U.S. Senate candidates speak on gun violence and college affordability


Screenshot via Iowa Press Debates PBS

Admiral Michael Franken and Sen. Chuck Grassley taking part in the only Senate debate leading up to the 2022 midterms.

Editor’s note: Senator Chuck Grassley completed his interview over email while Admiral Michael Franken spoke with The Daily over the phone.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) faces the closest election in his 40-year Senate career against Adm. Michael Franken, his Democratic challenger.

Grassley has represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate since 1981, with past experiences in the Iowa legislature and the House of Representatives.

Franken has over 36 years of experience serving in the U.S. Navy, as well as experience serving at the Pentagon.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has served in the Senate for 40 years.

Gun violence

Grassley stated that his platform includes leading bipartisan bills that prevent further gun violence and helping law enforcement to de-escalate violent situations, which he has worked on throughout his terms.

Grassley cited his reintroduction of the EAGLES Act, a bipartisan bill that intends to expand the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center to prevent further gun violence by helping schools, churches and businesses identify potential threats before they become violent.

Grassley stated that he values fully funded and fully supported law enforcement to prevent gun violence in communities.

Franken told the Iowa State Daily that he is well-versed and has practical knowledge about the gun violence issue and plans to push for further bipartisan bills to address the issue.

Franken also stated that he wants to ensure guns remain a part of society but are only available to those who have exhibited the responsibility he deems necessary for owning a weapon.

Franken also said he would refuse to take funding from lobbyists or corporations involved in the gun industry.

Student debt and college affordability

Franken said he believes student debt issues stem from larger issues, including inflation and student loans that charge interest rates. Franken said he supports loans that would only require students to pay back the principal on their loan and believes this could garner bipartisan support. Franken also says he supports some higher education being free to students.

“I think community college and apprentice training programs ought to be free,” Franken said. “And going back to an emphasis to ensure high school graduates are better situated to do better in college.”

Franken also said he supports the creation of a voluntary service program, which would allow young people to serve in the forestry service, governmental departments and other jobs to prepare them for the workforce and earn enough to pay for college tuition. Franken said this would reward students for devoting themselves to a cause. He correlated the creation of the voluntary service program to the GI bill, which educated World War II veterans in hopes of creating a similar legislature.

Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken is the Democratic candidate running against Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Grassley stated in his email that he would continue to push for legislation that addresses college affordability and ensures that the student loan market is transparent and promotes financially literate students.

“Specifically, students ought to know upfront how much they will pay and whether or not they are likely to be able to pay it back,” said Grassley. “My bills would provide students and their families with better information about the costs of college from the very start of the college search, through the application process and to the acceptance of financial aid.”

Grassley, however, disagrees with President Joe Biden’s recent student aid forgiveness program. He finds fault in the program as he believes it will raise the cost of college. Grassley also stated it encourages students to ignore the prices of college if they believe their loans will be forgiven and will mostly benefit wealthy families, according to his email.

“Despite its dubious legality, the Biden Administration’s program shifts existing college debt from students who agreed to pay it to taxpayers who did not,” Grassley stated in the email. “It disproportionately benefits wealthy households.”


Grassley stated that he supports the promotion of sustainable energy. In his email, he referenced his renewable energy legislation, which includes the Wind Energy Incentives Act and the Next Generation Fuels Act, to further promote renewable energy.

“I’m the author of the Wind Energy Incentives Act, which encouraged Iowa and other states to embrace wind energy,” Grassley said. “Now, about 60% of all electricity generation in Iowa comes from wind, and 5,500 Iowans make their living from this industry.”

Grassley also stated that he would promote Iowa-grown biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue to employ the 48,000 Iowans who are employed by this industry.

Franken referenced his experience in physics and engineering to show his knowledge of environmental issues. He said he believes a carbon tax will encourage Iowans to further protect the environment.

Franken also said he is a fan of sustainable energy, specifically solar energy, and favors the creation of solar farms. Franken also said he hopes to expand on other renewable energy sources to protect the environment and create jobs.

Polling numbers

According to a poll conducted by the Des Moines Register, as of Nov. 5 Grassley leads Franken 53% to 41%. Of the 801 likely voters surveyed, 3% would vote for another candidate, 2% reported that they are unsure of who they are going to vote for and 1% of respondents reported that they do not wish to share.

More information on these candidates can be found on Grassley’s and Franken’s campaign websites.