The year 2020 has been a politically and personally fraught year for Iowans, to say the absolute least. And in this purple state, which has leaned red in the past few years, polling indicates that our federal races are all very close.
The tight races reveal how passionately Iowans feel about the future of the state and their country and also shows how much is at stake in this next election.
Earlier this year, Iowa had record turnout in our primaries, and we hope that this election inspires the same kind of turnout.
Every election year, The Gazette Editorial Board sits down with candidates and talks to them about why they are running and what issues inspire them and then we ask them for their position on issues that we, as a board, feel are important. This year, the board asked the candidates about COVID-19 response, disaster relief, reproductive rights, health care access, biofuels and ethanol, climate and clean water, and law enforcement reform.
Despite the fact The Gazette Editorial Board has endorsed many Republicans in the past, no Republicans in the federal races this year would meet with us to discuss their plans and hopes for Iowa. It’s unfortunate that GOP candidates would duck a discussion of policy and the future of our state. Iowans deserve politicians who are not afraid of scrutiny.
As a result, we are endorsing all Democratic candidates in the federal races.
As a cohort, the candidates are just left of center. None of them want to defund the police or usher in a new era of socialism. And surprisingly, despite the political climate, they are willing to work in a bipartisan manner to aid Iowans.
We would also like to mention Susanne Herzog who is also running for the U.S. Senate. Herzog is an independent candidate, without the backing of a party machine, and is operating at a political disadvantage. But Herzog is smart and well-informed on the issues that face Iowans, especially in health care. Her depth of knowledge and policy experience is formidable, even if the money behind her isn’t.
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Also on the Senate ballot is Libertarian Rick Stewart, who is campaigning to end the war on drugs and the damage its inflicted on racial minorities, balance the federal budget and simplify government operations.
Another notable aspect of these races is that they all involve women, which we hope in the future is common enough not to even attract notice.
U.S. Senate: Our Choice — Theresa Greenfield
Theresa Greenfield, who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, is a centrist candidate, running to rebuild the social safety net and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. We do wish she was more knowledgeable about law enforcement reform, which is necessary for maintaining civil rights for all Iowans and Americans. Greenfield’s stance on the issue is that she’d work with law enforcement, not against them. While she has not held political office before, Greenfield offers Iowans a chance to end an era of partisan rancor, which has cost the lives of over 1,300 Iowans and over 200,000 Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ernst declined to meet with our board in 2014 and 2020. During Ernst’s time in the Senate, we’ve seen continued dysfunctional government, problems ignored and very little of the change, or squealing, Ernst promised. The Violence Against Women Act is stuck in limbo, drug prices are getting higher and her loyalty to President Donald Trump has harmed her credibility on myriad issues. It’s time for a new voice in the Senate, that voice is Theresa Greenfield.
1st Congressional District: Our Choice — Abby Finkenauer
Finkenauer, who is running for a second term, is as hardworking a politician as they come. Her passion and wonky knowledge of political and policy issues was the most impressive of all the candidates who met with us. It’s unfortunate that many of the reforms and bills Finkenauer has worked so hard to pass in the House have been stymied by the Senate.
Finkenauer was the leading political voice calling out for disaster relief after the derecho, when other politicians were absent or dithering. She flipped hamburgers to help feed her neighbors and pushed behind the scenes to speed up disaster aid. She’s advanced bills helping small businesses apply for educational grants and funding, created grants to help law enforcement with crime prevention efforts and funding for Iowa rail safety, among so many other bills.
Her Republican opponent, state Rep. Ashley Hinson of Marion, has worked on bipartisan bills in the Iowa Legislature, including on child care reform efforts and property tax relief.
2nd Congressional District: Our choice — Rita Hart
Hart is a former teacher who wants to work to fix the Affordable Care Act, help forge a bipartisan response to the coronavirus pandemic, expand access to health care in rural communities and expand early childhood education.
Her knowledge of the issues is expansive and she also expressed a willingness to work with other politicians to make government work again. We do wish, like with Greenfield, she had more depth of knowledge about law enforcement reform. But Hart brings the perspective of a rural Iowan, a farmer and an educator.
Her opponent, Marianette Miller Meeks, refused to meet with the board because of comments from columnist Lyz Lenz about her appearance alongside a prominent alt-right figure at an immigration event in December of 2019. In contrast to Hart, Miller Meeks wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the Iowa Senate, Miller Meeks worked to pass the so-called heartbeat law banning most abortions, which was struck down in the courts as unconstitutional. She also worked to set up the children’s mental health care system and strengthened gun laws in the state.
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