The wife of the Iowa Republican Party’s would-be candidate for attorney general drew fire late last week over a post in Ames People, a private Facebook group with more than 20,000 members, that commented on the murder of 22-year-old standout golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena by a man with no known address. “Why on earth are we tolerating homeless people here??” she asked, calling on Police Chief Chuck Cychosz to “take action” on the issue.
The woman, Julia Anderson, lives in Ames with her husband Patrick, who stirred up a minor controversy of his own in August when he launched a last-minute petition drive for ballot access as the Republican candidate for state attorney general. Backed by the Story County GOP, he claimed that “Democrats trade American lives for illegal votes” and focused his campaign on the death of 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts at the hands of an undocumented immigrant in July.
“I’m extremely sickened that an innocent young woman was murdered senselessly in our tiny, exclusive city!” Julia Anderson’s Facebook post read. “Why on earth are we tolerating homeless people here?? I live here and pay these exorbadent taxes [sic] because it’s supposedly a safe place for my kids!? This is just awful!! Our police chief needs to take action!!”
The post resulted in over 150 comments from other members of the group and elicited an overwhelmingly negative reaction. Several accused her of elitism or insensitivity, saying she was unfairly criticizing the city’s entire homeless population for the actions of one man. A handful of people drew attention to her husband’s ill-fated AG campaign (which failed to obtain enough petition signatures), suggesting he employed a similar argument to target undocumented immigrants as a whole.
Occasionally, Anderson replied to a critical comment. “The bleeding hearts in this town will have us living in a tent city and still paying high taxes all the while encouraging crime and not helping anybody!” she wrote in one response. She later edited her initial comment to add another sentence referencing Saturday’s Cyclones football game remembrance of Arozamena. “Instead of wearing a yellow shirt how about we all donate and volunteer against homelessness and drug addiction in our community in Celia’s memory?” she asked, providing a link to the Ames Salvation Army website.
Because of her relationship to the GOP’s would-be AG candidate and the reaction she got in the large local forum from her blunt comments on the second stabbing death of an Iowa university student in just the past three months, the Informer reached out to Anderson with a series of questions asking her to further clarify her remarks. She did.
First, we asked what Anderson meant by the city’s exorbitant taxes, noting that the state ranks its consolidated tax rate as just the 632nd largest of 938 Iowa communities and that Ames has the lowest property tax rate among Iowa cities with populations of at least 20,000. She replied that Ames’ median income is higher than the state average (according to the US Census Bureau, the city’s median household income was actually $41,278 compared to $54,570 for the state as a whole from 2012-16, although the local figures are skewed by students who account for roughly half the city’s population). She also cited Ames’ relatively high housing costs, and the county tax rate. (The state ranks Story County’s property tax rate by levy 85th among Iowa’s 99 counties.)
Anderson also expanded on her comment about policing. “Our police chief needs to make it a policy to compel homeless drug users to avail themselves of the shelters by using the resources or move along,” she said. “We’re not helping them or us by encouraging them to hang around our town and use and sell drugs, hurting themselves and now others. I would want the police to move those people who don’t want help.”
She added that she believes Ames lacks the resources to provide adequate drug treatment services locally. Arozamena’s alleged killer, 22-year-old Collin Richards, stayed at an Ames homeless shelter for a time before he was kicked out because of a drug problem, according to a man who knew him from the shelter and later tried to help him get on his feet by finding him a job after he relocated to a homeless encampment in South Ames in the vicinity of the Coldwater Golf Links, where he allegedly stabbed Arozamena to death.
“I can’t be specific because of confidentiality, but hardly a week goes by when we aren’t helping someone find assistance to pay for their shelter and expenses,” Anderson said, drawing a more sympathetic self-portrayal of her views on homelessness. “Disabled, addicted, single moms, elderly, etc. I’m fairly familiar with the assistance programs in Ames because of this.”
Lastly, Anderson did not respond directly to two specific examples of criticism of her husband’s short-lived campaign for attorney general. At the liberal news blog Bleeding Heartland, Laura Belin slammed him in a post headlined, “Meet Patrick Anderson, Iowa’s most opportunistic demagogue.” Shane Vander Hart, a social conservative who runs the blog Caffeinated Thoughts, called his campaign “ill-conceived” and in poor taste. “Politicizing that tragedy,” Vander Hart wrote of the Tibbetts murder, “especially right after the news broke, is just gross.”
However, Anderson said that her husband had been a reluctant campaigner who was persuaded to launch his bid at the urging of other residents and in the interest of promoting community safety. “My husband was asked on numerous occasions by other concerned citizens,” she said. “It was never our preference for him to run at this time; it was in fact very inconvenient for us. We have children and grandchildren to attend to. This is our major motivation for wanting a safe community.” (A statement he made after his campaign ended also mentioned his “regrets” that the Iowa GOP had failed to previously nominate anyone to run for the position.)
Anderson serves on the advisory board for One Life One Heart International, a nonprofit with a location in Ames that partners with churches to provide assistance for sexual assault victims. On her Facebook page, she describes herself as “a VERY conservative Republican” and her political views as “ultraconservatism.” Her husband, a lawyer, appears to have similar views. On his Facebook page, he decries the “liberal propaganda media machine” and links to the website of alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an article at the conspiratorial far-right blog Gateway Pundit falsely stating that antifa anarchists are part of the Democratic Party and comparing them to the Ku Klux Klan, and a How Much of a Cuck Are You? quiz (his cuck level is 0 percent).
Had he gotten on the ballot, Patrick Anderson would have faced long odds against Democratic incumbent Tom Miller, who served as the state’s attorney general from 1979 to 1991, then returned to the position in 1995, where he’s been ever since. Miller most recently defeated now-acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg in 2014 by 11 points.
After his petition drive came up short, Patrick Anderson thanked supporters — they included the Story County GOP, which had lauded him as a “strong conservative” who “won’t be afraid to speak his mind and uphold the laws of our great state” — and Gov. Kim Reynolds in a statement. In it, he also took aim at Miller, slamming his “awful public service” and calling him a “corrupt official that refused to defend our laws,” an apparent reference to his view that Miller fails to properly enforce immigration laws and is too preoccupied with joining multi-state lawsuits against the Trump administration.