Editor’s note: What follows are candidate profiles of the four Democrats running in the June 2 primary to oppose Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst in November.
Four Democrats are running to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.
These profiles are intended to discern among candidates who all support a woman’s right to choose, more workers’ protections, and restoring America’s leadership role in combating climate change.
A fifth candidate, Cal Woods, a fencing contractor from Des Moines, is on the ballot, but withdrew earlier this month.
These profiles are culled from the candidates’ campaigns, and interviews across the state, especially in-depth Q&A videos provided by the Story County Democratic party.
Greenfield: “Unions built the middle class in this country, and they’ve certainly been under attack and need a stronger voice.”
Theresa Greenfield offers her career experience in real estate development and planning, a childhood growing up in a Minnesota family crop dusting business, and strong support for unions.
She relied on union-negotiated benefits when her first husband died in a workplace accident at age 24. She was left a widow with a 13-month old child and another on the way.
“We wouldn’t be here without Social Security and hard-earned union benefits,” she said in her interview with Story County Democrats, published on YouTube.
Greenfield has been president of Colby Interests, a Des Moines real estate and land planning firm since 2012. That 50-year-old family-owned company developed Windsor Heights on Des Moines area farm fields.
She lives with her husband, Steve, in Des Moines. The have four grown children, including a son in the Army.
Greenfield said she was a teenager flagging and mapping fields for her dad’s business, “and at 16, negotiating with our neighboring farmers. One farmer even refused to deal with me because I was a girl. My dad wouldn’t stand for it. He said there are no boy jobs or girl jobs, just jobs that need to get done.”
Greenfield ended her 2018 Iowa Third Congressional District campaign after state election officials determined a campaign worker falsified nomination petition signatures.
She launched her Senate campaign in 2019 after hearing incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst raise possible Social Security limits. She said economic, and now, pandemic, relief should be aimed at citizens’ needs, not sustaining corporate profits.
“Unions built the middle class in this country, and they’ve certainly been under attack and need a stronger voice,” she said in a May 14 Iowa Public Radio profile.
She calls climate change, “a man-made global … crisis,” affecting Iowans and their economy. “Those three-inch rains that come, that’s what climate change looks like in our state.”
She joins her Democratic competitors who support a woman’s right to choose abortion and earned the NARAL and Emily’s List endorsement in this race.
Iowa Second District Rep. Dave Loebsack endorsed her as well.
Greenfield cherishes skeet-shooting memories with her dad, “maybe because I was better at it than my brothers.”
She believes most Iowa gun owners agree with her support of “bipartisan legislation to close gun show loopholes and require universal background checks.”
She regards health care as a “right,” and favors “enhancing the Affordable Care Act, and creating a public option,” for health care coverage.
She also supports Medicaid expansion as an extension of that right, and to help sustain Iowa hospitals. “Medicaid expansion has kept lights on in our rural hospitals.”
Mauro: “The depth and breadth of my diversity. I’ve spent a lot of time in rural communities growing up. Today, I run a small business that touches all of our communities. You have a champion embedded in our rural and urban communities.”
Eddie Mauro is a lifelong Iowan who worked as a teacher, founded a small business insurance firm, and is co-founder of Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, a community lobbying group.
The married father of two lives in Des Moines and highlights his experiences in Seymour, Iowa, classrooms, and organizing in Iowa’s small towns.
“The depth and breadth of my diversity. I spent a lot of time in rural communities growing up. Today, I run a small business that touches all of our communities. You have a champion embedded in our rural and urban communities,” he said in his interview with Story County Democrats.
Mauro lost his 2018 primary bid for Iowa’s Third Congressional District seat to Cindy Axne, who also won the general election.
He favors cap-and-trade solutions to climate change, which he says can make Iowans a part of carbon reduction solutions.
“Cap-and-trade is a good strategy for the country,” he said. “Using our soils to draw down emissions and pay farmers to buy those emissions from those who can’t do it as easily or readily.”
He favors a “World War II” intensity to attack climate change.
Mauro is a gun owner, who has “no problem with background checks.” He has no problem with recording gun sales with the county recorder, “just like when I sell my car.”
He sees the Iowa U.S. Senator’s role as breaking down “purposeful division between rural and urban centers,” on gun control.
Both gun control and climate change legislation can’t be resolved “until we address power and money in our government,” he said.
For Mauro, that begins with limits on campaign spending and duration.
“We don’t need to hear from people like me all year around,” he said. He called public campaign financing “an interesting concept as well.”
Mauro was inspired by Iowa retired Catholic leader Monsignor Bonanno to work with Project Purify, a mission bringing water treatment to Tanzania. Those visits influenced his belief in front line assistance to those in need.
For this COVID-19 crisis, that means more support for workers, not corporations. That could include a temporary universal basic income, an idea he initially opposed when touted by Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign in Iowa.
“I am not a fan of continuing that beyond COVID,” he said in the Story County Democrats interview. But now, laid off workers need more support than the one-time federal payment issued so far.
He supports more earned income tax credits to assist minimum wage workers.
“A $15-per-hour wage is not enough. That’s $30,000 a year. My goal is to get people to $45,000 to $50,000.”
Franken: “Having lived worldwide, and spent many years in combat theaters, … we shouldn’t be armed up like we’re in a combat environment. That is an entirely nonsensical picture of what America is. That’s not my America.”
Thirty-seven-year Navy veteran Michael Franken retired as a U.S. Navy vice admiral and returned to Iowa to make his first try at elected office.
He was raised in Lebanon, Iowa, and moved to Sioux City after a career of deployments around the globe. He said the decision to return to Iowa came before his interest in a Senate campaign.
“Where else would I go? We go back four generations in northwest Iowa.”
Franken commissioned the USS Winston S. Churchill in 1999 with 32 officers and 348 enlisted men and women. He later commanded an international task force of ships. His military service led to briefing the Secretary of Defense, and advising the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“As a finance person, a budgeter, I’m the guy to fix the budget,” he said in his interview with Story County Democrats.
He views America as a “broad-minded, broad-shouldered, altruistic nation.”
That includes restoring climate agreements and a carbon tax dismissed under the Trump administration. The U.S. role is “being the standard bearer of progressive environmental solutions.”
He supports restoration of the Affordable Care Act, and “putting Medicare on the exchange and lowering age restrictions.”
He said more work can be done to control prescription drug prices.
“I don’t buy the fact drug companies lose in R&D because we curtail their outrageous profits in the United States. That’s nonsensical.”
He also encouraged federal support for more rural clinics, and expanded tele-medicine. He would support block grants to encourage businesses to move to rural America, and incentives for schools, cities and states to steer federal funds to local businesses, including organic farm producers.
As a lifelong gun owner who commanded armed men and women, Franken said he would ban “large magazines of assault weapons.”
“Having lived worldwide, and spent many years in combat theaters … we shouldn’t be armed up like we’re in a combat environment. That is an entirely nonsensical picture of what America is. That’s not my America.”
He favors a shorter campaign cycle to reduce campaign spending. “If we can’t do that, let’s go ahead and put term limits on our elected officials.”
He supports more oversight of pandemic relief funds that he says have benefited more corporate bottom lines than hurting Iowans.
“We need a Senate made up of individuals who hold the president accountable and call him out when his leadership is inappropriate for what America needs.
“We have a ridiculous number of overly wealthy people in the United States. I’m all about earning a good living; I’ve done that myself. But when a CEO earns 350 times the mean of the workers in an organization, that’s shameful.”
Graham: “We have to get more regular people into positions of power to advocate for the majority of us.”
Des Moines attorney Kimberly Graham says her campaign reflects her service as a court advocate for abused and neglected children, and long-time support of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns.
She distinguishes herself as fully committed to universal health care that goes beyond the Affordable Care Act.
She believes her family court work, including 17 years as a divorce mediator, taught her the skills to bring consensus in Congress. “If anyone can use a mediator, it’s the United States Senate. You learn to avoid labels and buzzwords,” that make people resist change.
Graham credits her upbringing by a teenage mom, a union phone company worker, and a Marine veteran father who was a lifelong union construction worker. Their divorce when Graham was 13 altered her life.
“If I wanted anything more than food or a roof over my head, I had to go out and work for it myself, and I did.”
She put herself through law school working as a waitress and house cleaner, and became a mom before she took the bar exam. “I think it’s valuable I had a lot of student loan debt,” she said.
She also was an American Airlines flight attendant 13 years and volunteer union organizer.
Those experiences, along with her role as mom to an adult son, fuel her campaign.
“I would do anything to save my son, including running for Senate. I believe we have to get more regular people into positions of power to advocate for the majority of us.
“The mistake the GOP makes when they try to skimp on investment in people is that is going to create a downward spiral,” she said. Reducing food assistance does not “inspire them to go out and get a better paying job. That’s not how it works … We need to get more people in the U.S. Senate who believe and know those investments pay off, and then we’ll be able to pay off the debt.”
She said the $1,200 congressional relief offered during the pandemic, “frankly is a joke. Even in Iowa … that gets you two, three, four weeks.” She proposes a stimulus payment of $2,000 a month for next three months, per adult,” more for those with dependent children, plus a moratorium on rents, utilities and mortgage payments.”
She regards the Green New Deal as a “roadmap” to addressing climate change, not chapter-and-verse legislation.
“Why don’t all of our federal and state buildings have solar panels on the roof?” she asks rhetorically.
On gun control, she quotes her Marine veteran father, who she said is a Golden Eagle NRA member with 50 years of membership.
“He told me, ‘Look Kimmy, if you need an assault weapon to hunt you have no business hunting …’
“It’s a complete myth that the majority of law-abiding, sensible gun owners are against responsible gun ownership,” she said.