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CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa’s longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley may have began as a lawmaker who worked across party lines but that is not the Grassley of today, Democrat Mike Franken told about 80 supporters who gathered Tuesday at Kirkwood Community College to listen to the retired three-star Navy admiral running to replace him.
Franken, 64, has campaigned on putting “country over party” and “people over politics.” He contends that Grassley has lost his bipartisan streak and has become more supportive of right-wing causes and special interests over the needs of Iowans.
“We deserve something other than a senator for life, who lines his campaign coffers and his pockets on our dime with special interest money,” Franken said.
Grassley, 89, has served 63 consecutive years in public office. Should he be re-election and serve a full term, he would be 95 at the end of his six-year term.
Franken has campaigned on a pledge to refuse donations from corporate political action committees, but has received criticism from Republicans for taking money from Democratic Leadership PACs, which have some percentage of funding from corporate PACs.
He criticized Grassley for voting against an amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act that would have capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month, reducing costs “of a needed drug” for some 240,000 Iowans living with diabetes.
He also criticized Grassley for voting against the Violence Against Women Act and “any kind of common-sense … bipartisan, safer, responsible gun laws,” and for his consistent support for banning access to abortion.
“The last thing a woman in those dire moments must do is look upon a constitutional lawyer, Chuck Grassley or the federal governments in her delivery room,” Franken said.
He said he is running in the Nov. 8 election for “a new future for the state of Iowa” — one that provides access to and prioritizes quality health care, protects women’s reproductive rights, invests in and restores Iowa’s place as a leader in the country for public education and provides “good paying jobs, union jobs with retirement and medical packages.”
"This is the type of Iowa we want in the future,“ he said. ”It means working to get an environmentally friendly Iowa and in farming as well so that Iowa farmers — Iowa future farmers — can bring their 21st century sensibilities to attack the problems of tomorrow; to bring about an entirely different production in the state of Iowa.“
Franken presented himself as an experienced leader, after four decades in the Navy, who has the tenacity to combat threats to American democracy, something he says Grassley has been complicit in normalizing.
Grassley has appeared alongside and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who he criticized in the days following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. Grassley ultimately voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial, and will campaign with the former president again Thursday in Sioux City.
Franken said it’s time for “a new era of leaders serving Iowans, and not the other way around.”
“If you believe that Midwestern values compel us to tackle Iowa’s problems and not each other, then you belong on this campaign,” he said.
Grassley campaign spokeswoman Michaela Sundermann criticized Franken’s support of President Joe Biden and policies leading to record inflation and a high cost of living.
"Mike Franken says Joe Biden is doing a 'fabulous job' as president, but the truth is that Joe Biden is failing America as 40-year-high inflation forces Iowans to pay more for rent, groceries, utilities, and gas,“ Sundermann said. ”Mike Franken supports every single tax-and-spend policy of Joe Biden's that's caused historic inflation and he has even said senators have 'no role' in fighting inflation. That’s not leadership — that’s throwing in the towel. Chuck Grassley won’t abandon Iowans struggling to make ends meet in the Biden economy. The senator we need is the senator we've got."
Franken said he would work to bring down inflation by helping to fixing supply chain issues, capping medical costs and supporting comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform to help address workforce needs.
Caleb McCullough of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed.
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