IA-04: Steve King/Jim Mowrer debate liveblog and discussion thread

In a few minutes, six-term Republican incumbent Steve King will debate his Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer in Storm Lake. Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” is hosting the debate, and C-SPAN is also televising. King hedged for weeks about whether he would participate and refused to accept the Sioux City Journal’s invitation, so this will be the only time the two candidates appear on the same stage. King debated his 2012 opponent Christie Vilsack, but before that he had never agreed to debate any of his Congressional challengers.

I’m liveblogging after the jump, where I have also enclosed the latest commercial King’s campaign is running.

UPDATE: You can watch the debate video on the “Iowa Press” page.

King’s first tv ad didn’t mention his opponent, but the spot currently in rotation (“Stop”) draws a contrast.

My transcript:

King’s voice: In Iowa, we tell it like it is. [viewer seeks King walking with dogs in rural setting with barn in background; words “Congressman Steve King” are near bottom of screen]

I’ve been telling Washington over and over and rather loudly about threats building outside our country because we’ve ignored border security [footage of someone climbing over a wall as words “Border Security” appear on screen; images of armed terrorists marching down a street, “ISIS” on screen; then image of health workers carrying a patient on a stretcher, “Ebola” on screen]

and, financial threats from within due to Obamacare and our stifling debt. [footage of elderly woman looking sad, then mother holding head in hands as children can be seen behind her; words on screen “Threats from within: Obamacare, Debt, Spending”]

On the other hand, my opponent’s for amnesty, for Obamacare, and for Nancy Pelosi [viewer sees photo of Jim Mowrer, words on screen “Opponent: For amnesty, For Obamacare, For Nancy Pelosi]

And that’s telling it like it is. I’m Steve King, and I approve this message. [footage of King walking in a farm field, looking resolute]

King has a radio ad in heavy rotation now, featuring Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. He mentions that King serves on the House Agriculture Committee, helped pass the last two farm bills, and promoted ethanol and biodiesel in his very first bill as a member of Congress. Northey concludes by saying that he will vote for King.


Dean Borg of “Iowa Press” is moderating and sounds like he is fighting a head cold. Kathie Obradovich of the DM Register and O.Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa

First Q to King from Obradovich: What’s your signature accomplishment? He mentions his work to stop bad bills, says he has fought Obamacare, then talks about five-year Farm Bill, which has contributed to growth in agriculture, land values.

Q to Mowrer: If elected, you’d be in minority. How could you be effective? Mowrer says people understand Congress is broken. Not getting job done. We have someone here who has never reached across the aisle.

King says my opponent has no record. Mowrer says he has served his country and has saved taxpayer dollars.

King says Congress established office of business transformation. (implying Mowrer did not do what he claims to have done in Pentagon)

Mowrer says he worked to get that office off the ground.

Borg asks King if it’s true that he never has worked accross the aisle. King says he worked for years on farm bill and in the end we got a good bipartisan farm bill.

Obradovich asks King whether diversity is to be embraced or resisted. Mentions the fact that they are in Storm Lake (most diverse community in Iowa), and that King worked to make English official language when he was in Iowa Senate. King defends record of making English the official language, says he supports legal immigrants who respect our laws.

Mowrer refers to King’s hateful language, they’ve received national press, and that doesn’t move our country forward. He supports the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate. King has no plan on immigration.

King says he has a plan, talks about bill that would support building wall on border.

Mowrer says even Governor Perry of Texas says building a wall isn’t the solution. That’s a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem.

King talks about being against amnesty, for rule of law.

Mowrer says no one is proposing amnesty. King mischaracterizes the bill, hasn’t read the bill or he doesn’t understand it.

Mowrer talks about how the Senate immigration bill involves a fine and many other requirements over a decade–not amnesty.

King says changing the rules after the game is amnesty.

Next Q is about whether Congress will support ag subsidies in future farm bills. King is for good federal crop insurance program.

Follow-up Q: what about others in your party who don’t want to pay anything to farmers? King again mentions that he has been endorsed by all major commodity groups.

Q to Mowrer: why should farmer get subsidies when small business owner on main street can’t get subsidies? Mowrer says agriculture and feeding the world is a priority. We can’t do anything without it. Pivots to saying King acts like he single-handedly passed farm bill, but in fact the bipartisan bill that passed Senate was massively delayed in House because King and others obstructed.

Long Q from Dean Borg about whether farmers are over-leveraged, which could lead to big economic hit for Iowa communities. King says my opponent’s previous statement was baseless, and if you look at my votes you would know that. King says he remembers farm crisis of 1980s, remembers bank failures affecting him and his customers. We’re in better shape now than in 1980s because land is paid-for, not leveraged. If there is a drought or disaster, we will figure out what to do.He is optimistic.

Follow-up: You are optimistic because there is a safety net in federal law?  We have a safety net.

Same Q to Mowrer: He is ready to be a tireless advocate for farmers.He grew upon a farm. King has been in Congress for 12 years and if he had not  pursued a radical tea party agenda, he would be in line to be next chair of House Ag Committee. Mowrer says instead, a guy from Texas will chair the committee, and he opposes Renewable Fuels Standard.

King says there has never been a better 12 years to be a farmer in Iowa. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Next Q is about environmental regs on farms. King rails against EPA, trying to regulate everything up to the kitchen sink. EPA has over-reached. He has introduced the Sunset Act so Congress can vote on all administrative regulations every 10 years.

Q to Mowrer: is the fed govt over-regulating farmers? What about regs on cities? Mowrer says we can cut through red tape, maybe simplify permitting process, but conservation is important. We need future generations to be able to farm this land. Mowrer notes that King has hardly ever passed any bills.

King says this gets very tiresome. He introduced bills to promote biofuels. He is third in offering amendments on House floor after Jeff Flake and Sheila jackson-Lee. You can’t always pass a bill but he has highest percentage of success in getting amendments passed.

Mowrer says Senator Flake [of Arizona] has asked King to stop claiming that, because it’s not true.

They show the King tv ad I transcribed above. Mowrer asked to comment. He says it’s false. I don’t support Nancy Pelosi, I have a lot of problems with Obamacare, and no one is proposing amnesty. That ad is trying to scare people. ISIS and ebola have nothing to do with border security.

King says his opponent claims he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi, would not support amnesty, but I will let the voters decide.

They show Mowrer ad that claims King put himself and party first (Bleeding Heartland covered it here). King asked Mowrer to remove that ad and threatened to not debate.

King mentions website Mowrerlies.com, says there are answers there. He says no member of Congress gets free health care for life. He only voted once to raise his pay, his pay has been frozen since 2009. Many of those statements are false, made up out of thin air.

Mowrer says they are true ads, real votes. He may say he had different reasons for taking those votes, but he did raise his own pay, and he does oppose minimum wage increase. Mentions a vote that was 398 to 24. King was one of the 24.

King says that vote was not to raise pay, it was an amendment that would have included $400 billion in wasteful Nancy Pelosi spending. He voted against the wasteful spending.

Mowrer says you just admitted you took the vote.

Next Q to King: Your ad says you ruffle feathers. What’s the benefit to Iowa? King says going to Congress to get along doesn’t help. He has visited every town in the district, and people tell him to stand his ground.

Q to Mowrer: Travel ban to stop ebola? All options should be on the table, but health experts say that’s not the right approach. King has ad on the air telling people they should be afraid, panic. I’m not afraid. I joined our military after September 11 attacks. I’ve never been afraid, American people should not be afraid.

Q to King: Should US troops be sent to Africa to fight ebola? He thinks only if they volunteer for that. He has 8-point plan to fight ebola. He is worried that troops sent to west Africa may get sick with the silent killer ebola.

Mowrer says soldiers follow orders, this is a job that must be done, that’s why Congressman King never volunteered for the military.

King says the decision to do this debate speaks for itself. Refuses to elaborate on answer.

Mowrer says King doesn’t understand because he never served in the military. When you volunteer you agree to put your life on the line for this country.

King says if it’s a suicide mission, people should volunteer for that. We aren’t getting honest answers from commander in chief, doctors are getting sick.

Borg asks Mowrer if it’s relevant that King hasn’t served in the military.

Mowrer says King doesn’t understand what soldiers and veterans have been through. That’s ok, that’s not part of his record. He doesn’t understand that soldiers volunteer when they begin their service. After that you have to follow orders. You don’t always have to agree with the orders.

King says God bless you for serving in the military, but that’s your only qualification. Mowrer says he has saved taxpayers billions an has had high-level security clearance for a decade.

Mowrer says the only thing King has accomplished in Congress is shutting down the government.

Q to Mowrer on Obamacare: How would your family be affected if it were repealed? Clear from the beginning that some aspects of law were not working. But King has voted to let insurance companies discriminate against women and people with pre-existing conditions. Mowrer’s youngest child has a serious pre-existing condition and it would be bad for his family if we went back to days where people could be kicked off insurance.

King says Mowrer’s kids would qualify for HAWK-I. [note from desmoinesdem: that’s Iowa’s version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which King has opposed] says Obamacare is a disaster, federal takeover of everything under our skin, costs more money, etc. He will keep trying to repeal and wants to be there when next president signs the repeal.

Mowrer says we need to govern for the next two years. We can’t wait, we need to govern. He just wants to wait and obstruct, he wishes he could be a better obstructionist.

King says he wishes he could have stopped Obamacare, and he will keep trying.

Next Q is about ISIS. King bashes Obama administration policy in Middle East.

Mowrer says King’s answer shows he doesn’t understand the region or conditions on the ground. That’s ok, he hasn’t been there. I was there. Arming the Sunni rebels in Syria is not the right approach. The Obama-King plan does not recognize that reality. CIA says it’s not the right approach. King doesn’t understand the complexity.

King laughs at the reference to “the Obama-King plan.” He says God bless Mowrer for serving in Iraq, talks about how he has visited region and attended classified briefings.

Mowrer says re-invading Iraq is the wrong approach. Broad international coalition is the right approach. Counter-terrorism mission requires counter-terrorism approach.

Next Q is about defense funding. Mowrer says budget cuts are taking a toll. We need to find a fix for the sequester to realign our armed forces.

King is asked whether military has enough funding. He voted against the sequester and thinks we should maintain ability to fight two-front war. Defense support for arming rebels fighting ISIS. Declines to name specific dollar figure for increasing defense spending.

Borg clarifies: do you both agree we need to reverse cuts to defense spending? Yes, they do.

Next Q on broadband: should fed govt step in like they did to increase rural electrification? King supports steps to increase broadband. It will be a challenge to get it through Congress.

Mowrer says investing in infrastructure is great for rural economy. Roads and bridges as well as broadband. King opposes a bipartisan bill that would increase infrastructure spending.

Borg says another ebola case has been discovered in New York City. King, do you support more funding for CDC and NIH?

King notes first that he has supported four-lane Highway 20 and is committed to making that road four-lane all the way to Sioux City. He says we have increased CDC funding. It wasn’t lack of funding that brought ebola to US, it was lack of vigilance. Wants travel ban, wants no-fly list, wants new head of CDC because current one has no credibility. It’s not about money it’s about containment.

Mowrer says all I heard there was fear-mongering. Our medical experts say this is not the right approach. We need to invest in CDC and NIH. Funding has dropped in real terms during past decade. The government shutdown closed NIH for two weeks. Experiments were lost, funding was cut.

King says he voted twice to keep government open–September 20 and 28. It was Obama who shut down government. King supported funding everything but Obamacare. I opened up government by

Mowrer says the day the shutdown began, King says it was his best day in Washington. The day shutdown ended, he said he was disappointed.

Obradovich asks King for examples of where free market doesn’t work. King says defense, carrying mail, transportation.

Q to Mowrer: what does the government do now that the private sector could handle better? Mowrer says there are some EPA permitting procedures that could be reformed, some regs on small business.

Both support Keystone XL Pipeline.

King supports transmission line for renewable energy, but wants to minimize use of eminent domain.

On same-sex marriage, King says most people have voted to preserve traditional marriage, but this is judge-made law. Says we voted three Iowa judges off the bench because they made a bad legal decision.

Mowrer asked, would you protect religious institutions from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages? Freedom of religion needs to be protected.

Follow-up: What about private businesses? That’s a equal protection issue, businesses should respect all.

If you could wave a magic wand and make one change in tax policy, what would it be?

King would replace all federal income taxes with the “fair tax” on personal consumption.

Mowrer says we can eliminate loopholes for billionaires and corporations. King’s proposal has been laughed out of the room by economists. It would be regressive and would be a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

As for his top priority, Mowrer says he would go to Congress to get things done. He wants a minimum wage increase. There’s dignity in work and if you work 40 hours a week, you shouldn’t live in poverty.


That was a very strong performance for Mowrer. King performance will resonate strongly with those who already support him, but I thought Mowrer communicated his case more coherently.

The exchange over whether U.S. troops should be sent to Africa to help fight the spread of ebola was devastating for King. Mowrer is absolutely right: in our country people volunteer to serve in the military. Once they are serving, they don’t get to volunteer for following some orders and not others.

  • A good day all around, beer for everyone and liver for the cat!

     Mowrer is a good candidate and he just may pull this off. He has loyal troops in the field and stevieKing (bigot) came off as an arrogant prick, yet again. But with Joni playing hide and go seek and the Clintons (Big DOG) and Vice President Biden coming to the state next week today shaped up as a pretty good day.  

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