King, Mowrer participate in sole debate


Jim Mowrer, left, and U.S. Rep. Steve King, right, faced off in their one and only debate on Oct. 23 in Storm Lake, IA. Mowrer is challenging King for his seat in the U.S. House.

Alex Hanson

Candidates for the U.S. House in Iowa’s 4th congressional district had 60 minutes to convince voters why they are worthy of a vote in 12 days on Nov. 4.

The event held on Oct. 23 was the only scheduled debate of the 2014 election cycle between U.S. Rep. Steve King, a six-term Republican from Storm Lake, and democrat Jim Mowrer, Iraq war veteran and former Pentagon Assistant.

The debate took place at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and was broadcast across the state on Iowa Public Television.

King was asked about his achievements in Congress and Mowrer touted his work at the Pentagon. King said Mowrer “has no record,” of achievements. 

“I have a record of serving my country. I have a record of saving taxpayers billions of dollars at the Pentagon,” Mowrer said. “That’s the record I would bring to Congress.”

Moderator Dean Borg asked King about being an “outlier” in Congress based on some controversial statements King has made about immigration. King responded quickly to defend his record.

“[An outlier] means somebody that sets a trend. That’s somebody that actually may not fit the statistical standard, but also is a leader,” King said. “If you talk about working across the aisle, that’s how we got the farm bill done. That was my job to reach across the aisle. That’s why we got a bipartisan vote.”

The candidates also debated on Ebola strategies. King said military should not be sent to deal with Ebola in countries hit hard by the virus.

“As a solider, I understand that you volunteer when you raise your right hand and you’re willing to sacrifice everything for this country,” Mowrer said. “Soldiers follow orders, this is a job that needs to be done. That’s why Congressman King never volunteered for the military.”

Kelly Winfrey, a lecturer in psychology, said this statement was Mowrer’s low point in the debate.

“I really think his low was when he started talking about the fact that King did not serve in the military and did not understand,” Winfrey said. “I think the initial comment was just a jab that got blown out of proportion and Mowrer kind of kept digging the hole for awhile. It made it seem that he felt like if you didn’t serve you had no ability to talk about military issues.”

Mowrer walked back some of his statements directly at King, but continued to show support for the military tackling the problem of Ebola spreading.

Other topics included a variety of farm issues directly affecting Iowa’s 4th District, foreign policy relating to ISIS and arming Syrian rebels, the federal government investing in broadband and issues on free market and government-managed economics.

Timothy Hagle, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa, said King had the advantage being a sitting Congressman and having more knowledge of the issues.

“As a sitting member of Congress, he has a pretty good grasp of a lot of details on a variety of issues,” Hagle said.

As for Mowrer, Winfrey said he had a strategy to attack King, and did a good job of it.

“His overall strategy was to portray King as an extreme conservative that was unwilling to pass legislation or work across the aisle at all,” Winfrey said. “I think he did a good job at pointing out different places that King has been kind of extreme in his positions or unwillingness to work across party lines.”

Polling is sparse for the race, but a poll from Loras in September showed King leading Mowrer by 11 points. Each campaign has released their own polling. Mowrer’s polling showed him down only slightly in what is classified as a “safe Republican” seat. King’s campaign poll showed himself leading by 13 points.

Steve King has represented the 4th congressional district, which includes the ISU campus and Ames, in Congress since 2003.

Election Day is on Nov. 4th. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.