Beall: Franken’s Experience Makes Him Strongest Against Ernst

By Guest Post

May 2, 2020

Guest op-ed by former State Sen. Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge

Admiral Mike Franken’s 37-year Navy career catapulted his Northwest Iowa humble beginning to literally around the world. And he has returned to his native home to seek another form of public service — as the United States Senator from Iowa.

Born and raised in conservative Sioux County, Mike earned an engineering degree from the University of Nebraska (the N on his cap is for Navy, not Nebraska!). He continued graduate studies in physics from the Navy Postgraduate School. This scientist is committed to renewable energy, including Iowa ethanol, and in outlining his plans, he notes, “Physics comes in handy!” His embrace of science is not an esoteric or arcane endeavor; it’s just who he is.

Admiral Mike Franken has a proven track record of distinguished leadership, rising through the ranks of the U. S. Navy and retiring as a three-star admiral. He is a warrior with courage and a commitment to peace.

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In 2002 as a Navy Captain (equivalent to a full-bird colonel), he was the only member of the Iraq War Planning Board to vote “no” on the invasion of Iraq. That was a lonely vote and required a lot of courage to buck his superior officers and politicians. “Iowans need a senator who will go against the grain in Washington,” he says.

Contrast that to the incumbent, Senator Joni Ernst, whom Mike would replace. She betrayed Iowa’s veterans when we both served in the Iowa Senate.

I chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee and she was a committee member. We were investigating serious problems and abuses at the Iowa Veterans Home and nearing the end of the legislative session, Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed to turn the investigation over to the Government Oversight Committee, which has subpoena power and can take testimony under oath when the legislature is not in session.

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Ernst emerged from the Republican caucus and told me they were not going to support turning the matter over to the Oversight Committee. “But you promised,” I pleaded. She then told me that she was told to support her Republican governor and party.

That defines Senator Ernst. She works for the Koch Brothers and Mitch McConnell, not the people of Iowa. Even though she is a veteran, she betrayed Iowa’s veterans.

Mike Franken is different. His stated strategy is:

  • Lead with Iowa principles and values.
  • Don’t compromise.
  • Speak the truth, regardless of polls.
  • Listen to voters in every part of Iowa, from all walks of life.

Franken orchestrated and directed the 800-person Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that oversaw locating and retrieving U.S. veterans’ remains. He was the first commanding officer of the USS Winston Churchill. He commanded the Destroyer Squadron for the Eisenhower Strike Group. He also served as the U. S. Africa Command’s deputy for military operations.

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His experience with pandemics will serve him well in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. He fought the Ebola epidemic in Africa and helped write protocols to fix health care. He would prioritize small businesses for federal dollars and extend unemployment benefits in the stimulus. “Small businesses should be first in line,” he says.

The admiral also knows his way around Washington. He won’t have any down time when he goes to the Senate. He served in congressional affairs for the Secretary of the Navy, as the political-military chair for the Chief of Naval Operations. He presented worldwide orders book to Republican Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and was the first military officer to serve as a legislative fellow for Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.

Admiral Mike Franken is the strongest of five U. S. Senate candidates in the June 2 Democratic primary. He is the only one not from the Polk County area. It should be noted that Iowa voters are not known to elect Polk County candidates. Franken’s rural roots and values will serve him well in representing Iowans, something that eludes Joni Ernst. Plus, he outranks her!

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Mike Franken possesses what President George H. W. Bush called that elusive “vision thing.” His top priorities include:

  • Public option universal health care
  • Modernize Iowa agriculture to fight climate change
  • Curb Wall Street greed.

Mike is not the pick of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who have endorsed another heiress apparent in the Iowa Democratic Senate primary election. The TV ads being run for another candidate? Paid for by a super PAC. I’ve a better idea: How about letting Iowans decide?

Admiral Mike Franken is the strongest Democrat to run against Senator Joni Ernst. And he will be an effective voice and advocate for Iowa. He will make us proud.


by Daryl Beall
Posted 5/2/20

Daryl served in the Iowa Senate from 2003 until 2015. He chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee and International Relations Committee. He was vice chair of the Transportation Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Appropriations Subcommittee. He was a commissioner with the Education Commission of the States, an interstate compact.

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