The Republican candidate for House District 83 is working to fill a House seat long held by Democrats.

MONTROSE - When campaigning in a district controlled by Democrats for more than three decades, Jeff Reichman knows he will need to sway Lee County residents who traditionally don't vote with the Republican Party.

"It's a good time to bring them in," said Reichman, the Republican candidate for House District 83 in the Iowa Legislature.

He sees a Democratic Party "split by liberals" who no longer appeal to more conservative, "punching the clock Democrats" who are in favor of stricter immigration laws, gun rights and low taxes.

"I really think, for the most part, Americans like their politics a little right-center, and I totally agree with that," Reichman said Tuesday in an interview. "I don't think we need to move too far right. We need to be mindful that there are other Iowans and we all need to have some common ground."

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Born and raised in Keokuk, Reichman now lives in Montrose as a small business owner and employee of Roquette America in Keokuk. After graduating from Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Reichman began his active duty service with the U.S. Marine Corps., deploying overseas for multiple combat tours and climbing the ranks to lieutenant colonel. When his latest active duty tour ended in 2013, he returned to Lee County and remains active with the Marines as a reserve officer.

Despite past experience in the private sector, Reichman said he struggled to find employment when he returned home.

"I've been laid off, I've been downsized, I've been underemployed, so I've actually lived a lot of the challenges that people in Lee County have experienced in the last few years."

Upon returning to the area, Reichman said he was "unhappy and saddened" by the struggling economy here and decided to get involved in local politics and economic development groups.

"In the Marine Corps. we're always taught if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem."

Running for public office wasn't close on the horizon for Reichman until Democratic Rep. Jerry Kearns of Keokuk announced in January he wasn't running for re-election.

Since then, Reichman has run a campaign focused on economic development, bipartisanship and pro-growth policies for Iowa. He was unopposed in the June primary but will face Democrat Jeff Kurtz of Fort Madison on Election Day, Nov. 6.

According to the latest campaign finance disclosures due last Friday, 100 percent of the $1,825 he raised over the last five months was from voters in House District 83, which includes Fort Madison, Keokuk and some rural parts of the county.

In the same period, Kurtz raised $22,754, 71 percent of which came from PACs (political action committees) and out-of-state groups.

"We can't keep up with them (Democrats) on spending, we can't keep up with them in this area to advertise and campaign, but I think we have a good message. And that's been obvious that we got them just where we want them. I think the people in Lee County are ready for that change."

Given Republicans' recent privatization of Medicaid and rollback of collective bargaining rights for public employees, voters have been concerned this election cycle about the fate of IPERS — Iowa's pension system for public employees.

The notion that Republicans would change the state's retirement system was "election year propaganda," Reichman said.

"IPERS (Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System) is fantastic. It's an excellent program and I can see why people are so defensive about it. By invoking some doubt as to its status going forward, I think you can really rally a lot of people. I've watched the video personally of Gov. (Kim) Reynolds, saying right from her mouth, that she says we've made this promise to Iowans and that's a promise we need to honor."

Early voting began Oct. 8 and is available in-person until 5 p.m. Nov. 5. The last day to request an absentee ballot through the mail is 5 p.m. Saturday.