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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – U.S. Senate hopeful Roxanne Conlin called for President Obama to move his office to the Gulf of Mexico to show that he's on top of the job of containing and cleaning up the BP oil spill.
However, Tom Fiegen, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination to face the Republican incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley, said Obama is not a geologist and doubted that his presence would help.
It was the first of several disagreements between Fiegen, a Clarence bankruptcy attorney, and Conlin, a Des Moines trial attorney during a May 27 forum at Kirkwood Community College.
Despite the disagreements, the hour-long forum sponsored by League of Women Voters of Johnson County along with IowaPolitics.com, The Gazette, and Mediacom, was not marked by the sharp words between the two at a forum earlier in the week.
Monday, in a Des Moines Register-WHO-TV forum, Fiegen confronted Conlin, asking her how she could advocate “weaning” Grassley from his farm subsidies when she and her husband have received millions in housing tax credits.
She called his suggestion it would be difficult to go after Grassley farm subsidies when she and her husband have been the recipients of much more in tax credits “simply ridiculous.”
Fiegen had indicated he would come with more ammunition against Conlin, who has far greater resources than either Fiegen or a third Democrat, Bob Krause of Fairfield.
Hours before the forum, Fiegen sent a message via Twitter, a social message network, that he was looking for more substance than the previous forum.
Roxanne Conlin “spin and sound bites not the answer to our challenges,” he tweeted.
He did question Conlin's relationship with federal lobbyist Jerry Crawford, but Conlin said he has taken no money from a federal lobbyist and has sued the company Crawford represents.
However, Fiegen and Conlin agreed their campaigns would be marked by strong attacks on the records of their opponents, but remain civil.
A third candidate, Bob Krause of Fairfield was not able to be present. He was out-of-state on business and his flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Krause, as former state legislator, has made veterans' issues a focal point of his shoe-string campaign.
Fiegen pushed his “feigen-omics” agenda and asked his Kirkwood Community College audience who would be better to send to the Senate, a trial attorney who handles personal injury cases or a bankruptcy attorney who teaches economics.
Colin said she fights for ordinary people every day as a trial attorney and would continue that in Washington.
“It's the nature of the work I do – I stand up for ordinary people,” she said.
Fiegen contrasted her “trickle down” tax credit plan with his proposal to put people back to work building new water and sewer treatment systems that will improve the environment, rebuild the electric grid to maximize Iowa's wind energy potential and bring back the Civilian Conservation Corps to restore historic landmarks.
On immigration, both called for securing the southern border. Conlin supported Obama's plan to move 1.200 troops to the border. Fiegen called for a much larger build-up and wants the Army to patrol the border.
Both want to give illegal immigrants in the country a path to citizenship.
“We need them to come,” Fiegen said, referring to farm workers, “and we need to find a way to get them here legally.”
Conlin wants illegal immigrants to pass a criminal background check, pay back taxes, pay a fine and “go to the back of the line.”
Most of all, she said, it's time to address the problem, rather than “kick the can down the road” like Grassley has been doing for years.
Conlin and Fiegen, who will be on Iowa Public Television's Iowa Press this weekend, agreed it's time for the military to end its “don't ask, don't tell” policy and backed same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose. They also agreed that farm subsidies should be limited to no more than $250,000 a year and targeted to support independent, family farmers.
They disagreed on the role ethanol should play in the nation's energy portfolio. Fiegen said it's not a long-term solution and a policy that pits food against energy is not in the country's best interest.
Conlin said the nation can afford to support home-grown energy by cutting subsidies to Big Oil.