Michael Franken, a retired Navy admiral from Northwest Iowa, entered the U.S. Senate race today against Joni Ernst to “do what’s right for Iowa” and stand up to the Washington establishment.
“Iowans need a senator who will go against the grain in Washington and do what’s right for Iowa,” said Franken, in an introductory campaign video released Monday morning.
Raised in Sioux Center, deep in Rep. Steve King’s conservative 4th Congressional District, Franken’s 40-year career with the Navy took him around the world. Before moving back to Sioux City this year, he lived in Washington, D.C.
Most recently, Franken served as Deputy for Military Operations for U.S. Africa Command, but he also has worked as Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of the Navy; Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency; and as a senior military leader in Africa, among several other high-ranking positions.
In his campaign video, Franken recalled his time as a young Navy captain in 2002 surrounded by more experienced generals and politicians debating whether to launch an invasion against Iraq, in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I was trained to not bow to political pressure and to do what’s right,” Franken said, of the invasion options presented to the group. “One thing was clear, the occupation of Iraq would be a disaster. I alone in the room voted for a fourth option — no.
“Whether working as a boy in the rolling fields of Sioux County or serving watch on the high seas, I was used to standing alone,” he continued. “And that day I did. I wasn’t surprised that everyone else in the room did the White House’s bidding, but like millions of other Americans, I was disappointed when Congress fell in line, too.”
Franken joins three other Democrats already vying to unseat Ernst, a Republican in the midst of her first re-election campaign.
Current politics has made Washington “even worse” than when he took that difficult vote against the Iraq War, Franken said.
“The Republicans are afraid to ever stand up to Donald Trump, and D.C. Democrats aren’t bold enough to confront the climate crisis, the health care industry, and Wall Street,” he said.
Theresa Greenfield of Des Moines already has secured an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commitee, in addition to a slew of other high-profile groups. But most Iowa primary voters aren’t paying much attention to the race yet, leaving the race largely open heading into the fall campaign season.
In a June interview with Starting Line, Franken acknowledged Greenfield “got a big head start” but was confident about his chances in 2020.
“In the general election,” he said, “I can beat Joni.”
By Elizabeth Meyer