Thorup, of rural Knoxville, is a trooper with the Iowa State Patrol. If elected, he would take a leave of absence from the job during the session, he said.

His outlook

Thorup has been active in his union as a trooper and opposed changes to the state’s collective bargaining law approved in 2017. He said differences on some issues with Republican colleagues won’t curb his effectiveness.

“Leadership understands that you’re not gonna agree with them on everything,” Thorup said. “You don’t get elected to go up there and become a complete soldier for everything that your party says that they want to do. You’re elected by your district to go up there and make the arguments that you stand for.”

His top issues

Fiscal responsibility: Thorup said he’s probably more fiscally conservative than his opponent.

“We don’t have money for everything,” Thorup said. “At the end of the day, the question is ‘How are we gonna pay for it?’”

He mentioned a recent school board forum, at which Democrat Ann Fields said Iowa should increase aid to schools to 4 percent, while Thorup was hesitant to pledge more than 1 percent.

“It’s just not responsible for me to sit here and promise anything because I can’t even promise what my own income is going to be next year, let alone what the legislature is going to come up with,” he said.

While Thorup said schools need more money, more attention must be paid to how they spend what they get. He said the state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation system is an example of how districts can be forced to spend in ways that don’t match their priorities. Lynville-Sully schools, in the northeast part of District 28, must spend about $150,000 of their state aid on the program, he said.

“For a district that size, that’s a lot of money,” he said. “Some districts have had to really cut back on core programs but they’re still forced to spend their money on this leadership program.”

The solution, Thorup said, is local control. Let school boards decide what’s best for their students, he said.

“Every school district elects a school board at a local level, and those folks are trusted to judiciously spend money,” he said.

Public safety: School security needn’t compete with educational efforts for funding, Thorup said. But the parents of school shooting victims probably would prioritize safety enhancements, and so should Iowans, he said.

“It pains me to say this, but it’s gonna happen in Iowa. It’s just a matter of time,” Thorup said. “I would rather we look back and say, ‘Hey, I’m glad we were prepared for this.’”

Thorup said he supports the continuation of the state’s SAVE sales tax, which provides a penny on every dollar spent to support school needs such as safety enhancements.

As a trooper, he also is alarmed by staffing shortfalls. In the 11-county district he serves, there often are no troopers on the road after 3 a.m. and sometimes just one on duty from midnight to 3 a.m.

“That’s not acceptable,” Thorup said.

With drivers distracted by their cell phones, troopers are needed now more than ever, he said.

“I’m going from accident after accident where that’s the cause of it, and there are more fatalities because of it,” he said. “If we have fewer troopers and fewer ways to enforce that type of distracted driving situation, then it’s just gonna go up.”

Mental health: Many voters resonate with Thorup’s concerns about Iowa’s mental health services, he said.

“We need to treat the brain like any other organ in the body,” he said. “We need to do our best to ignore the deep-seated stigma we’ve had too long about mental illness.”

Iowa needs more mental health facilities spread out across the state, Thorup said. It also needs to listen to patients and providers, he said.

“They see what’s working and what’s not working,” he said. “Those folks are gonna know so much more about what’s going on than Jon Thorup sitting up at a desk in the legislature.”

About the race

Thorup and Fields pledged after their primary wins to run civil campaigns.

“Our process is supposed to be deliberative,” Thorup said. “It’s best not to get angry at each other’s personalities. It’s OK to disagree with their positions, but there’s no sense getting angry at the person for voicing their views, which are just as deeply held as your own.”

Pat Finan is the editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express and Pella Chronicle. He can be reached at 641-295-0624 or via email at or