U.S. Senate race heats up

Varad Diwate

The U.S. Senate race from Iowa is shaping up between four Democratic contenders and incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The election will take place Nov. 8 this year. The Democratic candidate will be decided during the primary on June 7.

“This Senate election is pretty crucial,” said Mack Shelley, university professor of political science. “Iowa has a habit of keeping people in the Senate for a pretty long time once they get elected.”

He said one of the issues for Grassley could be his refusal to hold hearings for a Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

“That doesn’t sit well with a lot of people who are otherwise perfectly happy with the job Grassley has been doing,” Shelley said.

So far, only state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, and former state Sen. Tom Fiegen have filed nominations with the Iowa Secretary of State. The following candidates have announced they will be running for the Senate seat:

Chuck Grassley

The Republican incumbent was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1981 and was last re-elected in 2010. The University of Northern Iowa graduate has also been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until 1981 and of the Iowa state legislature from 1959 until 1974.

“Sen. Grassley has never taken anything for granted in any of his races — he always works and runs hard regardless of his opponent,” Eric Woolson, Grassley’s campaign communications coordinator wrote in an email. “A quick look at his previous margins of victory will attest to that. 

“The Democratic National Committee seemed intent on finding a new candidate despite three candidates already in the race. The contention that Patty Judge is somehow a formidable candidate is a dubious one and she may not, in fact, even be the Democratic nominee.”

He added that Grassley’s position on the next Supreme Court nominee will be popular as “ voters made it very clear with the GOP landslide in 2014 that they didn’t want a Congress rubber stamping President Obama’s agenda” and that the Senate has the prerogative to do so.

Grassley is currently chairman of the Judiciary Committee and serves on finance, agriculture, budget and taxation committees.

Patty Judge

The former Iowa lieutenant governor announced her intention to run in an interview with the Des Moines Register last week.

She has served as secretary of agriculture for the state and was elected in 2004 as lieutenant governor. She is also a registered nurse and dairy farmer.

“I know this state, I know people here and I’ve worked hard here for a long time for people,” she told The Register. “I decided a few years ago maybe that it was time to take a little easier path, but this one’s got me fired up.”

As per the Iowa Secretary of State website, she has not yet filed her nomination. Judge’s campaign has asked supporters on social media to help gather signatures and get her name on the ballot. Her campaign did not respond to a request for an interview.

Rob Hogg

Hogg is currently a third-term state senator from Senate District 33. He was first elected to the Iowa House of Representative in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He has worked as a law clerk and at private law firms.

The current state legislator cited three key issues that spurred him to run for U.S. Senate: climate change, campaign finance reform and creating a functional Congress.

“We just have to get Congress to work again on a full range of issues,” Hogg said in an interview. “Congress is not functioning well. The obstruction from Sen. Grassley and others on the upcoming nominee for the Supreme Court is the latest and perhaps the most current example of how dysfunctional it has become.”

Hogg said his experience in the state legislature is evident of his commitment. He said he was able to compromise and avoid a shutdown in the state legislature in 2011 and demonstrated working across party lines as a strength.

“I understand he has got a 42-year head start and under our broken campaign finance system, he has got a $4.5 million head start. I recognize it’s a challenge,” he said on the challenge against Grassley. “I believe it’s time for change. I obviously respect his long service to our state and country. But the reality is that, in recent times, he has increasingly put his party ahead of the good of our state and our country.”

When asked about Judge entering the race, he said he welcomes Judge but thinks he is the better candidate.

“I think I am a better candidate because Iowans are looking for new leadership,” Hogg said. “I don’t think she provides that leadership.”

He added that Judge has recently entered the race at the last minute, which might concern some people about her commitment.

Bob Krause

Krause is a former state legislator and a retired colonel from the Army Reserve and National Guard.

“I have always been interested in politics,” Krause said in an interview. “I was first elected to the state legislature when I was 22. So the desire to serve has been there for a long time.”

As a military veteran, Krause said veterans issues are important for him apart from economic issues. He said Grassley’s efforts to privatize Sallie Mae, the federal loan program, and rewriting bankruptcy laws could adversely affect students.

Krause said his military experience and deployments in different parts of the world set him apart from other Democratic candidates. He is also a small businessman and a member on a school board.  

He said Grassley has been “out-of-touch” with middle-class issues as “his efforts have been to the 1 percent, not the 99 percent” given his support for Trans-Pacific Partnership. He also criticized Grassley for trying to repeal the estate tax and opposing the minimum wage increase, which affects several people in the state.

“Since students at Iowa State are future members of the middle class, they should be extremely aware of what Sen. Grassley has done,” Krause said.

On the challenge of going against Grassley, Krause said current conditions could mean the incumbent could be out of office after the election.

“I think this is the year he is going to bump out,” Krause said. “The Republican Party is badly split, and I think that’s going to hurt him. There are also a lot of people who have become aware of the wrongs he has done to the middle class.”

Tom Fiegen

As per his campaign website, Fiegen, a bankruptcy attorney, served as an Iowa State senator from 2001 until 2003.

“I am running to protect and expand the grown-local farm movement; clean up Iowa water and stop the excessive use of dangerous chemicals in agriculture,” Fiegen said on his website.

Student debt, Social Security, Wall Street reform, campaign finance reform, income inequality and climate change emerge as key issues on Fiegen’s campaign website. He has endorsed Bernie Sanders in the presidential race.

“I am a candidate with no super-PAC,” a statement on his website reads. “I don’t want their money. That’s because I don’t represent billionaire interests. I represent working Iowans. Our system has fallen far out of balance and it’s time to fix it.”

Fiegen supports a water quality requirement in the next farm bill in order to qualify for federal subsidies and encouraging food production from small farms.

Fiegen’s campaign did not respond to an email request for an interview.

Robert Rees

Robert Rees, a former talk radio show host in Des Moines, has said he intends to seek the Republican nomination — taking on the task of knocking out Grassley in the Republican primary.

Rees, who describes himself a libertarian-leaning Republican, has said he is most concerned about term limits for members of Congress. His website also lists overturning Roe v. Wade, balancing the budget and protecting the Second Amendment.