(Windsor Heights, IA) Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition held a Republican U.S. Senate candidate forum at Walnut Creek Community Church in Windsor Heights, IA with approximately 105 social conservatives from around Central Iowa. Three of the five declared candidates attended: State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak, Scott Schaben of Ames, and former U.S. Attorney and Hawkeye Football standout Matt Whitaker of Ankeny were present. Talk show radio host and college professor Sam Clovis of Hinton and former Grassley Chief of Staff David Young of Van Meter were unable to attend the event.
IFFC President Steve Scheffler encouraged those in present to not only attend the 2014 Iowa Caucus, but to sign-up as delegates to their county conventions. He noted that those affiliated with Mitt Romney were planning on making a push in 2016, but Scheffler said 2014 can’t be overlooked, especially since they are not as well attended. They asked people to pledge to not only attend, but also to work to become delegates.
All three candidates were given five minutes to give opening remarks. All three gave their standard stump speech. State Senator Ernst spoke first describing herself as a “mom, a solider, and a conservative.” She outlined her experience as a battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard and as a county auditor. She emphasized that she was pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and pro-2nd Amendment.
Matt Whitaker shared his biography from playing for former Iowa Hawkeyes Head Football Coach Hayden Fry to his five-year stint as U.S. Attorney under President George W. Bush. He discussed how Washington’s current policies impacted him as a small business owner with 16 employees. Whitaker also started his own law firm in Des Moines with Bill Gustoff and State Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights).
Scott Schaben shared his experience working for family to getting into car sales. He said that he would be the candidate who could reach beyond the Republican Party’s base.
Sam Clovis and David Young did not have anyone available to speak on their behalf.
The evening ran late with the Q&A section of the forum with each candidate having the opportunity to answer questions from members of the audience.
The first question was about foreign companies purchasing American companies and the impact that has on jobs. In particular the Smithville Foods acquisition and what it meant for pork producers.
Next candidates were asked about quantitative easing.
The next question was on what they would do to address the problem of human trafficking in the United States.
Then the candidates were asked about what they thought about the principle of “nullification” as a response to addressing Federal overreach. There was interesting interaction between Matt Whitaker and the man who asked the question. This was probably one of the more lively interactions of the evening.
Another audience member asked the candidates about the use of drones in Iowa.
Candidates were then asked if they would allow themselves to take the exception to Obamacare that has been given to Congress.
Tom Coates of Norwalk asked the candidates about immigration reform and border security.
Ottumwa Pastor and Iowa GOP State Central Committee Member Mark Doland asked the candidates about their position on the IRS trying to restrict political speech in the pulpit.
There were two more questions asked (unfortunately due to technical issue video was not taken) of the candidates. The candidates were asked their thoughts on the Federal involvement in education and the Common Core State Standards. Ernst said that she was not in favor of the standards. “The Federal government should not be involved,” Ernst said. “We need to have standards, but we don’t need the Common Core.”
Whitaker also opposes the Common Core. “The Federal government does not belong in education,” Whitaker said. He mentioned the college professors who were on the validation committee who could not sign off on it. He described the Common Core as a “one-size-fits-all, cram-it-down-your-throat” reform. He said that lawmakers should be focused on school choice instead.
Schaben said that the Common Core represented another attempt of the Feds “reaching beyond to where they should not go.” He said the Common Core will lead to the “dumbing down of kids in Iowa.”
The candidates were asked about the marriage debate. Schaben said that he doesn’t discriminate against homosexual. “I am ok with gay marriage,” Schaben said. He said he wants to appeal to a broader base and homosexuals are a part of that.
Ernst reiterated that she was for traditional marriage between one man and one woman. He reminded the audience that she was a co-sponsor for the Marriage amendment in the Iowa Senate.
Whitaker also said he was for traditional marriage. He took a shot at Schaben saying that he disagreed with him, and that his faith does not allow him to hold that position. “If we start saying there are more important things than life and marriage we might as well elect a Democrat,” Whitaker stated.
To close out the evening the candidates were asked whether they would support a budget that includes a dime of funding for Obamacare. Each candidates present said no.
Coretha Rozendaal of Monroe told Caffeinated Thoughts that she came undecided and was leaving undecided. She still had not had the opportunity to meet and hear Sam Clovis or David Young. “There were two very polished candidates (Ernst and Whitaker) and one who wasn’t so polished (Schaben),” Rozendaal said. She said all gave some good answers.
Tom Coats of Norwalk believed that Matt Whitaker had the strongest performance of the evening. “Matt displayed the greatest depth of all of these issues,” Coats said. “He gained big points on his quantitative easing answer.”
Coats said he wished the other two candidates would have been able to attend. “I especially wanted to hear Sam Clovis, he would have spiced it up more.” Coats emphasized that this was an important election and was thankful for forums like the one IFFC held to get as much input from grassroots supporters.
Jonas Cutler of West Des Moines also believed Whitaker had the strongest appearance. “Whitaker came across the most polished,” Cutler said. He was especially impressed with his answer on drone surveillance. “It was nice to see the candidates differentiate themselves; with a longer forum we can go more in depth with the issues,” he added.
Scheffler said Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition planed to have additional forums with the candidates so more voters can get to know them.