U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate

Iowa Press | Special
May 19, 2022 | 57 min

Versión en Español

Candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022 gather for a live debate at Iowa PBS. Hosted by Iowa Press moderator Kay Henderson, candidates Abby Finkenauer (D - Cedar Rapids), Michael Franken (D - Sioux City), and Glenn Hurst (D – Minden) answer questions from reporters Brianne Pfannenstiel, chief political reporter at The Des Moines Register and Erin Murphy, political reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids. Candidates discuss their platforms, concerns and future plans.

Iowa Press Debates: U.S. Senate Democratic Primary precedes the June 7, 2022 primary election in Iowa.



Primary election day in Iowa is only a few weeks away and early voting started this week. Where do democrats running for Iowa's U.S. Senate seat stand on the issues? Those three candidates are here at Iowa PBS for this special live Iowa Press Debate.


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For decades Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Live from the Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston, Iowa, this is a special U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Debate. Here is moderator Kay Henderson.


Henderson: Welcome inside Iowa PBS Studios here in Johnston. We have three democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat in Iowa who have gathered. They are on your primary ballot. They are hoping to win that primary for a chance to challenge republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in November. Let's meet the candidates.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids is a former State Representative who served one term in the United State House of Representatives. Mike Franken of Sioux City is a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral who ran for the U.S. Senate Primary two years ago. And Glenn Hurst is a doctor and a member of the Minden City Council. Candidates, welcome.

Thank you.

Hello there.

Henderson: Joining me tonight in asking questions are Erin Murphy, he is the Des Moines Bureau Chief for the Gazette in Cedar Rapids. And Brianne Pfannenstiel is the Chief Politics Reporter at the Des Moines Register.

Henderson: Now, a question for all of you from me to begin things, we'll start with Abby Finkenauer. Donald Trump handily won Iowa twice. Democrats Bruce Braley, Patty Judge and Theresa Greenfield have lost three most recent U.S. Senate races in Iowa. Why would you fare differently?

Finkenauer: Every single time I have been on the ballot as a democrat for federal office we have gotten more votes than the democrats above us who have had more money and that is because of the coalition of voters we bring together here. I grew up in a small town a little bit north of Dubuque called Sherrill. It's got more cows than people. And my dad was a union pipefitter/welder and my mom was a public school secretary. And it is folks like my parents who I fight for every single day. It is why we're proud to have the endorsement of the Iowa Federation of Labor. That is 55,000 hardworking men and women across this state who are working their tails off every single day for their family and they expect somebody to do their jobs and have their backs. That is who I am. That is what I have done in that Statehouse. It's what I did in Congress. And that is what I will do as the next United States Senator. And the biggest piece is this, it is about the contrast between Senator Grassley and I. He has never faced anything like this before and it is about the differences of the fact that I will never forget where I come from and who I fight for and why I'm in this race. He is somebody who has been in DC for nearly 50 years. The guy has owned a house in Virginia since I was five years old. It is time that we have somebody doing the work, bringing people together and that is the work I have always done and, again, would be proud to do as the next United States Senator from Iowa.

Henderson: Mike Franken, what is the argument for your candidacy?

Franken: Well, I think it is time that Iowa wants to see Chuck Grassley be retired. And so the question is, which democratic candidate do we want to elect? And with a concentration in rural Sioux County Iowa growing up and a broad perspective in an adult life I believe I offer Iowa a grand scope of activity that I'm happy to, I'm very pleased, privileged and honored to have this opportunity and I am confident by the appearance of our influencers and our volunteers. We have had a fabulous campaign thus far. And I believe this rousing acceptance that I have gotten from the state of Iowa, this time around in particular, will follow through to November and we'll beat Chuck Grassley handily.

Henderson: Glenn Hurst, let's hear from you.

Hurst: Sure, thank you very much. It's a great question and I think for me you left off one part of the stem which was before Donald Trump won Barack Obama won twice in this state and he was a dark horse candidate that came to Iowa and worked the stump and was speaking about being an agent of change. And that is really what Donald Trump did as well. Now, it's a radically different change, but it was appealing to Iowa voters. And then we as a Democratic Party put forward three candidates that were really relatively moderate candidates like you shared, Patty Judge, Braley, Theresa Greenfield. These were folks who really came from the centrist side of the Democratic Party and they lost because they didn't appeal to that desire for change. Iowa voters have an opportunity on this election to make a change and make a selection, another set of moderates, a Sinema-like candidate or a Manchin-like candidate or a Harkin-like candidate and I would be happy to be the Harkin candidate for Iowa.

Pfannenstiel: This question goes to Mike Franken first. A white gunman opened fire in a Buffalo, New York grocery store over the weekend targeting black shoppers in a racist attack. What more could Congress do to address hate crimes?

Franken: Well, we should certainly number one, address our gun laws in America. Secondly, crimes such as that we have standing laws but the great expanse of opportunities that we should be working on in this country to go after the divisions which are fulminated by certainly the GOP in many respects that we have been accepting of, I believe that is job number one. We can pass additional laws to address hate crimes and I believe we have done a lot of that in the past. But we need to also look into social media and monitor these actions. It's interesting after 9/11 we asked the Muslim community in America to self-police themselves. And as a matter of fact it was quite successful where we moderated the message. But we have the same issue going on in the far right and we've let it run for too long. We need to get tough about this and we need to prosecute, investigate and prosecute those responsible. And the laws are there, we just need to get action.

Pfannenstiel: Glenn Hurst, what more can Congress do on hate crimes?

Hurst: They can do so much more on hate crime that what we have been doing. And what we're hearing already is the idea of let's just keep doing things the way we do things in Washington, DC and that is not the agent for change that Iowans are looking for. When we talk about hate crimes and the use of guns and violence, this isn't a new problem. Let's take this back to Charlottesville even. We had a huge opportunity and motivation in this country to address gun laws and address hate crimes and our government chose to do nothing. We've sat back and we've waited and we've still really done almost nothing to get rifles off of our streets. We're doing very little to protect our populations of color and populations of immigration. We're still building a wall. So we've got to have a complete change in the way we do business in Washington, DC and I think that the motivation to do that doesn't need to come by waiting for another gun incident to happen or waiting for another hate crime. The time is now. We should be arriving day one and making common sense guns laws in Washington, DC.

Pfannenstiel: Abby Finkenauer, what would be your approach?

Finkenauer: Well, first of all, I just want to say, the white supremacy in this country and the way that we have seen the rhetoric just ratchet up and the extremists getting louder and louder is absolutely horrifying. This should not be happening in the United States of America in the year 2022 and yet here we are. It is on every single leader, our community leaders all the way up to federal leaders to call it out as they see it and make sure that whoever, if they are their supporters, that they are telling them that this is wrong. That is the first thing. The second thing is this, as I think about this right now and you asked the question, honestly all I could think about was earlier this week I was in Iowa City and I met Roland and he was there and Roland is a black man that lives in Iowa City. And afterwards I am talking to him and he told me that this week he has not made it to the grocery store yet. And he goes, I know, I know in the back of my head I know what I haven't. That's terror. That is terror in the way that that shouldn't be happening, again, in the United States of America, yet here we are. That's not freedom, of not being able to go to the grocery store or send your kids to school or an after prom party and not know if they're going to come home or not because they might get shot. We have a problem in this country and it needs to be dealt with, with leaders who are willing to do it. So one, I'd make sure that I was doing my job as a United States Senator passing a bill that I already voted for and signed onto in the U.S. House while I was there called HR-8, actually cracking down on background checks and making sure we close those loopholes, having red flag laws. But the biggest piece is this, when it comes to the extremism there is a bill, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that needs to actually be passed in the United States Senate where there will be more funding, tracking down these extremists and making sure that we stop this happening in our country.

Henderson: Erin?

Murphy: Buffalo was sadly not alone across several major U.S. cities last weekend. Gunshots killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens more. Glenn Hurst, we'll start with you this time, and all of you got into this a little bit, but let's talk about specifics. What changes to gun and ammunition laws and regulations, if any, would you vote for as a Senator?

Hurst: Well, I think this is incredibly important and I can be very specific about what we need to do and why. In Pottawattamie County, in Council Bluffs, less than a year ago a militia embedded itself in our Sheriff's Department when they closed down the community because of a potential threat of a riot following the George Floyd murder. And what we saw was this local government agency embracing militants on the street with their weapons, not sending them home when the curfew went into effect, and essentially allowing them a bully pulpit in our streets. We absolutely need to ban assault weapons. There's really only one purpose for those and that is to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time. We also need to control the access to ammunition and control the access to magazine clips or other devices like bump stocks that turn other weapons into a more automatic style weapon. There is just no time to wait anymore. We have had that time and the time to act is now.

Murphy: Abby Finkenauer, you had touched on a few. Are there other measures that you would be interested in addressing?

Finkenauer: Yeah, look, I think this is something whether it is HR-8 and getting that through the United States Senate, there's plenty more to do and it's one where I truly believe we can bring Iowans together on it and also Americans when we take the fear out of it. I still remember in 2018 when I was running for Congress I was in Marshalltown talking to a group of bricklayers and there was a guy standing there, he had I think it was a Cabela's hat on, and he looked at me, this was right after Parkland. And he says, well I've got a question about guns. I said, okay, let's talk because I'm pro-Second Amendment, but we need to do smart things when it comes to curbing gun violence. And the question he asked me with tears in his eyes was, how do we keep our kids safe in schools who are getting shot up? I mean, this is something we shouldn't be afraid to talk about because I grew up in a house where dad was a pheasant hunter, where you should be able to go hunting on the weekends and send your kids to school in Iowa and in the United States of America and not be afraid are they coming back home or not. And so there's plenty more to do whether it is HR-8 or whether it is actually making sure that we have red flag laws to be able to cut down on extremism of people actually getting those guns in the first place. But again, there's plenty more to do and I look forward to being able to do that as a United States Senator and also bring Iowans along with us. The other thing I'll say also about the background check bill, 94% of gun owners in this country support that and you've got Chuck Grassley who has been sitting in that United States Senate literally blocking the bill.

Murphy: Mike Franken?

Franken: So, I grew up with firearms, it has been part of my professional life. There's no one in Washington, DC or in Iowa or in the NRA who is going to gunsplain me and I doubt if anybody will be happy to have a debate with me on what we should do for responsible firearm ownership in America. So from indemnity insurance to hardening of society at the expense of firearm sales and ammunition sales to background checks similar to the United States military does for surplus firearm sales, a five step program, two background checks, training. Those people are responsible gun owners, they do not commit crimes, they store their firearms properly and they are mentally and physically capable and they understand the effects of them. From being a land forces commander to guarding nuclear weapons, my extensive experience in this makes me a superlative person on the committee to draft these laws and enforce them. Background checks, etcetera, and magazine size, there's a hundred things that can be done. And responsible gun owners in America, every one of them, every responsible one will agree with me because this is what we deserve and it is what those who have never handled a firearm also deserve.

Henderson: All three of you candidates support abortion rights. This question will go first to Mike Franken. As a Senator voting on a bill to guarantee abortion access nationwide, would you support limits like parental consent or perhaps defining fetal viability?

Franken: The best person to answer this is a doctor and a woman. But as a man, I would say no. I believe that this is the responsibility of the mother, of the woman and her doctor. So I don't believe we ought to have oversight laws that respond to that. And I believe we ought to codify.

Henderson: Glenn Hurst?

Hurst: Well, I appreciate Mike coming along to that because when we had a forum earlier in Carroll, Iowa it was a more different answer about a discussion between a husband and his wife. But we absolutely want to assure that a woman has control of her body at all times. Body autonomy is part of being an American and one should always have body autonomy. I, as a physician, can't make you donate blood to save someone's life. I can't make you give a kidney to somebody who might match you. I can't take your kidney from your body after you have died without your permission. Body autonomy is a guarantee of being an American and a woman not having the ability to control her body at all times through a pregnancy would be out of the question. It's certainly a federal issue. It needs to be codified immediately. I have stated that I would codify, I would write the law if necessary, because we absolutely cannot have second class citizenry here for women. It's like going back into the dark ages. So I would support one hundred percent a woman having her ability to choose.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer?

Finkenauer: Look, this decision belongs between a woman and her doctor full stop. I'll also say this, pregnancy is complicated. It is not black and white. It is why this decision belongs between a woman and her doctor. But I'll also say this, what is happening right now in our country, you've got Oklahoma today passing a law making it illegal to get an abortion at fertilization. That is about control. That is about controlling women, controlling their health care and quite frankly women will die. It is horrific what is happening in this country, the extremism that has taken over and taking away my rights as a woman standing here today. You have a Supreme Court who doesn't want to actually do what they should do and actually uphold our rights. It's extraordinary. It is why we need somebody standing on the floor in 2023 in the United States Senate who is a woman of childbearing age, who does actually have a personal stake in this. It is absurd to me that we don't have more voices standing on that floor right now and unfortunately I've already had to defend my rights as a woman three times on the Statehouse floor and I'm prepared to do it again in the United States Senate. And folks, wouldn't it be nice to be able to replace the oldest man currently in the United States Senate with the youngest woman in history ever to get there and do it in a way where we're replacing him who has sat there, he led to Merrick Garland being not nominated, blocking that, leading to the Supreme Court one of his first votes ever as a United States Senator in his first year was a constitutional ban on abortion. This is the stakes here and we can make him pay for it.

Pfannenstiel: Glenn Hurst, as the Supreme Court appears ready to overturn Roe vs. Wade, some democrats have begun pushing for a restructuring of the Supreme Court. Would you support expanding the number of justices from 9 to 13?

Hurst: I would not support it from 9 to 13. I support it from 9 to 19. I believe that we add two justices every two years until we reach the point of having 19. That gives us an opportunity to elect people who are going to run those confirmation hearings. But this is a place where I really am very different from my competitors who are planning to go to Washington, DC and continue business as usual. I believe that changing the Supreme Court structure is just one of those pieces. What we also need to be doing is adjusting the way we do business as a U.S. Senate. I'm looking at comprehensive Senate rules reform, rules that have kind of sat stagnant for a long time. We shouldn't have to worry about whether or not a justice is going to get a hearing. That could be a Senate rule. Any appointee receives a hearing within 60 days of appointment. Win or lose, your constituents are going to know how you feel about that candidate. We could have a system where appointment to committees is limited to a specific time period. We can't institute laws that prevent you from running for office five, six, seven times, but we can certainly limit the amount of time you spend on a committee or spend leading a committee and we can limit the amount of time that a person is able to be in that position from a partisan appointment as well. We could go to a lottery system for placement or a seniority system for placement. So we're talking about doing things in Washington, DC radically different from just going and trying to operate as usual.

Pfannenstiel: Abby Finkenauer, would you support expanding the number of justices to 13?

Finkenauer: Well, the first thing I would look at is, I don't know if you've heard this or not, but I'm a big fan of term limits and I understand the way that the U.S. Supreme Court is structured right now, that is not obviously something that is in the cards but that is something we could look at actually changing or we could look at even having them drop down to lower courts and going back up, that type of situation. And that is something that I think we should look at specifically given the makeup of our Supreme Court and the fact that it has become so partisan. You've got these folks who sit there right now and it is basically dependent upon who we've got as a United States President and it shouldn't have to be that way or who is heading up the judiciary like we saw with Senator Grassley. So I would be really curious about how we actually make sure that there is more certainty about when these folks are moving on and off the courts than we have right now. But the number one thing when we are talking about Roe in particular and honestly I imagine why you're asking the question right now, we need to get rid of the filibuster in the United States Senate and we need to codify Roe, but we also need to protect our LGBTQ neighbors and friends across this state and this country, pass the Equality Act, these are all things that quite frankly are being stopped right now because you have a United States Senate not willing to do its job and do its work by getting rid of the filibuster to begin with.

Pfannenstiel: Mike Franken?

Franken: I'll attempt to get the award for the most succinct response without aiming to get the most mic time. The answer is no. We can keep it at 9, but we should have term limits, 18 years so that it doesn't become a partisan placement.

Henderson: Erin?

Murphy: Abby Finkenauer, if Roe vs. Wade is overturned and the right to privacy in other opinions is also believed to be in peril, should the U.S. Senate pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage?

Finkenauer: Absolutely. I think this is one of those things, again, where when you look at what that decision was, the leaked draft, they left off Obergefell. That said something to me. That said that women and are rights aren't where they're going to stop. And it is our job as federal United States Senators or Representatives that we have in Congress to do the job, to protect Americans across this country and their rights. Again, it is why things like the Equality Act that I passed and I already supported in the House are going to be incredibly important to move in the United States Senate.

Henderson: Mike Franken?

Franken: Absolutely. The larger question is why that is even a question in society from a human rights perspective because it's a God-given right that we should have someone we love as our partner in life. So of course we should codify it. And the fact that we have to codify it speaks volumes for the antiquated thought process I believe many of us, some people still have. I think that is a grand idea and I just wish that all LGBTQ issues like this would not have to be singled out as standalone issues because we would be far more accepting of this in society.

Murphy: Glenn Hurst?

Hurst: Well, I think you're going to be hard-pressed to find a democrat that doesn't support codifying the ability for same-sex marriage. What I think matters for our viewers today is really about how we get that done and who is really going to do it? When we sent Congresswoman Finkenauer to Washington, DC, we were all pulling for her to deliver on the things that we really wanted and when you didn't come out strong for Medicare for all and didn't support the Green New Deal and didn't vote in favor of the Heroes Act, it really left people disappointed and wondering what is the point of sending people to Congress that aren't going to follow through on the values that we have here. And having stars on your cap is also not leadership. We've got two candidates here that are looking to go to Washington, DC to keep doing the same thing. I learned leadership from my father, a Trump supporting father who shows up at the Rotary Club and at the Lions Club and was commander of the VFW and the American Legion and though we disagree leadership is the example he set for me. Dad, don't ever expect me to say that again.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer, do you have a response?

Finkenauer: Iowans know me. They know who I am. They know what I fight for. Within the first two weeks of being in the U.S. House I got to work passing bills actually showing up for rural America that has been ignored in this country for about two decades at least. And in fact I actually found a republican from Utah to help me get it done. I actually passed the bills. When it came to prescription drug reform, I don't have to talk about it, I voted for it and in fact it was a bill having Medicare negotiate with drug companies to bring down those prices while we had Senator Grassley over in that U.S. Senate blocking it every chance he got and literally writing the bill so Medicare couldn't negotiate with drug companies. I mean, this is just again the things that I have done whether it is passing the Pro Act, union rights, whether it is addressing the child care crisis in this country, the affordability of it, the accessibility of it, the quality of it, whether it is paid family leave, whether it is protecting Made in America. I am proud of my record and Iowans know who I am and who I fight for and it is them, it is the folks across this state and this country who have been forgotten for far, far too long.

Henderson: Brianne?

Pfannenstiel: We're going to move onto some --

Franken: Can I respond please? Because he said something about my leadership. So, Glenn, really? So when I was 19 I was a foreman at a slaughter house, age 19. The oldest person I had working for me was 54. I have both national and international awards for leadership. You don't make three star, you don't become a  commanding officer of a ship, you don't have the best ship in the Navy if you're not a leader. I have more leadership than I care to state anymore. Thanks.

Pfannenstiel: We're going to move on to some economic issues. Inflation is at a 40-year high, the cost of consumer goods continue to rise. Mike Franken, did President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan contribute to that inflation?

Franken: The definition of inflation, more money than the goods and services there are to buy. Certainly we flooded the market with money. There are issues associated with the negative side of that on the recessionary side, which was the great fear. I don't know, I'm not an economist, I haven't looked at the numbers. History will tell us this, but certainly there is a flood of money. And regarding inflation, one of the many factors associated with this is the fact that we have exported so much of our capabilities overseas and we do recall the pandemic is still very much part of China and consequently the goods and services aren't coming here, the demand for this is here and in the corporate world they're sitting on a fat amount of money. So some of this is also generated by corporate greed in America. And yes, perhaps that was a lot of money, but I don't believe that is the issue associate with today's inflationary tendencies.

Pfannenstiel: Glenn Hurst?

Hurst: Sure. I think this is one of those places where we're looking for somebody to go to Washington, DC to act on their ability to lead. And what we need to lead on is antitrust enforcement. The problem right now, let's look at the infant formula issue. This isn't about inflation, this is about monopolies. This is a failure of our government to break up the three companies, Abbott, Nestle and Johnson that corner the market on our infant formula. And that is the problem we're seeing kind of across industries in this country. Again, it's far more about monopolies. What if this problem was corn? What if something was wrong with the biggest corn producer in this state? 85% Monsanto-Bayer. What if their herbicide doesn't work this year? There goes our crops. What if the insecticide doesn't work? There goes our crops. We have put far too much money in single baskets in this nation and what we need is leadership to go to Washington, DC and break up antitrust and then you'll see that corporate greed be addressed that Mike referred to. But it's got to be far more than just looking at inflation.

Pfannenstiel: Abby Finkenauer, did the American Rescue Plan contribute to rising inflation costs?

Finkenauer: I'll tell you what has led to rising inflation costs, the fact that yeah, we've got these corporations who are raking in literally record profits right now and passing it on to hardworking families, or not passing it onto hardworking families and quite frankly taking advantage of that. We see that right now in oil and gas companies. I think it was Chevron who just put up $9 billion profit. It's absurd what is happening here as you've got people, I grew up in Sherrill, which is about 20 minutes from Dubuque, so to get anywhere you're driving like 40 minutes a day to actually get anywhere and be able to get to your job, get to school and I know Iowans are hurting right now and I get that they are frustrated and there is work to be done. Part of that is holding those companies accountable. But another piece of that very specifically when it comes to our goods and services, it's about supply chain. We have had this domestic supply chain breaking for the last 20 years and you've had Senator Grassley just sitting there watching it happen for that long. In fact, I put out a plan about addressing that back in December because I'm not somebody who is ever just going to complain about it, I'm going to tell you how we can fix it. And we've got to bring people along with us to do it.

Henderson: We've got a couple of quick questions here. Erin?

Murphy: A quick follow-up to that. We want to ask each of you if you support President Biden's Build Back Better Plan, which again would pump trillions more dollars into the economy? And do you have any concerns about its passage and impact on inflation? Glenn Hurst, we'll start with you on this one.

Hurst: I supported Build Back Better when it was in the $10 and $11 trillion package. We've got to invest in this country in a way that we have not. We're talking about green jobs. We're talking about infrastructure that hasn't been addressed since the original New Deal. So yes, I would support Build Back Better.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer?

Finkenauer: There was one piece of Build Back Better that I was not a big fan of and that was tax breaks going to folks in New York and California, to be honest with you. That is something that bothered me that was stuck in there and I think there are plenty of other good things that should get done. It's things like actually having pre-school in this country and pre-K for every kid. That should be done. It's prescription drug reform that should be done. It's paid family leave that should be done. And these are things that, again, we should be working on and there were problems that I felt the way that that was put together to try to get as many votes as they needed, partly honestly it's why we need to get rid of the filibuster, again, to actually make these things more bipartisan versus how they built that in the first place.

Henderson: Mike Franken?

Franken: Yes, I believe the Build Back Better Plan is a good plan and the smaller version is a better plan. But I agree with Abby that some of the tax breaks that were written in there are not advantageous. I suggest we repeal the Trump tax breaks first and piecemeal some of the other leftover ones that were in the Build Back Better to be placed in, yes.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer, this next question goes to you. Do you support canceling or modifying college debt? And if so, what do you say to people who didn't go to college or who paid off their loans already?

Finkenauer: Well, higher education in this country right now is in a lot of hurt. We've got a lot of our kids right now, I was a first generation college grad, a lot of kids in Iowa were, still have about $20,000 to $30,000 left of student loan debt. I know what that's like. I also know my dad didn't go to college. He busted his tail every single day trying to put us there. And so this is something that has needed to be dealt with. I think if we do anything when it comes to relief it should be targeted. You should not be giving anything to anybody who is making over $100,000 a year. That's just not how anything like this should work. But the thing that I have always worked on when it came to student loan debt relief in the first place was how do you actually make sure if there is any relief that you're giving an impact back to your community? And so we should be looking at things, and this is what I worked on in the Statehouse and in Congress, possibly looking at where we have seen a loss in population over the years and is there was for the federal government to even work with cities and counties to incentivize people to live there and also work in the professions where they're needed as well. That is how we should be looking at this problem.

Henderson: Mike Franken, what is your view on college debt?

Franken: So, college debt, in setting it aside what we're doing is treating a symptom to a larger problem. When I went to school working in the hog slaughter house could pay for an entire, a summer in the slaughter house could pay for an entire year at school. Wage scale is not that way. The state doesn't help out in education like it used to. And oddly enough, the student loan program makes money off loans. But I believe it is a divisive issue in America to set aside student loans. And for your issue with a union person who pays for that apprentice training and why ultimately they would be helping to pay for someone who may very well be their boss someday and may not even graduate from college. The logistics associated with this that somebody who graduated two years ago, do we recompensate them? What about somebody five years from now who has a large debt? Is this an ongoing thing? And if we constantly wipe out college debt, what do you think the cost of college is going to do?

Henderson: Glenn Hurst?

Hurst: Well, this is a place where I clearly am different from my opponents. I absolutely support repayment of student loans. I support paying back people who paid off their loans. And there should be no cap as was referenced on who should have that loan paid back. Just because you did well in spite of having been taken advantage of by a predatory loan market doesn't mean that you don't deserve the equality of the refund of your money. So this is the difference between going to DC to do things the way things have always been done and going there to do things different and working for the people of Iowa. I firmly believe that there is no reason to not pay that debt back. And we really need to be looking even farther forward to what are we going to do with community college schooling? That should be free. So should trade schools.

Henderson: Brianne?

Pfannenstiel: The President took steps yesterday to secure ingredients for baby formula, flying in supplies from other countries. Mike Franken, is it time to change regulations and end tariffs on foreign imports of baby formula?

Franken: Well, go ahead and mention this, absolutely. It's interesting that it is centered on three industries when most of the ingredients in baby formula, look at the chemicals associated with it, come from the United States. And yet we can have manufacturers overseas, in Europe of all places with more expensive labor markets, more expensive power, to ship the product over here and be less expensive than U.S. products. Why that is protected I'm not so sure. It is a critical industry. It is something that has to have resilience, redundancy and efficacy in it. But the fact that we are now in this situation where it's a 40% reduction in stock because one factory went down, as Glenn was saying, the antitrust that have set that aside where they have gobbled up a series of industries and they've got a corner of a market, it's an atrocious situation. So yes, if we want to import it, I believe that's -- as a matter of fact, we should have done that some days ago, weeks ago.

Pfannenstiel: Glenn Hurst, is it time to change regulations and end tariffs?

Hurst: It is. But why that happened is really clear, Mike. It is because we have a government that is set up to incentivize monopolies, to sequester wealth at the top 1% of our nation and that is actually very anti-competition. So I refer back to my desire for antitrust enforcement. But in the short-term, the answer is yes, we need baby formula. In the long-term, we need to break up those companies. But to get specifically to the point about infant formula, if we had Medicare for all, if we had people who had the guts to go and stand up for that and say this is what we want, this is what the American people want, then we would be doing so much more breastfeeding, we would be doing so much more maternal care, we would be far more prepared to take care of our infants than we are and formula is just a symptom of that problem.

Pfannenstiel: Abby Finkenauer?

Finkenauer: Well, first I just want to say thank you for bringing up this topic. This is something that I saw being an issue, heck last month, as I was watching -- here's an example of representation mattering, I'm a 33 year old woman who has got a lot of friends right now who have little babies and they are trying to feed them. And all due respect, breastfeeding is not the answer for everybody and it shouldn't have to be and that shouldn't be a response to this question. We've got people right now trying to find the blue one, the purple one and talking to each other on social media of trying to even ship these across state lines because they can't find it. Again, I was watching this happen over three weeks ago and called on the Biden administration to use the Defense Production Act to actually deal with it, about two weeks before anybody else seemed to have paid attention that this was a problem. Again, what an example of Senator Grassley sitting there being so out of touch of what is actually happening with constituents. So yes, we should be dealing with the tariffs to be able to get it in as quickly as we possible can. But this Defense Production Act, I would have liked it actually done three weeks ago when we were requesting it to be done, glad it is now, but there is plenty more work to don on it and we need to make sure that this is actually addressed in our folks, our moms and dads across this country are able to feed their babies.

Murphy: Glenn Hurst, some democrats in the Senate have proposed a new tax on Americans with accumulated wealth of more than $50 million. Would you vote for a so-called wealth tax?

Hurst: I would absolutely vote for a wealth tax. What we have seen happen since the Reagan era is this sequestering of money into the hands of the top 1% of Americans. The fact is, as a rural physician I probably have more in common with a drug dealer on the street in terms of ability to generate wealth in this nation and that should sound really ridiculous. But it sadly is not. The ability to generate wealth is about where the wealth sits now. It takes money to make money. And we have set up a society that has rewarded people at the top and allowed them tax breaks and tax deductions with the idea that that money was going to trickle down to the folks who need it. Well, it didn't trickle down. We have all the evidence that it didn't trickle down. And it's now time to go reclaim your tax dollars and put them to work for Americans.

Murphy: Abby Finkenauer, would you support a wealth tax?

Finkenauer: I'd have to see the exact bill and language, but I'll say this, I will never support raising taxes on hardworking Iowans. And I will say, the folks at the top making over $50 million are getting away with so much in this country, not paying their fair share, as working families in this country have been bearing the brunt of it and it shouldn't work that way. And I'll say this as well, if you're looking at over $50 million, I don't think there's a whole heck of a lot of Iowans right now who would be paying that. We're talking about actually leveling the playing field here to make sure that the brunt isn't on working families, that you've got these people at the top who keep getting all of these tax cuts, all of these tax breaks, and not the folks doing the work, picking up your garbage on the side of the road once a week, the folks who are sweeping the floors, the folks who are busting their tails every day, again, like I saw my parents do and get screwed because of people like Senator Grassley who have sat there and have gone along with it for decade after decade. I've had enough of it and that is who I'm fighting for in the United States Senate.

Murphy: Mike Franken, would you vote for a wealth tax?

Franken: Does anybody think the animus now displayed by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos has anything other than to do with this administration's ultimate designs to put tax on them at the high end? Of course it is. These are hugely greedy individuals who have not been paying their fair share. But what is greater needed, Erin, is a broader tax to look at the capital gains associated with various property ownerships. This is a ripe area for additional revenue, to bring in the type of medical care that I had, but we should also be talking about Social Security. Why we have $147,000 cap on who pays Social Security is ridiculous. Lift that cap. Suddenly Social Security becomes financially solvent for perpetuity. Let's do that as well. Why do we even not think about that? Put it in a reconciliation bill and make it happen.

Henderson: Brianne?

Pfannenstiel: Medicare for all legislation has been introduced in Congress that would extend Medicare coverage to all Americans and eliminate private health insurance. Would you vote for that legislation? Glenn Hurst, I'll start with you.

Hurst: Well, I've been really clear on this on the campaign trail. I absolutely would vote for the Medicare for all act. As a matter of fact, on day one I would sign on as a co-sponsor for it. This act serves to provide health care and opportunities to every American in this nation. It is also a great tool for rural recovery. There are so many great things that come out of this act, providing care for those 85 million people who currently don't have insurance or are underinsured. I think it's incredibly important to know that it is the only act that is on the table right now to address health care, that we can't be just putting Band-Aids on cannonball wounds, we can't be taking the Affordable Care Act and expanding it or adding a Medicare option to it. Those are not on the table. They don't work. Medicare for all is the solution.

Pfannenstiel: Abby Finkenauer, would you vote for that legislation?

Finkenauer: No, because what we need to do, we need to actually up Medicare reimbursement rates. If that is not done, we are going to have a problem in this state when it comes to who is getting access to health care. It is what I worked on while I was in Congress. But what I do support is upping those Medicare reimbursement rates and have a public option that folks can get into that is like Medicare that they can have if they want it. But also if they have negotiated their health care through their union, through their employer and they like it, I'm not taking away anybody's health care from any Iowan or any American. We need to make sure that that is very clear, but that they have an option to actually be in like Medicare if they so choose, which by the way would add competition into the marketplace to bring down private insurance anyway.

Pfannenstiel: Mike Franken, would you support existing Medicare for all legislation?

Franken: Well, so I wouldn't have this opportunity in life to be standing before you had it not been for the comprehensive health care that the military provides for our special needs daughter. So this opens doors for people. So I'm a big fan of this. And to really work on the pharmaceuticals as well. So how to implement this? I agree with Abby that we should bump down to say Medicare for all who want it down to age 50 and then start on the bottom perhaps from birth to say age 5 and narrow it down to ensure the Medicare process system has an opportunity to grow into itself. You can’t just do it and execute it. It won't work. So it needs to be incremental. But I believe this is the future of America and it will make us all better.

Henderson: Candidates, we're going to ask each of you a question and it's about something that democrats are saying about your candidacy. We'll start with Abby Finkenauer. You had the bare minimum of signatures in one county and almost didn't make it onto the primary ballot. Why did you choose to criticize the judge who handled that case instead of owning up to your own campaign's actions?

Finkenauer: Well, I'll say this, look when I got into this race I knew the GOP was going after me and that is clearly what they did in this scenario. They spent thousands of dollars and hours going through, trying everything they could to make it so that I was not the one going up against Senator Grassley and they lost. The judge was wrong. We had a republican Secretary of State's office affirm my petitions. We had a bipartisan panel affirm the petitions. And then we had a lower court judge ignore the bipartisan panel, ignore 30 years of precedent and got overturned by 7 Iowa Supreme Court Justices. We are on the ballot. But I'll say this, next time I think I'm going to end up with 50,000 signatures just to make sure and again know that this is kind of just where they're at right now. This is what they do and we won, we beat them already and we intend to beat them again in November.

Henderson: For viewers of Iowa Press, Rob Sand who is a fellow democrat, the State Auditor, said you shouldn't have criticized the judge, he was a good judge, he was just following the law.

Finkenauer: Look, I'm always going to stand up when I think something is wrong. 7 Supreme Court Justices agreed, the lower court decision was wrong. I stood up for ourselves, for our campaign, for Iowans across the state and quite frankly for democracy. That is what I'll do as a United States Senator. I right now have no problem calling out these U.S. Supreme Court Justices who have got it wrong and are going after my health care. If that is who you want as a United States Senator, that is who I will be. I will always call out the wrong as I see it and have the backs of Iowans and folks in this country, again, who have been ignored for far, far too long.

Pfannenstiel: Mike Franken, you have positioned yourself as a moderate. But moderate democrats have failed to beat Chuck Grassley for years, often by extreme margins. Isn't it time for democrats to try a new approach?

Mike Franken: I didn't know I was declared a moderate, that's news, but whatever that declaration is. This is a state where some counties went 20% for Obama and then 20% for Donald Trump. It is that middle segment who want logical, pragmatic, smart, dedicated national servants to work for them, leader servants. I believe I'm that person. I was asked today by the Des Moines Register, where am I on the scale of progressive and moderates? And I said, well that's a very jagged edge. In social programs, I'm very progressive. In some issues overseas and foreign affairs, I'm inventive. And I'm all over the map, this is in response to a learned situation as an executive for 40 years.

Murphy: Glenn Hurst, you had less than $50,000 in your campaign account at the end of March. Why should democrats trust you to run a credible campaign against an incumbent Senator who will have millions of dollars to spend to defend himself?

Hurst: Sure, whoever wins this race is going to have the millions of dollars that will come from the Democratic National Committee and Chuck Schumer releasing the donors, which we are so grateful he didn't do in the primary. That is how we had a Theresa Greenfield last time. Yes, I do not come with a book of generals and international reputation to raise money in this state. I have a reputation with activists. I'm a Minden City Council person, a town of 600 people. I'm an activist with the Indivisible Movement having organized them in Southwest Iowa. I've been an activist with the Iowa Democratic Party as chair of the rural caucus and I even chaired Cindy Axne's district getting her re-elected to her seat. So yeah, I don't move in circles of money. I don't have a book from my congressional campaign to dive into as well. But what we have had is steady support from our coalition. The difference here is I'm not running in this race and trying to build a coalition. I am here because of my coalition and you all know the people in my coalition. You know that there is a democrat who is a progressive candidate in this race that is different from the other candidates.

Henderson: Candidates, we have reached the final question of this debate and we have just a few minutes left, actually a couple of minutes left. We'll start with you, Glenn Hurst. There are about 600,000 registered democratic voters in this state. To win a statewide race you'll need to attract independents and some republicans to win. What is your message to people who aren't democrats?

Hurst: So to people who aren't democrats I say, you should come back to the party because those people who are independents are not people that we have lost from the middle. You pointed out our candidates yourself. We've had plenty of middle of the road candidates that should have held onto democrats. The people that we have bled from the Democratic Party are those people who are progressive and want to see progressive policies done. So come back home.

Henderson: Mike Franken?

Franken: If you want to see an expanded business environment, if you want to see a great education, the type of education I grew up in where our high school was 99th in the nation. If this is what you envision for Iowa, the progressive state that was the Tom Harkin state, that was the place where we were 150 years ahead of Dred Scott, this is the state that was my Iowa and I want to relive that Iowa. You want a higher quality of life, I plan on giving that to you. Join the team with my great volunteers and influencers throughout the state.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer, the last minute?

Finkenauer: Iowa is my home, it is where I grew up, it is where I will raise a family one day, it is why I'm in this race. It's not about a fancy title, it's not about living in Washington, DC, it's about the work. That is what I was taught in this state and quite frankly it's what Iowans deserve. Right now we've got a Senator who sits there and walks around like he's Mr. Rural America yet we have lost 30,000 family farms in this state. I've been to his home, his hometown of New Hartford where I was there for a save the post office rally because it was one of the few things actually on the Main Street. I've talked to the folks in that town who have said he has not come back and actually talked with them about investment. You have literal Main Streets just completely hollowed out around this state as he has sat there and watched it happen. If he let it happen to his own hometown, why do we think he cares about the rest of us? This is what this race is about. It is making sure we hold him accountable and it is making sure you have somebody who doesn't want to spend their life in Washington, DC like he has.

Henderson: Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken and Glenn Hurst, thanks for sharing your views with Iowans tonight on this live edition of Iowa Press. And thanks to you for watching. On behalf of everyone here at Iowa PBS, enjoy your evening.


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