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Political newcomer defeats incumbent for Des Moines City Council

Kassidy Arena
Newest Des Moines City Councilperson Indira Sheumaker poses with her campaign team and supporters after the Polk County auditor's website revealed she won.

The crowd roared at a café in downtown Des Moines after unofficial results on the Polk County auditor’s website revealed Indira Sheumaker had defeated incumbent Bill Gray by 542 votes for Ward 1 (which covers much of the north and west sides of the city). She defeated the other candidate Marcus Coenen by a 1,594 votes.

Sheumaker herself walked around the café, hugging anyone who crossed her path.

Sheumaker became interested in city council while organizing and participating in racial justice movements last year with the Black Liberation Movement. She said she wants to make sure she isn't intimidating in her new role.

"I want to be the kind of leader who is part of the community, the kind of leader people can talk to you. I can't be coming from the protests and saying like, ‘mmm, don't show up in my lawn. I already told all these people: if you don't like what I do, you better be banging on my door with 500 people on my lawn," Sheumaker yelled over the celebratory music.

After her shock wore down, Sheumaker addressed the crowd of supporters at her watch party. She explained right up until the 8 p.m. voting deadline, she had been knocking on doors and walking down the streets of the city to make sure people voted.

Kassidy Arena
Sheumaker, 27, addressed the crowd at her watch party in downtown Des Moines on election night. One of the issues she said she will focus on is social justice.

“I am so excited. But more than that, I am so ready. I've been planning. I've been planning what I'm going to do as a councilperson since before I announced. Since June 8, 2020, I've been planning what to do as a city councilperson," she said.

Sheumaker said most of the funds she raised were from individual donors. She pointed toward her grandparents in the crowd when she said the largest donation she received was from them.

At the end of her speech, she led the crowd in a chant: "You can't mute us," in reference to previous city council meetings where she said she was muted by councilmembers.

Incumbents won the other two seats on this year’s ballot. Josh Mandelbaum for Ward 3 and Connie Boesen for the at-large seat. This will be the second term for both. Mandelbaum won almost 67 percent of the votes in Ward 3 against Cory McAnelly and Brandi Webber. Boesen won a little more than 54 percent against Justyn Lewis.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines