In mid-December, the Ames Tribune ran a three-part series on the deplorable conditions at four low-income apartment complexes in the neighboring town of Nevada owned by Iowa Property Holding Co-op Inc. The company is run by Patrick Anderson, an Ames lawyer who last year launched a last-minute effort to get on the ballot as a Republican candidate for Iowa attorney general in an opportunistic campaign centered on the murder of University of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts by an undocumented immigrant.
The articles, written by Nevada Journal reporter Katie Mauch, described numerous inspection violations and unanswered complaints from among the more than 50 tenants of Anderson’s rental properties, some of whom rely on government assistance and cannot afford to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Andersons are often vacationing, according to an Informer tipster, a claim supported by Facebook photos of the family in attractive locales including San Francisco and Italy.
“Fingers of mold grow up from the floor in cabinets and closets,” Mauch reported. “Exposed, live wires dangle from the hallway ceiling. A gaping hole has rotted through between the floor and the wall in the stairwell.” She also mentioned a woman who “had been without a working oven for two months,” another whose “kitchen sink was constantly running with no way to shut it off,” and a man who “received notices blaming him for deliberately causing” sewage to back up into his shower after filing complaints about the problem.
Mauch did not mention Anderson’s recent political campaign, which ended after he failed to get enough petition signatures to get on the ballot. He launched the longshot bid in August 2018 after the Republican Party of Iowa failed to nominate a candidate to challenge longtime incumbent Democrat Tom Miller, basing his campaign on a call for stronger enforcement of laws against undocumented immigrants.
Anderson specifically singled out the death of U of I student Mollie Tibbetts, who was allegedly murdered while jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa, by Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an undocumented immigrant employed by a farm owned by the family of prominent Iowa Republican Craig Lang.
“Are you upset about the Mollie Tibbetts murder?” he posted on a since-deleted Facebook campaign page. “We are getting petitions to put an attorney general candidate on the ballot that will enforce our laws.” In another post, he falsely claimed that “Democrats trade American lives for illegal votes,” adding: “The Attorney General of Iowa continually files lawsuits against the President’s administration and resists enforcing our immigration laws. We are getting petitions to put an attorney general candidate on the ballot that will enforce our laws.” (Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds later made Miller agree to stop filing friend-of-the-court briefs supporting federal lawsuits against the Trump administration.)
Anderson seized on Tibbetts’ murder despite the student’s liberal views and her family’s repeated requests that her death not be politicized. “You do not get to usurp Mollie and her legacy for your racist, false narrative now that she is no longer with us,” a cousin of hers posted on Facebook in response to others who’d exploited her death for political reasons. “The Hispanic community are Iowans,” her father added at her funeral.
Although Anderson’s campaign quickly sputtered out, it wasn’t before he received a glowing endorsement from the Story County GOP, which called him a “strong conservative” and highlighted his evangelical Christian faith in an email encouraging local Republicans to sign the ballot petition. “He’s pro life, pro gun, a strong supporter of law enforcement and won’t be afraid to speak his mind and uphold the laws of our great state,” the email read.
According to one of Anderson’s tenants interviewed for the Tribune series, “the state of the apartments only deteriorated since Anderson’s wife, Julia Anderson, took over managing the properties,” which the couple have owned and managed since 2016. (On her Facebook page, she describes herself as the “Chief Executive Officer (CEO) And Owner” of Iowa Property Holding Co-op.)
As the Informer reported last year, Julia Anderson is also prone to controversy. Shortly after a homeless man murdered former star Iowa State University golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena in Ames, she posted a question in Ames People, a Facebook forum with nearly 24,000 members: “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!!”