OTTUMWA — When told he’s made a politician mad, state Sen. Mark Chelgren’s first response has often been a quiet yet seemingly proud chuckle.
It’s one of the messages Chelgren has repeated: He’s in Des Moines for constituents, not to make his party, or any other party, happy. The media has done more than one story sparked by messages from his fellow Republican senators complaining of how Chelgren was not playing ball.
But Chelgren told an audience at a local coffee house Saturday he also wasn’t interested in saying “no” just to make a point. He understands compromise.
“You actually want to fix problems, not just be a naysayer,” he said.
Chelgren was at the first of several campaign stops over the weekend. He’s running for the Iowa Senate again and will face competition from one of at least two Democrats who want his seat.
Chelgren claims there are times he’s worked with local and state Democrats to get things done, though the party doesn’t usually publicize his efforts — and prefers he not make a big deal out of those cooperative efforts, either. They want their candidates elected, after all, he said. It’s a small price, he added, for actually getting things accomplished.
“I ran for office so I can accomplish things, not so I can just keep running for office.”
And he’s seen changes in Iowa. The tax code is moving toward a more fair balance than when he first went to Des Moines; he’d campaigned, in part, on “fixing” a tax code that gives business a much higher tax rate than residential property owners.
When audience members brought up high taxes even on individuals, Chelgren warned against trying to suddenly make huge governmental changes that can do more harm than good.