Republican

Where did you grow up: Dayton, Ohio, and Manchester, Iowa

Current town of residence: Ankeny*

*Candidates must live in the districts they want to represent 60 days before the general election.

Education: I went to college but didn’t finish. Even outside the standard classroom since the early 2000s though, I have been and am continuing to work on educating myself every day because if I know anything, I know I know nothing and I still have a lot to learn.

Occupation: ”Angry White Lady” from Ankeny

Political experience and civic activities: Well, I have been in politics either by force as a child through my politically active parents and their friends, and then as I got older by choice. I have done a variety of things from working for LSA in the computer services division on the House and Senate floors in a bipartisan manner to being a journalist and personally interviewing political candidates, once again though attempting to be bipartisan and use proper AP style. My personal favorite political activities are by far parade season and door knocking. I refuse to participate in mass mailers and/or phone banks. My least favorite.

What would be your top issue should you be elected?

Campbell: Top issues include: education, economic justice, disability rights and voting rights.

El-Baroudi: As a 29-year public school educator I am focused on the attacks against our education system. I have had to live the current underfunding of and demonization of our system and teachers. I will focus on bringing the realities we face every day to the House floor and share how these attacks have hurt children and our communities. I will work to engage our communities across the state to improve our schools and empower our state to bring a world-class education to all students, because education is the greatest driver of economic growth and quality of life.


  • Support our schools, AEAs, educators and fight to keep public money in public schools.
  • Enshrine reproductive freedoms in the Iowa Constitution.
  • Properly fund our mental health care systems so that those who need care get it.
  • Lower monthly bills by expanding access to affordable housing and child care, lower taxes for working families and increase wages for all.

Muhammad: Children’s mental health and mental health in general, there’s still things that we can do and I would work hard to explore all options. We have an opportunity to make positive advances if we act now.

Duggan: My platform is faith, family, funding. I believe our state government needs to stay out of our faith, out of our families and give us more local control of our funding. My top issues are making sure that members of our state government who have been discussing imaginary issues and pretend problems while our children have been dying get removed from office, regardless of party affiliation. I believe good people make good policy regardless of party and some Iowa elected officials need to be removed from office once and for all because they are not good. We deserve great. We’re Iowa. We need to do better.

What policies would you support to improve Iowa’s education system?

Campbell: I would support policies that prioritize teacher development, smaller class sizes and early childhood education. Policies that include curriculum that promote equity, community involvement and assessment reforms that ensure fair opportunities. Targeted support for rural schools addresses their unique challenges. With these measures, Iowa can cultivate a diverse, inclusive and innovative learning environment, equipping students for future success.


  • Increase annual funding so programs and services can be expanded for our students.
  • Make up for prior budget shortfalls.
  • Ensure adequate support services for students through the AEAs.
  • Reverse damaging legislation that puts our students at risk, like the arming teachers law and private school vouchers.
  • Prioritize school funding early in the session so districts can plan and budget.
  • Create an environment that honors racial, religious, and LGBTQ+ diversity.
  • Engage our rural neighbors in conversation about education and the value of outstanding schools to build communities.
  • Use our $1.8 billion surplus to serve our state, our communities, and our students.

Johnson: We must reverse course in Iowa and roll back Gov. Reynolds’ voucher program and return to a public school system where our AEAs are properly funded. We also have to ensure that our children learn all aspects of our history so they feel seen, heard and valued.

Muhammad: Student and staff safety. Diversity of teaching staff. Higher pay for teachers. Trade classes.

Duggan: My suggestion has been and will continue to be to eliminate the middleman position of superintendent in the Iowa Department of Education, as well as any boards and committees they have. There is nothing a superintendent does that high school principal cannot do and you will instantaneously put six figures back into each and every Iowa school district by eliminating one position. Give the money to overpaid AEA leaders, who need a pay cut not job elimination, and have them spend it on trauma recovery services for all educators. Expand the charter school program and registered apprenticeship programs to give more Iowa parents, children and adult learners more options.

What do you think Iowa’s tax policy should be? Do you believe the state’s priority should be on lowering rates or spending on services for Iowans?

Campbell: I believe Iowa’s tax policy should prioritize fairness and equity, ensuring that the burden falls more heavily on those who can afford it while providing essential services for all Iowans. Rather than focusing solely on lowering rates, the state should consider raising revenue through progressive taxation, such as increasing taxes on corporations. This revenue can then be invested in vital public services like education, health care, infrastructure and social programs, benefiting all residents and promoting economic growth from the bottom up.

El-Baroudi: A progressive tax system works. A flat tax may be equal, but an equitable system taxes those with more capacity at a higher rate. If allocated properly, the current system provides the resources to address the fiscal and societal needs of our citizens. As a society, we have a duty to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate and make Iowa a beacon of equity and opportunity. Our economy and society grow and flourish when we fund our schools, improve mental health services, address homelessness and affordable housing and support our young people and those from marginalized communities.

Johnson: I believe we must stop the handouts to corporations and special interests and take care of our most vulnerable population by ensuring SNAP and other benefits are properly funded. Additionally, it’s vital we foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and supports small businesses to contribute to long-term economic prosperity.

Muhammad: I’m always going to be for lowering taxes, however, services for Iowans are also needed. We must find a way to do both.

Duggan: I believe we need to have a flat income tax, expand property tax credit programs to all Iowa veterans regardless of disability rating, as well as include civil service workers, including rural Iowa teachers, firefighters and EMTs, and public defenders. In addition, I believe we could attract a lot of young entrepreneurs to Iowa if we stop making people who do not have children pay for our public schools and the mess they have going on. So, a property tax credit program for them would be great too.

What policies would you support to improve school safety in Iowa?

Campbell: Improving school safety in Iowa requires comprehensive policies that address the root causes of violence while promoting a supportive learning environment. I support measures such as implementing evidence-based violence prevention programs, increasing funding for mental health services in schools and promoting restorative justice practices.

El-Baroudi: As an educator I have run active shooter drills in my class and dealt with threats. Our children’s safety is a priority. Safety starts with relationships. We need resources for increased staff that will get to know our students and build trust. Secondly, we need to harden entrances and access to our schools: Secured doors with sensors and cameras to observe intrusions and the staff to respond immediately when those entrances are breached. As a society we need to pass common sense gun laws that reduce access to guns. Waiting periods and background checks are a start.

Johnson: We should take a comprehensive approach to school safety in Iowa. Emergency response plans should involve parents and children so they know what to do if an urgent situation arises. Increasing mental health services, providing regular training for staff and students and utilizing technology for surveillance and communication can also help improve school safety. As a regular speaker to students in Des Moines Public Schools, I also believe community engagement and involvement can help support our students and reduce violence.

Muhammad: I would support metal detectors and also armed professional security trained in de-escalation. I also would be open to other ideas.

Duggan: Put school resource officers back in public schools; start a National Guard Youth Challenge program for children in Iowa public schools who may need additional support (Des Moines, Waterloo, Davenport, Dubuque and Sioux City); expand the ROTC programs in school districts with high absenteeism and low test scores; hold monthly NRA gun safety and training programs for not only Iowa educators but all Iowa children starting in kindergarten; pay teachers more not only in salary but for training programs on trauma recovery.

What next steps do you believe the Iowa Legislature should take when it comes to abortion?

Campbell: Advocate for comprehensive reproductive rights, including affordable and accessible abortion services. Prioritize bodily autonomy and reproductive justice for all individuals, regardless of income or location. Repeal restrictive abortion laws and implement comprehensive sex education programs to empower informed decision-making. Make sure that every person has the right to make their own choices about their body and future, free from stigma or barriers.

El-Baroudi: Abortion is health care. We need to stop weaponizing abortion rights and support all our citizens’ right to their own bodies. No one is a fan of abortion. I have never met anyone who uses abortion as contraception. It is an extremely difficult and emotional decision. Often it is necessary when the baby is not viable or a health risk to the mother. The Iowa Legislature should pass legislation making a woman’s choice the law. Our state should pass a constitutional amendment to codify this right and end the debate.

Johnson: I believe we should protect reproductive freedoms in the Iowa Constitution.

Muhammad: I believe in severe cases of rape or for health reasons abortions could be considered. That’s an open discussion that I’m willing to have.

Duggan: Wait to see what the Iowa Supreme Court says I guess.

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