Government

2020 Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney touts rural revitalization plan in Iowa City

Cliff Jette/The Gazette

Presidential hopeful John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, speaks at a meet-and-greet Sunday at MERGE in Iowa City.
Cliff Jette/The Gazette Presidential hopeful John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, speaks at a meet-and-greet Sunday at MERGE in Iowa City.
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IOWA CITY — John Delaney, a Democratic presidential hopeful and former U.S. representative from Maryland, thinks economic revitalization is possible in some of the most rural parts of America, and said he has the plan to make it happen.

Delaney, 55, spoke Sunday to a crowd of 75 at the MERGE coworking space in the Pedestrian Mall as part of a rollout for the “Heartland Fair Deal,” his rural revitalization proposal.

Delaney, who in 2017 was the first Democratic hopeful to officially launch a 2020 presidential campaign, has completed a 99-county tour in Iowa, but Sunday marked his first stop in the Johnson County seat.

Among his proposed policies — which center on infrastructure, economic development, health and agriculture — the Heartland Fair Deal calls for student loan forgiveness for anyone living and working in “distressed” communities for at least 10 years.

“If you move to a distressed rural community but you happen to have a job or own a business or something that you’re making lots of money on, I don’t think the taxpayers want to put loan forgiveness against that,” Delaney said in an interview with The Gazette.

“It’s really designed to work with things like earned income tax credit, which is to create a boost for workers who are struggling and recognizing that maybe a lot of the jobs, particularly in rural America … may not be able to pay as well as others,” he said.

Delaney, a former business executive, touted his investments in rural start-ups and said his policies would offer more funding to entrepreneurs in places such as Iowa.

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He also said he does not support “Medicare for All,” a proposed public plan option, because rural hospitals would struggle to receive adequate funding.

He criticized Medicaid programs across the country for not reimbursing enough for services, creating a limited provider network.

If elected, Delaney hopes to roll Medicaid into his universal health care proposal, which entails a government-funded public plan for those under the age of 65.

Americans could opt out of the public plan and receive tax credit for buying private insurance. By doing so, it boosts the commercial insurance market by encouraging private insurers to offer supplemental plans the public plan does not, he said.

“I envisioned a universal health care market where everyone gets health care as a right, but it’s kind of a public/private market,” Delaney said. “There’s private insurance and government insurance kind of working together.”

An Iowa Poll — conducted by the Des Moines Register with CNN and Mediacom — showed 25 percent of respondents viewed Delaney favorably and about 1 percent said he was their first or second choice for office.

“Despite his best attempts, Iowans have largely ignored John Delaney’s yearlong campaign for president,” said Preya Samsundar, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “Any attempts to stand out among an ever-growing field have been futile as Delaney struggles to garner support and funds for his lack of positions.”

Delaney said there’s a difference between what voters want and what “the loudest voices in the room” say.

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“I think that I am clearly the more moderate, more centrist candidate,” he said. “I think a more moderate, centrist candidate overwhelmingly has a better chance of beating (President Donald) Trump.”

Sue Bryant, 66-year-old Iowa City resident, said she attended Sunday’s event to get to know Delaney as a presidential candidate. She said labeling candidates as moderate or not is neither “particularly important” nor “particularly helpful.”

“I don’t particularly care about moderate, progressive, conservative labels. I think they tend to divide us rather than bring us together,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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