And we’re off. The official filing period for Iowa elected offices has begun.
Between today and March 13, state and federal candidates looking to put their name on the June 2 primary ballot are dropping off their signature-filled petition sheets with the Secretary of State.
First in the door this morning: Mike Franken, the retired three-star admiral looking to take on Joni Ernst as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate. Arriving with 14,862 names on his sheets, he’s one of five Democrats running in a primary that’s about to get a lot more attention now that the caucus is over.
Franken, who lives in Sioux City was raised in Lebanon, a tiny Northwest Iowa town in Sioux County, made clear he believes he can best stack up against Ernst among rural voters.
“I think it’s important to have a substantial Democratic appearance in rural Iowa, I believe we’ve lost that through the years. I would very much like to be the face of rural Iowa,” he said.
To drive home that point, his first event after filing will be in Red Oak, Ernst’s hometown, for a Farmers For Franken event.
“She really accentuated her pig issue,” Franken said of Ernst’s 2014 ads. “My comprehension of farming and animals and multiple years working at Supreme Packing Company, I’m on a different level there as well. It’s practical knowledge and we remove the foolishness that got her elected.”
The candidate also felt he could best go up against Ernst on military and foreign policy issues; Ernst made history as the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate. Franken spent several decades in the military, including serving on four different continents, doing several command tours and serving in combat theaters.
Franken described his three top issues as combating climate change, improving health care access and fighting special interests in government. He wanted to “ensure that Iowa agriculture is simpatico with the climate hawks. And also that Iowa is a beneficiary of climate-addressing techniques.”
Two other candidates — Theresa Greenfield and Eddie Mauro — have outpaced Franken significantly on funding their campaigns, though Franken, a first-time candidate, has put together enough money for a functioning campaign. Greenfield raised $1.6 million in Q4, while Mauro had $1.5 million, though much of that was his own money he loaned his campaign. Franken raised about $183,000 in Q4, and ended last year with $124,785 cash on hand.
Much of the national Democratic infrastructure had already lined up early behind Greenfield in the primary, including the DSCC. That has frustrated some of her Democratic competitors. Though Franken passed on a chance to mention her by name, Franken said that Iowa Democrats have “been doing what Washington, D.C. and the large party bosses have wanted us to do, probably to our detriment.”
“Here again, they have a tendency to reach down into Iowa and pre-select candidates, pre-select how things are going to go,” he said. “And maybe that’s not the best move for Iowa. Iowans seem perfectly adept at choosing their presidential candidates … maybe the large party politics should step back.”
Overall, Franken was optimistic about Democrats’ chances of retaking Tom Harkin’s former seat in the Senate. Recent polling has shown warning signs for Ernst, who is now ranked as the third-most unpopular senator in the country from Morning Consult. But Donald Trump still maintains a loyal base of voters in Iowa, and how the fall elections play out will still turn significantly on who the Democratic presidential nominee is.
“We are on the ascendancy in this state,” Franken said, “and I would expect us to go significantly blue this year.”
by Pat Rynard