By Katie Dahlstrom
President Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech that helped shape his legacy 150 years ago Tuesday.
During their annual event, Clinton County Republicans commemorated the anniversary by listening to Lincoln impersonator Larry Jepsen deliver the Gettysburg Address.
They also learned about the modern politicians vying to serve them.
Five of the seven Republican candidates in the crowded race for the seat that will be vacated by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin participated in a forum during the Clinton County Republican’s annual fall event at Gil’s Ballroom.
“This is serious,” Clinton County Republican Co-Chairman Dan Smicker said. “We have to get one of these people elected. And remember, any Republican is better than any Democrat.”
Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Ankeny, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak, businessman Scott Schaben of Ames, former U.S. Senate staffer David Young of Van Meter, and professor Sam Clovis of Sioux City all spoke about why they should be the candidate to face off against presumptive Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo.
Candidate Paul Lunde, an Ames attorney, did not participate, nor did West Des Moines businessman Mark Jacobs, who announced his candidacy Tuesday.
Former Iowa Senate candidate Andrew Naeve served as the moderator and was assisted by Rep. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt.
For more than an hour, candidates were asked questions relating to transportation, the budget, healthcare reform, alternative energy subsidies and currency manipulation by China.
All five candidates took to task the Affordable Care Act and called for limits on government spending and budget cuts.
Clovis said he would limit the influence of special-interest groups on the federal government and suggested a spending freeze to reign in the budget.
“The next senator from the state of Iowa must go there and have the resilience, the courage and the strength to face into the wind because special interests will be knocking on the door every moment of every day,” Clovis said.
The election for the Senate seat will be the most important in a generation, Schaben said, because it will begin during the last two years of President Barack Obama’s second term, “the most dangerous administration” in their life times. Schaben touted his ability to work with different groups and listen as assets for the seat.
“We have to find a candidate that will unite our party,” Schaben said.
Young, who previously served as Sen. Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff, was critical of Braley, devoting much of his closing remarks to the reasons Braley would not be best for Iowa.
“Bruce Braley does not represent Iowans, folks,” Young said. “He is so liberal it’s goofy. He’s so liberal he hides from the word liberal by calling himself a progressive. And you knew when someone calls themselves a progressive they’re ashamed of being a liberal, what they really are.”
He also likened spending in Congress to “a bunch of college animals in Las Vegas,” which he blamed for the rising debt ceiling.
Ernst also criticized Braley and the Obama administration. She touted her stand against the federal healthcare exchanges in the state and her vote against the Medicare expansion portion of the Afforable Care Act. She promoted the elimination of “over-burdonesome regulations” that hinder job growth.
“As a mother and a grandmother, I want to make sure we have strong jobs, a strong economy, government should not be creating those jobs, but creating an environment that does create job growth and a strong economy,” Ernst said.
Whitaker called for the government to stop giving aid foreign to countries that “don’t like” the United States such as Egypt. He also suggested the country re-examine its support of the United Nations.
Further, he decried the disconnect between the government and citizens.
“We know that we can’t spend more than we take in. In Washington, that’s par for the course,” Whitaker said. “Washington, D.C. is broken.”
The Senate candidates first must make it past the June 3 primary before they earn a place on the November 2014 ballot.
State Rep. Mark Lofgren, who has announced he will run against Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack for the Second District seat, also spoke to the crowd.