Almost every day, I talk to Democrats who haven't settled on a candidate in the third Congressional district, where six people are running against two-term Representative David Young. (Heather Ryan ended her Congressional campaign last month and will challenge State Representative Rick Olson in Iowa House district 31's Democratic primary instead.)
Many of the contenders have supporters I respect and admire. I have no doubt they would represent us well in the U.S. House.
So as I try to pick a favorite from this strong field, I find myself circling back to one question: who has the best chance of beating Young?
At last month's College and Young Democrats forum in Indianola, each candidate had three minutes to explain how they can win this race. I've transcribed their answers in full after the jump.
THE CHALLENGES FACING YOUNG'S OPPONENT
Even if 2018 turns out to be a Democratic wave election--far from a sure thing--no one should have any illusions that Young will be easy to beat. He outperformed the top of the Republican ticket in 2016. Donald Trump carried IA-03 by a 48.5 percent to 45.0 percent for Hillary Clinton, but Young defeated Jim Mowrer by 53.4 percent to 39.7 percent.
This district's sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa contain 157,949 active registered Democrats, 169,595 Republicans, and 167,980 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Young attends at least one event in every county every month.
Whereas the Democratic candidates will need to spend most of what they've raised in pursuit of the nomination, the incumbent is sitting on a huge bank balance. His campaign reported raising $910,888.35 during 2017; more than two-thirds of the money ($634,750.00) came from a long list of corporate PACs and fellow House Republicans. As of December 31, Young had $833,223.98 cash on hand and $250,000 in debt that he'll never need to repay, since he loaned his own campaign that money in 2013 and 2014.
The top House race handicappers all see IA-03 as in play but not as competitive as Representative Rod Blum's race in the first district. Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" and Cook Political Report both rate IA-03 as "lean Republican." Roll Call's 2018 election guide is calling this race a "likely Republican" hold.
THE COLLEGE AND YOUNG DEMOCRATS FORUM
I would encourage any undecided voter in IA-03 to watch the entire College and Young Democrats forum held at Simpson College on February 13. The moderators asked concise questions on salient topics, and the candidates provided contrasts on several issues. Here's the video:
Beginning around the 1:06:00 mark, each candidate had three minutes to answer what I consider the $64,000 question: "How will you beat David Young, considering the fact no matter who wins the nomination, it's going to be an uphill fight? [...] Why do you think you are best positioned?"
I posted the answers in alphabetical order, as the candidates spoke.
CINDY AXNE: DAVID YOUNG JUST ISN'T WORKING FOR IOWANS, AND I UNDERSTAND OUR STRUGGLES
Well, I think it's important that we point out that David Young just isn't working for Iowans. Even the Des Moines Register pointed out that he's more interested in kowtowing to his political party's leadership than standing up for his constituents. I think we saw that in his recent health care vote, when he literally lied to Iowans, and he told them that he would vote against the health care bill, and then in the middle of the night, the middle of the night, turned around and voted for it, due to political party leadership. Leaving tens of thousands of Iowans with no insurance carrier.
My family was one of those that received a letter from Aetna saying, we're pulling out of this market. And then Medica stepped in at a rate that nobody can afford. This guy's not working for Iowans, and as a matter of fact, when that happened, he took a check from Aetna. So we need to point that out at every single turn: that David Young is a career politician who's spent his life in Washington and is working for corporations and special interests.
The other way that I'm going to beat David Young is by being in his district and being present. We have made it a priority for our campaign to be out around this district from day one. I have traveled to every county multiple times. We held our 65th meet and greet just the other day. I'm going to do at least a hundred of those before the primary, because I can't think of a better way to learn about the needs of the people in this district than by being out into their homes and in their communities talking with them about the issues.
So the two things that I've got going for me that David Young doesn't have: a better record in helping Iowans get what they want. With my work in state government, helping to bring in good-paying jobs to the people that live here. Giving a voice to those who don't have a seat at the table. By the way, saving millions in taxpayer dollars and holding government accountable while doing that. Things David Young isn't doing out in Washington.
So I plan on making sure that every single person understands the difference between David Young and I is that I understand our struggles. I'm a small business owner. A mom of two teenage boys. A fifth-generation Iowan who understands the struggles that we face here on a daily basis. And David Young sure doesn't. He's spent his life out in Washington.
You know, my parents taught me at a really young age the values that have stuck with me to this day. They taught me to take care of other people. I saw my dad give the coat off his back not once, not twice, but many times in a snowstorm for somebody who needed it. And it's those values that led me to a life of giving back. Whether it was volunteering with seniors, or mentoring college students, or fighting for all-day kindergarten. These are the values that I'll bring to Congress.
This is a two-year job, and we need somebody who can hit the ground running. We need to send somebody to Congress who understands how to solve complex problems and understands and has the experience and the leadership in getting those done. And we need to send a fighter to Washington. Somebody who's going to stand up for what's right and not back down until we get the job done. So I ask for your voice and your vote, because together, we can bring hope and opportunity to this district and to this state and to this country once again.
PETE D'ALESSANDRO: I KNOW HOW TO WIN TOUGH RACES AND CAN BRING BOTH WINGS OF THIS PARTY TOGETHER
The point that matters is, it is a tough fight. You know, and in 25 years of organizing, I've been a part of some tough fights. Not too far from where we are right now, 20 years ago I was on a team that elected Leonard Boswell as the first Democratic freshman incumbent congressman in Iowa in ten years. A few years later, I was on the team that elected Tom Vilsack the first Democratic governor in a generation. A little while after that, I was on the team that elected Chet Culver as the first Democrat to follow a Democrat in 70 years to Terrace Hill.
And very recently, I had the great honor to be not just in Iowa, but in six different states, working for Bernie Sanders, winning in places that they said we couldn't win, and winning by big margins in places that they said we couldn't win in.
So, I think that I picked up a few things along the way on how you can win tough races. Because I've done it before, I've been part of great teams that have done it before, and I've taken a little bit of each of those teams with me each place I go.
But the other thing that I think is important, if we're going to win in the fall, is we've got to stand for a bold, progressive agenda. I think we cannot nuance issues anymore. We as Democrats have to not just try to win elections, we have to try to win the future. We can't just talk about college affordability. We have to talk about universal college tuition for anyone who's earned it. And those are the type of things we should be talking about from one end of this district to the other.
We can't just talk about any longer a living wage and nuance that issue. That discussion starts at $15 an hour. Because as Democrats and progressives, we should be standing for the simple but true idea that any person who works 40 hours a week should be able to live in dignity, and so should their family. We've got to support a living [wage].
And finally, because I think it is the issue of our time, we need to say, it's not just enough to say we need affordable health care for everyone. We need a Medicare for All system, that will take the single greatest social program in the history of the world, that Democrats did, because we were bold, and expand it. It's not a radical idea. Right now, a second generation of seniors are living in dignity that didn't have that chance before. We can do that as Democrats.
Now I'm proud to have the Nurses United Union. And proud to have Our Revolution. And I'm proud to have Bernie Sanders supporting me in this race for Congress. But I'm also proud two out of the last three [state] Democratic Party chairs support my race. I'm proud of the state legislators that support my candidacy. And I'm proud to say that my counterpart on the Hillary Clinton campaign [Matt Paul] supports my candidacy for Congress.
I am uniquely qualified to bring both wings of this party together quicker, and while doing it talk about the bold, progressive agenda that if we stand together again, we can again make the will of the people the law of this land. Thank you.
AUSTIN FRERICK: I COULD WALK THROUGH HIS POLICY POSITIONS AND TELL YOU WHICH CHECK HE TOOK
You know, the past doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. The Koch brothers are just robber barons. Betsy DeVos, she's a robber baron. She bought that job. I'm going to quote Upton Sinclair for as second: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it."
That's David Young, folks. He's a nice, hollow man. I could walk through his policy positions and tell you which check he took to explain it. New Year's Eve, I'm sure most of you guys were enjoying time with your family. New Year's Eve he took a $2,500 check from Exxon-Mobil. You think he's going to be for [combating] climate change when he took that check?
He took five--I'm opposing the Bayer-Monsanto merger. A month after that, he took $5,000 from Monsanto. He took another, almost $8,000 from Wal-Mart last year. He's just--it's--paycheck, it's corporate money after corporate money after corporate money.
This message is how you defeat him. You call out the hollowness. But: in order to do that, you cannot take that other check. You cannot bite the hand that feeds you.
So, also, if I'm fortunate enough to earn your support, the next two years are going to require some of the most oversight we've ever needed as a country. As a Congressional member, you are allocated fifteen staffers. U.S. Department of Treasury, for context, employs 100,000 people. The robber barons are running amok, and you have to be laser-focused on that.
If there's anything I bring to this race, it's my expertise. I've already called out the Iowa Farm Bureau, which by the way--I mean, the Iowa Farm Bureau's a lot of the reason why there's problems up at the Capitol, as somebody mentioned earlier. And Iowa farmers really don't want these agribusiness mergers, and there's been no comment from them on this.
This type of oversight I want to take to DC for you. I want you to know that you can trust me, that I will be going through Perry [Dallas County], looking at what Tyson's doing to these [meatpacking plant] workers. Because what's happening now with this concentration is our local news has been hollowed out. These reporters are asked to do more and more with less and less. Facebook and Google are sucking up the ad revenue. By the way, hiding that all offshore. I used to be a tax economist, so I wish I'd got that tax question [earlier in the forum], but these papers don't have the resources to do that digging. That's a really big concern for our democracy.
I'm almost out of time, but the last thing is: Trump's rhetoric is, our economy is growing. I'm really concerned right now with the state of our economy. And if that interest rate is at zero, what are we going to do when the next recession comes? Let's tackle this, let's tackle this root cause so another Trump doesn't come along. I hope to earn your vote. Thank you so much.
THERESA GREENFIELD: WE NEED TO ELECT LEADERS WHO HAVE WALKED IN OUR SHOES
You know, as I said at the beginning, I got in this race because hard-working families are getting the short end of the stick. And I'm from a hard-working family. I am a farm girl, I am a mother of four children, and I've worked in small businesses and run small businesses my whole life.
And I'll tell you what, hard-working families are struggling every day to make ends meet. All around this district, I talk to people who really are wondering, do they pay their rent or do they buy prescription drugs? I know seniors who are struggling to stay in their apartments, getting help from their children. And every mother out there's worrying, will her kids have a better life? Have the skills and the training to get a job and earn a living wage.
So I'll be fighting for those things when I'm in Washington, DC. But I'll tell you what else: I am also a small business person. I am a Main Street kind of small business. I work for a company, we have nine employees. And I know you have to remain profitable, because I sign paychecks every two weeks. And that means I provide jobs.
And David Young doesn't know the first thing about running a small business, remaining profitable, and providing jobs. He knows how to line the pockets of wealthy donors and corporations.
And finally, as a mother of four, I know what it's like to sit and struggle. Struggle with a child that has a brain injury. Struggle as a single mom with two kids at one point in my life. And those are things David Young doesn't know.
We need to elect leaders that share our values, that have walked in our shoes, and that when they go to Washington, DC, they won't forget the lessons of their lives.
Because I'll tell you what: the issues will come and go. Every two years, there will be another policy fight. Or something we care about, that makes people's lives better, that we're going to fight for. But we have to elect people that have our character and have our strength.
So this election's going to be about contrasts. David Young--he doesn't understand Iowans. He understands big money. David Young's never raised a family, never run a small business, he doesn't know anything about the lives you have. And we've got to get out and talk about that message.
And finally, I would say, this fight is also about our Democratic Party. It's not just about beating David Young. It's about taking back who we are and leading to the future.
Now I can't do it alone. I need your help, I need your vote, and I need your support. And so please stick around, I'd love to meet you. Go out to GreenfieldforCongress.com, learn a little bit more about me, and let's sign up together and defeat David Young this fall.
PAUL KNUPP: FREE FOOD, FREE CLOTHING, FREE HOUSING
I can beat David Young because I am a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. And my mentor is here in the audience today. I've been in the ministry for 40 years, in the Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. So all I've done is work in social services and for the betterment of humanity. And my mentor is here, Reverend Gil Dawes. I don't know if you know him but you should. He's tremendous.
And that's what I'm worried about is that we're letting money buy our elections, and I don't think our primary's any different. In their defense, Eddie Mauro and Theresa Greenfield looked at my total money, and it was only 10,000 dollars. And Theresa was over $200,000, and Eddie over $180,000, and they thought, we don't need people in the debate who don't have enough money to win. So they were going to cut Austin and me out of future debates. [Editor's note: I have never heard of Greenfield or Mauro trying to exclude other candidates from debates or forums.] I think that's a mistake, and I don't think you should vote for people that are more interested in money than they are in people.
My favorite quote is from Eugene Debs. He said, "As long as there's a lower class, I'm in it. As long as there's a criminal element, I'm a part of it. And as long as anyone is in prison, I am not free." I think that sums it up.
So what I plan to do, that I don't think any of the other candidates do, is free food for Americans that are hungry. Free clothing for people that don't have enough clothing. Free housing for people who need housing and can't get it. Those are socialist principles, and you can decide whether you want to put business people into office that are going to echo business concerns, or somebody that cares about the welfare of the poor and downtrodden in our country, especially if they're members of our district, and make sure that they can succeed.
So, we take that mental health center--that federal mental health center in every county--we also make it a warehouse for food, clothing, and registration for free housing. And it's a one-stop federal spot, in your county and in every other one of the sixteen in our district, to provide the things that human beings are entitled to. This is the richest country in the world, in the history of the world. We can afford to do it, believe me. With your support, we can get it done. Thank you.
EDDIE MAURO: WE BEAT DAVID YOUNG WHEN WE DEFINE WHO HE IS AND RUN A CAMPAIGN OF INCLUSION
You know, I'm sorry, Paul. We probably should have a conversation, because I'm not aware of anybody that would ask either of you guys not to be part of these debates. I've enjoyed running around this district with you, to this day. And if a member of my team has done that, they'll be terminated before we get back to Des Moines tonight.
Thank you College Dems and Simpson College Dems for having us. You ended this day with a great question, because David Young has kicked our ass the last two times out. And it's going to take a new kind of Democrat, with a special kind of campaign, a special kind of message, coming from a special kind of messenger to beat him in 2018.
And I'm here because I know I'm that guy. You see, we beat David Young and win this seat when we define who he is. His actions and inactions and how they've impacted hard-working Iowans of every degree. How he's turned his back on our kids, our schools, our teachers, our future. How he's attempted to deny access to health care to hard-working Iowans, women the right to control their own destiny. How he's been silent on the hateful, discriminatory, racist rhetoric that comes from Donald Trump. He has no answers for a 21st-century economy, nor for our climate and environmental challenges in front of us.
But it can't just be about David Young. It has to be what we can do. We can do. The Mauro campaign is going to fight hard for 21st-century jobs, meaningful, rewarding jobs in a 21st-century economy. A 21st-century education strategy that marries that economy. 21st-century health care to make sure everybody has coverage in this country. And we will tackle the climate and environmental challenges in front of us.
We also win this seat with a campaign of inclusion. I will, like everybody else, has been working very hard, running across this district from end to end, north to south, and east to west. I'll continue to do that. We're not winning this district in Polk County. We're going to win this by appealing to our rural voters, and our rural communities.
We're going to win this seat by not just, by not just applying to one demographic. We need to make sure we are bringing in men as well as women, black as well as white, gay as well as straight, rich as well as poor, and every other degree that's out there.
We win this seat, not with the way you've seen last year. This isn't the party of Bernie, the party of Hillary, or the party of the establishment. This is the party of the people. The party of FDR. The party of the Kennedys. The party of Clinton. The party of Obama. The party of Bernie and many others.
We win this seat with a team effort. I hope you're all ready to play, because we need all of you. If we do our duty, if we meet our obligations, this could be the generation that gets us back on track. To hope and not fear. To love and not hate. To truth and not deception. To peace and not war. And if we do that, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the country that will take us forward again. This will be the generation that takes us forward again.
EddieMauro.com. Go like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, I'm going to try to Snapchat, I keep forgetting to do that. Let's move this country forward together. Thank you, and God bless you.