Chuck Grassley is seeking his eighth term to the U.S. Senate this year. But Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin wants to unseat the man synonymous with Iowa politics before state Democrats have a chance.
Carlin’s primary campaign is widely considered a long shot, even as Grassley’s popularity in the state has slipped during his decades in the Senate.
The winner of the primary will take on one of three Democrats running for the seat.
Early voting for the June 7 primary begins May 18. Here’s how you can vote in Iowa.
To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent surveys to every candidate in this competitive primary. The candidate responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. Candidates appear in alphabetical order by last name.
Who are the Republican candidates for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat?
- Age: 59
- Town of residence: Sioux City
- Party affiliation: Republican
- Education: University Massachusetts Amherst, bachelor’s degree in economics; Law degree from Marquette University School of Law.
- Occupation: Lawyer
- Previous elected offices held: Iowa State Representative and Iowa State Senator
- Major civic activities: Worked on the senior property tax freeze and got it passed, 18 years of visiting Nursing Homes, started a book club at the Fort Dodge Prison for Inmates
- Age: 88
- Town of residence: New Hartford, Iowa
- Party affiliation: Republican
- Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of Northern Iowa, doctoral work at the University of Iowa
- Occupation: Farmer, U.S. Senator
- Previous elected offices held: U.S. Senate since 1981; U.S. House of Representatives, 1975 – 1981; Iowa House of Representatives – 1959 – 1975
- Major civic activities: Iowa Farm Bureau, Butler County and State of Iowa Historical Societies, Pi Gamma Mu, Kappa Delta Pi, Prairie Lakes Church of Cedar Falls
What distinguishes you from your primary opponents?
Carlin: What distinguishes me from my opponent is my values and voting record. I am a constitutional Republican with extensive experience in Iowa politics and a proven conservative legislative record to back it up. I have been a leader in defending medical freedom, tax relief for seniors, looking after Iowa’s veterans, keeping Iowa schools safe for our children, sound fiscal policies, and more. Charles Grassley‘s poor voting record includes votes to pass Biden’s big spending bill, defund construction of the border wall and confirm disastrous cabinet picks. He has voted with Biden’s agenda 54% of the time. We cannot hope to preserve freedom by continuing to vote for those who have failed to keep it.
Grassley: Iowans are working harder than ever to make ends meet and finding themselves falling further and further behind in the Biden economy. The reckless agenda of open borders, defunding the police, canceling student debt, blunting U.S. energy independence and fueling the fires of inflation is putting America on the wrong track. With my seniority and leadership positions in the U.S. Senate, I’m running for re-election to ensure the value and interests of Iowans and Rural America doesn’t take a backseat to the progressive agenda pushed by Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
There is a strong likelihood that no one political party will have total control of the federal government after the election. And if one does, the majority will be narrow. How would you work across party lines to improve the lives of Iowans?
Carlin: Both as an attorney and a state legislator in the Iowa House and Senate, I know how to get things done without compromising my values or the interests of the people I serve. I have voted for the passage of numerous pieces of legislation that were bipartisan and have authored legislation such as the sex trafficking task force bill and the veterans’ trust fund bill that received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate. The idea that you can’t accomplish work on a bipartisan basis is without merit. I will pass legislation as long as it is consistent with my principles and authentically helps Iowans.
Grassley: Georgetown University’s Lugar Center ranks me among the most bipartisan senators in Congress. I’ve scored in the Top 20 working across party lines in its bipartisan index, and most recently was named the 5th most bipartisan Republican senator in 2021. The Senate forces bipartisanship and I’m glad it does because. I make a point during my annual 99 county meetings to hear from a cross-section of Iowans. At nearly every meeting I’m asked: ‘Why can’t lawmakers get along and get things done?’ My record of bipartisanship shows I don’t let partisanship get in the way of my work on behalf of Iowans, from cutting prescription drug prices to championing renewable energy and supporting infrastructure, I do what’s best for Iowa.
How should Congress tackle inflation?
Carlin: We can’t have reckless big government infrastructure spending. We have to live within our means. During my time in the Senate, we cut taxes and balanced the budget. I believe in a balanced budget at the federal level as well. This is indispensable to preserving the value of the dollar and remaining the world’s reserve currency. Our economy is subsistent on the energy we produce, we have to take off the fetters of regulations on our crude oil, coal, and ethanol production. When energy is cheaper, our economy does better. We have to reintroduce competition into monopoly-controlled marketplaces such as healthcare, agriculture, and technology. Competition in the marketplace will lower costs and improve quality.
Grassley: It’s harder for families to pay for gas and groceries. It’s harder for farmers to afford inputs, like diesel and fertilizer, to get their crops in the ground. It’s harder for small businesses to make ends meet with supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages. President Biden insisted inflation was “transitory” when he pushed through an additional $2 trillion in spending after Congress already enacted $4 trillion in bipartisan pandemic relief spending in 2020. With my experience as the inflation fighter when Iowans first elected me to Congress, I know what it takes to trim spending and tighten the belt to get inflation under control. Canceling student debt and spending tens of billions of dollars on Biden’s “Build Back Broke” program would pour gasoline on the fires of inflation.
How should Congress balance the desires to drive down gas prices and to fight climate change?
Carlin: We have to take off the fetters of regulations on our crude oil, coal, and ethanol production. I am not willing to trade world economic strength for dependence on foreign regimes which don’t have America’s best interests at heart. The answer to lower gas prices is directly tied to crude oil and ethanol production. This will foster energy independence. There also appears to be an expanding market for our ethanol in jet fuel which could also drive down the cost through expanded production. How do we know Biden’s policies have harmed us? Skyrocketing gas prices. Rising gas prices are a government-created problem that has greatly harmed middle, and lower-income Americans as well as fixed-income seniors.
Grassley: Biofuels consistently provide consumers with a more affordable, cleaner fuel option, that’s good for Iowa’s economy, the environment and U.S. energy independence. I pressured the Biden administration to allow year-round E-15 to counter his disastrous energy policies that reversed U.S. energy independence. I’m also a sponsor of the Growing Climate Solutions Act. America needs climate-smart solutions that take advantage of renewable energy, innovation and environmental stewardship in rural America. As the father of the wind energy tax credit, consider the remarkable strides Iowa has made, producing the highest percentage of electricity by wind of any state, nearly 60 percent.
Democrats have spent the past two years debating President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. While the omnibus legislation appears dead, is there anything in that policy worth saving that you would vote for?
Carlin: With inflation near a 40-year high and the U.S dollar, which is the world’s form of reserve currency, losing its value, I would not support increased reckless government spending bills that jeopardize our economy.
Grassley: The so-called Build Back Better agenda was designed from the start to be an entirely partisan exercise. So it’s no wonder that it couldn’t get Republican support. Although it was billed as an infrastructure bill, it was filled with unrelated social spending. So a bipartisan group negotiated an actual infrastructure bill that I was able to support. The hard infrastructure bill that is now law returns the gas tax to Iowans which has been done since the federal highway system was created. If Democrats are serious about addressing any of the other, non-infrastructure issues that “Build Back Better” was intended to address, they should follow the same approach and come to Republicans willing to negotiate bipartisan legislation.
It’s well documented that Iowa has a critical shortage of safe, adequate affordable housing, especially in rural areas. U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development rental assistance in Iowa declined by $2 million over the past five years, even as demand grew, and a portion went to subsidize apartments that residents told the Des Moines Register were poorly run and in some cases barely fit for habitation. How would you address that situation?
Carlin: The state legislature of Iowa awards rural workforce housing tax credits to meet the demand for rural housing. I don’t think the federal government should interject themselves into what I believe is a state issue. The bigger the bureaucracy, the smaller the individual. The workforce housing tax credits right now are in process and have not fully arrived at their desired outcomes, however, the Iowa House is working toward it.
Grassley: The approach by USDA Rural Development to produce low-income, multi-family housing by directly subsidizing developers has failed. We see the result with units across the country falling into disrepair. Having targeted tax incentives like the New Markets Tax Credit and the Low-Income Housing Tax credit have proven to be effective tools to build new housing. Ensuring adequate housing in rural Iowa is a local, state, and federal issue. The federal government’s role is to provide a tax-friendly investment environment and make sure investors have access to capital. The federal government should also limit government spending as it’s the leading contributor to inflation. Higher costs for materials required to build new housing reduce the ability to add to the housing stock.
How should Congress update the nation’s election laws to balance access, security and fairness?
Carlin: While Chuck Grassley voted to confirm the 2020 election, I stand by my belief that if we do not reform our election laws, we will ensure voter fraud and distrust in the democratic process. Election integrity is essential to a free country and to the peaceful transition of power. We must ensure our systems are fair in order to secure voters’ faith. Our vote is our voice, and security is key to making sure everyone’s voice is heard. I advocate for paper watermark ballots and a system that allows ballots to be authenticated and counted by hand. We cannot have vulnerabilities that over-reliance on technology created and made us more subject to fraud.
Grassley: Elections need to be secure and fair with the rules governing them set in advance for a level playing field. Our system of self-government hinges on election integrity, and voters must trust the system is fair and accurate. I, along with a large majority of Americans of all backgrounds, support common-sense voter ID laws. Decades of Democrats questioning elections when they lose, such as the presidential elections of 2000, 2008, and 2016, and the 2018 Georgia governor’s race, have eroded faith in our elections. Now individuals in both parties question outcomes when they see irregularities in some state elections. However, federalizing elections is not the solution.
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