Primary primer: First-time candidate Cande Iveson runs for 23rd District representative

Democratic candidate Cande Iveson hopes to bring her experience in the political process to the state House of Representatives.
Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 28, 2008
23rd District candidate Cande Iveson speaks with a supporter at a campaign event at the Mule Barn in Columbia.

Cande Iveson was tired of seeing partisanship trump stewardship in the Missouri House of Representatives. And on top of that, she was worried because Jeff Harris was not seeking re-election to the 23rd District seat. So at the end of the 2007 legislative session, Iveson went looking for a new representative.

"It was more a concern that we were going to lose leadership and experience," she said. "Not just this district, but Boone County has always had capable representation, so I went looking for who we could put in there."

Cande Iveson

205 E. Ridgeley Road

PERSONAL: 50. Married to Todd Iveson. She has two children, Christopher, 18, and Jessica, 15. campaign website says their ages are 17 and 14 but reporter has AC'd story and checked their ages, they are now 18 and 15

PARTY: Democrat


OCCUPATION: Founder and owner of Policy Works, LLC, which advocates on behalf of nonprofits.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in fine arts in stage management from Webster College (now Webster University), 1980; master's degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, 1995.

BACKGROUND: Founded Policy Works in 2005, former director of Strategic Initiatives caps strategic initiatives; part of name for Citizens for Missouri's Children. Volunteer activities include Reading to Rover and work with the Unitarian Universalist Church. Member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Past president first chance for children Web site says she is a past president, although not listed on her campaign site and board member of First Chance for Children.

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But much to her surprise, Iveson found that she was being encouraged to run for the seat. So she kept asking.

"I half hoped my friends would talk me out of it," she said.

But they didn't, so in October she filed her candidacy. Now she's one of two people vying for the Democratic nomination in the 23rd District.

"I just ultimately felt like I had to do it," Iveson said. "I was raised to believe you couldn't complain about something if you didn't try and fix it."

Iveson has been working on children's policy issues in Jefferson City for 10 years, eight of them for Citizen's for Missouri's Children and the last two at her own business, Policy Works. She said she has worked hard to cultivate relationships with legislators to produce good public policy dealing with early childhood education, abuse and neglect and health care, among others.

Caroline Erickson, an MU student and Iveson's campaign manager, has known Iveson about 10 years. Despite offers to work on other campaigns, Erickson signed onto Iveson's because of her familiarity with the candidate and her easy-going nature.

"She's a busy lady, but she keeps a really positive attitude," Erickson said. "Especially with term limits, we need people who know what they're doing the day they come into office."

Iveson founded Policy Works, which lobbies government on behalf of non-profits, in 2005 in response to Missouri's term-limit law. She became increasingly frustrated as she watched legislators with whom she had built relationships get term-limited out and saw that non-profit organizations could barely compete with the resources corporate interests could pour into their lobbyists. It takes longer for non-profits to gain the ear of lawmakers, Iveson said. She knows the political process and can start using that experience right away, she said.

"It was different when there weren't term limits," Iveson said. "There was a process. People learned, and people gained experience, and people grew into the job. We're going to lose half of that House again in 2010, and it's not OK. It will be insane."

Iveson hasn't always been an advocate fighting for children. She grew up in Columbia, graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then went to St. Louis to attend Webster College. After graduating with a degree in theater management, she moved to New York where she worked in a theater and met her husband, Todd.

They decided one of them had to get a "real job," so she went to work doing telecommunications work for companies in New York for five years. But she and her husband decided they didn't want to start a family in New York, so they moved to St. Louis where she continued to work in voice communications for large companies.

"I guess it just came down to: You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can't take the Midwest out of the girl," Iveson said.

But in 1990, Iveson had what she describes as a "life-changing event" when she adopted her son, Christopher. Their adoption agency advised them to try adopting from Peru, which had a new program that was supposed to be relatively simple.

"In hindsight it was a wonderful thing," Iveson said. "But we were naive and didn't realize that a new adoption program in a foreign country is fraught with peril."

She and her husband were forced to stay in Peru for three months while the country was in total upheaval. Terrorist activity, out of control inflation, inconsistent water and light - it made her reassess her priorities, she said.

"I think we were in danger the whole time and too stupid to know it," Iveson said.

She remembers going to a deserted cafe for a meal and not realizing that the waiter, from his hiding place, was trying to tell them there was a bomb threat. At one point her husband snuck into an evacuated government building that was holding a terrorist leader to finish adoption paperwork.

While in Peru, Iveson realized she wanted a change in what she was doing with her life.

"Spending three months there, I had much time to think," she said. "I was doing things that were challenging, but they weren't always fulfilling."

In 1995, Iveson received her master's in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. She immediately went to work at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and later Citizens for Missouri's Children.

In 1993, she adopted her daughter, Jessica, from St. Louis. Five years later, when Jessica was about to start kindergarten and Christopher was in second grade, the Ivesons decided to move to Columbia for the public schools and so she and her husband could be closer to Jefferson City for their jobs.

Iveson has been in Columbia now for 10 years. Both her children will be in high school at Rock Bridge this fall, and she participates in many school activities, including the PTA. One of her favorite volunteer activities is Reading to Rover, where she takes her trained therapy dog, Daisy, to the library to be read to by children.

Ann Gafke, who worked with Iveson to train her dog for Reading to Rover, said it takes a great deal of time to get a dog certified for this kind of work, and it is telling of what kind of person Iveson is to devote so much of her time to the program.

"You need to be a person that wants to help others and puts that above everything else," Gafke said. "There's no glory in this work. No one's there to give you accolades or applaud. It requires someone who is a giving person and is interested in the welfare of others."

The welfare of others has been her main concern in Jefferson City. She began working for Citizens for Missouri's Children as a senior policy analyst and eventually as director of strategic initiatives. She worked on government relations, testified in front of committees and cultivated relationships with legislators.

Philip Peters, executive director of First Chance for Children, served on the group's board with Iveson for years and thinks she would bring new prominence to children's issues in the House.

"She's energetic in trying to advance state policies to help kids thrive," he said. "She's got the ability to listen and the practical sense to accomplish things that are feasible rather than holding out for things that can't get done."

Among her many memorable experiences in Jefferson City, her relationship with a former Republican House member stands out. Although they were always on the opposite sides of issues, there was mutual respect, she said.

The legislator once introduced a bill to ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting children. She went to have a talk with him one day and flat out asked him if he had a problem with her adopted daughter being black.

"I said, ‘In a perfect world, she'd be with a black family, but it's not a perfect world, and no one has a perfect family, and she's better off with a family than she'd be in foster care,'" Iveson recalled. "So I asked him, ‘Why'd you propose that bill?'"

He admitted he'd never thought about it like that, she said, and he never took any further action on the bill.

"Those are the stories that don't show up in the press and aren't official," Iveson said. "But that's how you work it. You make those connections with people."

Even with the difficulty faced by many organizations working for children's issues, Iveson said the state has made a lot of progress, especially in the arenas of early childhood care and education.

"It used to be that the conversation we had about early care every year was, ‘Gee, this is just baby-sitting, why are we paying for this?'" Iveson said. "I can now say that the conversation has completely changed around these issues in Jefferson City. Now it is a conversation about how we can provide the best quality early learning for low-income families."

Iveson has enjoyed vying for the 23rd District seat and thinks of it as just a big job interview. But she knows the state faces difficult decisions.

"We seem to want to pretend that we can keep low taxes and still do everything," she said. "I don't think we can pretend that much longer. Those are going to be very hard conversations for people to have, but I think we're going to have to have them."

Todd Iveson said working on the campaign with his wife has brought them closer together,

"I'm very proud of her," he said. "It has strengthened the partnership in our relationship. There is a new and heightened closeness because of our shared endeavor."

Iveson said she knows the issues important to this district - health care, MU and public schools - and will work hard in the Capitol so the state budget reflects those priorities.

"I think people can trust me to manage their checkbook," she said. "Because that's what the budget is, the taxpayers' checkbook."

But no matter the outcome on Aug. 5, Iveson will continue to fight for the things she believes in.

"I don't consider myself a politician," she said. "I consider myself an advocate who knows the political process."


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