Democrats Eddie Mauro, Theresa Greenfield tangle in Senate candidate debate

The four Iowa Democrats seeking their party's nomination for the U.S. Senate - Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, Theresa
The four Iowa Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate — Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, Theresa Greenfield and Eddie Mauro — are shown at an April 19 online forum. A virtual debate with the four was taped this week and broadcast Wednesday night on KWWL-TV. (Screen image)

Four Democrats vying for their party’s United States Senate nomination squared off on a virtual stage, but at times the debate seemed like a two-way contest to see which Democrat will face Republican Sen. Joni Ernst in the November general election.

Eddie, who owns a Des Moines property insurance company, wasted no time attacking Theresa Greenfield for showing a lack of leadership as a business woman and as a candidate.

“Leadership means to me doing what you say and taking responsibility,” he said in a debate that was taped May 16 and aired in Eastern Iowa on KWWL-TV on Wednesday evening. “We’re having an issue within our own party right now.”

Mauro has been critical of Greenfield for her role in laying off employees from a company that defaulted on loans before closing its Iowa operations during the Great Recession as well as her 2018 campaign that was derailed when a campaign worker was charged with felony election misconduct.

“That’s not how that happened,” Greenfield replied. “When my campaign manager told me what he had done, I took corrective action. I dismissed him. I informed the Secretary of State Office. I put our election system in front of my own political gain.”

Greenfield did get support from one of her rivals, Kimberly Graham, who said the campaign manager’s conduct was not Greenfield’s fault.

“She absolutely did the right thing by telling everyone what had happened. So I admire and respect candidate Greenfield for that quite a bit,” Graham said.


Graham, who also has been a mediator for the past 17 years as well as an attorney, emphasized her skill to bring people together “to come around to different points of view and solve their problems and work for the common good.”

Franken, who grew up in Sioux County, stressed his rural Iowa roots.

“Polk County Democrats have been bad, frankly, in statewide elections,” said Franken, who claimed to be the candidate Republicans fear.

“Iowa needs visionary leadership,” the retired three-star admiral said. “I’m the only candidate with legislative experience. No training wheels. Also the only one with national service ... and the only one who led thousands. I’m the only one with technical competence for a technical world.”

Mauro questioned those Iowa bona fides, however.

For Democrats to defeat Ernst, “I want to make sure that we have on the candidate that is actually from Iowa,” he said. “You can’t do that if your primary residence is a million dollar house in Virginia,” a reference to a home Franken owns outside of Washington.

Overall, the four agreed that the federal government should require employers to provide paid leave and that they would have voted against the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package House Democrats approved last week.

“As the president of a small business, someone that has to stretch a dollar ... I certainly want to understand what’s all in that bill and how we’re going to pay for it,” Greenfield said. “I would keep working because I know we need to take some urgent action.” But Mauro said the priority should be taking care of front-line workers, small businesses and the 30 million people thrown out of their jobs.

“To hell with how we’re going to pay for that right now,” he said.

Despite the price tag, Graham characterized the Democratic plan as “crumbs thrown to regular working people and middle- income people.”

Graham supported a universal basic income through the pandemic.

The one-time $1,200 payment in the earlier relief package was not enough to sustain individuals and families and the “mom and pop businesses on the square in our rural communities,” she said. “We need to focus on the majority and not the small minority of wealthy in this country.”


Later in the hour-long debate, Mauro and Greenfield returned to their disagreement over campaign financing. All but Greenfield agreed campaigns should be financed by taxpayers.

Greenfield, who boasts she has offered a plan to end political corruption and is not taking money from corporate political action committees, said she has no control over the Senate Majority PAC, which is advertising heavily on Iowa television in her behalf.

“We’re not going to get to the bottom of any of the things we’re talking about today if we don’t end political corruption,” said Greenfield, who has been endorsed by End Citizens United.

But leadership, Mauro countered, “is that you stand up and speak out” as he has done in rejecting support from fossil fuels groups. Real leadership would be speaking out against the PAC ads supporting her that are running on television.

Greenfield said she’s proud of her grassroots support, including contributions from more than 15,000 Iowans from all 99 counties,

“And we’re going to keep asking people because we can’t win these elections alone. I certainly can’t. I can’t finance it alone,” she added, without mentioning that Mauro has contributed heavily to his own campaign.

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