Grace Van Cleave

Candidate for District 17

Meet Grace Van Cleave

Grace Van Cleave is a small businessowner, a community advocate, and a candidate for Iowa Senate District 17.

She was raised in a deep red district of Tennessee to a family of loyal Democrats, where her grandfather served in the Tennessee state legislature. Grace’s father was a hard-working lawyer who loved two things – politics and baseball, a passion he instilled in his young daughter. Grace and her father could often be found sitting around the television watching a game and talking about politics, world events and filling out scorecards (The best way to watch a game!). 

In her teen years, Grace’s father was diagnosed with Stage Four Melanoma and was forced to stop working, putting his health insurance and treatments in jeopardy. After her father’s untimely death at 48, Grace’s Mom was forced to switch jobs numerous times in order to maintain health coverage for the family. It was through this experience that Grace understood how hard it is for most working families to navigate our convoluted healthcare system and that our elected officials can and should do more to ease the health care burdens of their constituents.

Armed with a love for Democratic politics fostered by her late father and a determination to help fix a broken system, Grace enrolled at Kenyon College and graduated with a degree in Political Science. Grace dedicated her early professional life to helping elect Democrats in Iowa and across the country.

She worked for organizations such as EMILY’s List, America Votes, the Democratic Governors Association and served as a Finance staffer for USDA Secretary and Former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack. Apart from her work in politics, Grace also plays an active role in community aid, most recently leading an Invest DSM improvement project on her block.

Grace sees her candidacy for Iowa Senate District 17 as a natural evolution to her community service and electoral work. That’s why she’s running an unapologetic campaign focused on justice for Iowa families who have been hit hard by the pandemic-impacted economy. Issues like child care, paid family leave, and increasing small business opportunities for women entrepreneurs are central to her campaign.

There are 50 seats in the Iowa Senate – 12 are held by women, and only 7 are pro-choice women. When it comes to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, Iowans are facing the most important election in 50 years. Even now, conservative opponents are developing plans for a constitutional amendment aimed at the 2024 statewide ballot that will crush reproductive freedoms as we have known it.  Someday, 50 percent or more of legislative seats will be filled by women who can speak to their experiences as women. But today, every single voice matters and Grace will fight to be heard above all the noise, on behalf of Iowa women.

Today, Grace serves as a Senior Director and Founding Leader of Stella & Dot, a network of over 30,000 stylists and runs her own small business, Amazing Grace Styling, a personal styling company focused on helping women entrepreneurs uplevel their look, reclaim their time, and communicate their stories. She resides in Des Moines with her partner John and their two redheaded rescue dachshunds, Maggie and Molly.