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Standing up for Iowans.  Leading with heart.

Whether it is sponsoring and passing Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act, advancing stronger domestic abuse prevention laws, helping Iowans get better health care, or cracking down on corruption and cronyism in state government, Janet knows how to bring people together and push policy ideas that matter.


Janet is the first Iowa woman elected to serve as the Senate Democratic Leader and may also hold a record for having the most children while serving in public office.  She is serving her second term in the Iowa Senate after serving six terms in the Iowa House of Representatives.  She represents Senate District 18 on the northwest side of Des Moines.


Janet lives north of Beaverdale, not far from where she grew up, with her husband Brian Pattinson, an Ames native, and their three kids – Charlie, Maggie and Buck. 


Janet is a passionate advocate for children and families. As a young girl, Janet saw first-hand how life can change in an instant when her dad died of melanoma.  Fortunately for Janet and her sister Barb, their mom had an education to fall back on which prevented them from slipping into poverty.  That is one of the reasons Janet is a strong supporter of public education and equal pay for equal work.


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Janet’s mom has always been a strong, steady force in her life.  She taught her the importance of showing up for people just as friends, family and neighbors did for them when they needed help the most.  Janet carries that belief with her, showing up for Iowans with policies that can help them succeed in life and regain their footing when life throws an unexpected curveball.


Outside of the legislature, Janet founded a nonprofit organization called Healthy Birth Day, Inc. with four other Des Moines area moms.  The organization is best known for its Count the Kicks campaign that educates parents-to-be on how to track their babies’ movements to reduce their risk of stillbirth.  It’s lifesaving message has spread around the globe with parents-to-be using the free Count the Kicks app in all 50 states and 150 countries.

A Midwestern Leader.

In 2017, Senator Petersen served as Chairwoman of the Midwest Legislative Conference for the Council of State Governments.  She brought a bipartisan group of more than 500 legislators from 11 Midwestern states and 4 Canadian provinces to her hometown of Des Moines to learn about issues facing the Midwest and work together on policy solutions.

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