116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Born and raised in Lebanon, Iowa — a small farming community of fewer than 50 people in far northwest Iowa, not far from the South Dakota border — Iowa Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken says he’s seen firsthand the decline of rural Iowa.
“We see the towns we came from. My town was 48 people and I think there’s 12 there now. And the vitality of that town is only predicated on the church, and that’s generally it,” Franken said. “That’s the situation in rural Iowa. I’ve got ideas on how to re-scope things — how to re-craft things,” by seizing on and investing more strategically in Iowa’s renewable energy capabilities with wind, solar and ethanol as an opportunity to bring more people, jobs and industry to the state.
“I see Iowa having the cheapest electrical grid — the most redundant, most sustainable — and a net-negative carbon footprint before I die,” Franken told a crowd of more than 90 voters and supporters gathered Friday at the Tic Toc restaurant in Cedar Rapids. “This will change the future of Iowa.”
The retired Navy admiral — wearing dress pants, a dress shirt, a tie and a ball cap with “NAVY” scrawled across it — is running to unseat longtime Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in the Nov. 8 election.
Grassley, a Republican seeking his eighth term in the Senate, released his first ad of the general election this week, criticizing comments Franken has made about rural Iowa.
“And I’m sorry that the truth hurts so much,” Franken said Friday, responding to the ad. “But, you have to identify the problem before you proceed to a solution.”
Franken on Friday also said Iowa voters need to reject partisan politics and gather around a unifying message that puts “country over party” and “people over politics.”
He mentioned President Joe Biden’s fiery prime-time address Thursday decrying the “extreme ideology” of former President Donald Trump and his adherents “threatens the very foundation of our republic.”
“We need to treat people with respect,” Franken said. “We need to be forthright. We need to speak the truth. … And I think what you saw with the president’s speech last night is he’s had it. He’s absolutely had it. And I think a lot of Republicans in the state — and every doggone Democrat as well — we’ve had it. Stop this. We cannot have the divisions. … Stop the artificial dividing.”
Grassley campaign spokesperson Michaela Sundermann said in a statement that Franken's agenda “would transform Iowa to be more liberal than California and stay in lock step with President Joe Biden's failed policies.”
“Under President Biden, we have entered a recession and seen the cost of living skyrocket,” Sundermann said. “Iowans don't need another liberal rubber-stamp of the Biden agenda in Washington, D.C. We need someone who is fighting against the failed Biden-Franken agenda and fighting for Iowa. Iowans want to get America and our economy back on the right track. We have a proven leader in Senator Chuck Grassley.”
Franken, speaking to reporters after the campaign event in Cedar Rapids, said he applauds Biden for signing the Inflation Reduction Act last month.
“It’s a good-news bill, unlike previous bills that have been passed, or handouts that have been given to mostly corporate entities or those industries that are hazard by bad trade policy in the previous administration,” Franken said, adding the new law will modestly cut the federal budget deficit.
Franken, too, applauded the passage and signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill — which Grassley supported — stating Iowa, including rural areas, will “reap huge benefits” from the investment to upgrade the state’s ailing bridges, roads, locks and dams and expand high-speed broadband internet service that support industry and the flow of goods and services.
The latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll published in July showed Grassley leading Franken by 8 percentage points among likely Iowa voters, making it the most competitive election Grassley has faced since his election to the U.S. Senate in 1980.
Cedar Rapids resident Randy Jacobson said he has previously voted for Grassley but will be voting for Franken in the November election.
Jacobson said he was a longtime independent voter who switched to the Democratic Party during the 2008 presidential election.
He said he’s been turned off by Grassley’s support of Trump and for spreading “false rumors about things, trying to scare people.” Jacobson referred to remarks Grassley made last month on “Fox & Friends” speculating whether the IRS would use increased funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to send armed units of agents into small Iowa businesses.
Once viewed as a sober conservative voice in Congress willing to work across party lines, Jacobson said he feels Grassley has become increasingly partisan, focused more on robbing Democrats of legislative victories in Congress than advancing Iowans’ interests.
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