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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST DES MOINES — Craig and Marilyn Millhollin are precisely the type of voters upon which Mike Franken’s hopes are pinned.
Franken is the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s 2022 U.S. Senate campaign. The retired U.S. Navy admiral from Sioux City is attempting the impossible: to defeat longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been winning elections in Iowa since “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” debuted in theaters.
The Millhollins, who live in Des Moines, say they were Republican voters in the past — including many times for Grassley — but this election they plan to vote for Franken. They were among the roughly 300 who attended Franken’s campaign rally — what he hopes becomes his first annual “Blue Wave Bash” — on Saturday afternoon at Hurd Amphitheater.
“I like (Franken). I’m disappointed in Grassley. I used to be Republican,” Marilyn said, adding that she began moving away from the Republican Party under former President Donald Trump, and that she did not like how Grassley “treated” Democratic former President Barack Obama or Grassley’s role in the nominations of new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“So I’m anxious for a change,” Marilyn said.
Craig said he feels Grassley is too beholden to business interests — “And I say that as a business guy,” he said.
One of the central themes of Franken’s campaign has been that he can appeal to middle of the road voters, and Iowans who have voted for Grassley in the past but have become disenfranchised with him or the Republican Party in the era of Trump.
Defeating Grassley will be no small task. He has not lost an election since his first election to the statehouse in 1958, and has won his six re-election campaigns to the U.S. Senate by an average of 35 percentage points.
The highly respected Iowa Poll, from the Des Moines Register and Mediacom, in July showed Grassley leading Franken by 8 percentage points. And four top national forecasters rate the campaign in their most likely Republican category.
Franken’s remarks at Saturday’s rally featured two major themes that fit his appeal to less partisan voters: party over country and people over politics.
“Our campaign centers around that: country over party,” Franken said. “But at the core of every campaign, in every Congressional office, is the leader. And in the heart of that leader must be an unshakable belief that you are duty-bound to choose not just country over party, but country over self — again, again, again, even when there’s profits to be made and favors to be curried. Especially when it’s really, really hard.
“Iowans wake up every day doing hard things. Sometimes they even cross party lines to vote for the other person. And that takes, in today's environment, a lot of guts.”
On the issues, Franken spoke about education, mental health care, gun safety, health care, Social Security, the environment, agriculture, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access.
“To me, people over politics is a reminder that Iowa has a long proud history of protecting civil rights. Not because we’re a bastion of progressivism, but because we look out for our neighbor, staying out of their business but lifting them up when their burden becomes too much,” Franken said. “We act as servant leaders. We act as our brother’s keeper and that’s a good thing.”
Speaking later Saturday at Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ annual fall fundraiser, Grassley praised Reynolds and Iowa Republicans for cutting state taxes multiple times over the past four years and said it is imperative to elect Republicans to Congress to ensure the 2017 federal tax cuts — enacted under Trump and with full Republican control of Congress — are extended when they come up for legislative renewal in 2025.
“If we leave these Democrats in charge in Washington, D.C., this tax decrease in 2017 sunsets 2025 and instead of the largest tax decrease in the history of the country, we’re going to have the biggest tax increase in the history of the country,” Grassley said.
Franken and Grassley are scheduled to debate Thursday night on Iowa PBS.
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