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3 Senate hopefuls focus on economy

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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Three Democratic candidates running against Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed on Thursday night: the economic crisis will continue to be a major issue throughout the 2010 campaign race.

The hopefuls spoke briefly about campaign plans in the Pappajohn Business Building to a group of more than 75 students and community members.

The event — cosponsored by UI Democrats and Johnson County Democrats — showcased the Iowa candidates for the upcoming U.S. Senate election: Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen, and Bob Krause.

Each had eight minutes to inform the public of their campaign platforms.

Candidates identified the current economic struggles of Iowans as the vital campaign issue.

National unemployment numbers jumped from 9.8 percent to 10.2 percent in October, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment rate in October 2008 was 6.6 percent.

Fiegen, a former economics professor at the UI, said he is upset at such a large number of unemployed Americans and vowed creating jobs would be a top priority if elected.

“I think the most pressing problem is work for those that want to work,” he said.

Fiegen said he believes there should be a second stimulus for infrastructure projects to create jobs across the country.

He also emphasized negotiating trade agreements with such countries as China to “level the playing field” for workers.

Conlin, an attorney from Des Moines, also noted the importance of providing jobs for Iowans.

“The issue in this campaign is going to be jobs, jobs, jobs,” she said.

Iowa City resident Bob Engel said he plans to vote for a realistic candidate who has concrete ways to create jobs.

Candidates also raised the issue of sending more troops to Afghanistan. President Obama announced this week that he plans to send 30,000 more troops to the country over the next six months.

Krause, a UI graduate who spent 28 years in military service, said he supports the decision but officials need to put more focus on the ongoing cost of rehabilitation and treatment for veterans.

Krause, of Fairfield, said each soldier sent to Afghanistan costs $1 million to support.

If America is committing to sending soldiers to war, it needs to be ready to support them when they get back home, he added.

Higher education should also be a priority for leaders across the country, Fiegen said, noting loans and grants should be provided for anyone who needs them.

On the issue of education and university budget issues, Conlin said while it is early to make any definite comments, she wants everyone to have the right to an affordable higher education.

“Education will be a top priority,” said Conlin, whose son graduated from the UI and grandson is currently enrolled.

Though candidates shared some differing views on issues, they all agreed Grassley, who has held the senate seat since 1981, has to go.

“The guy needs a rest,” Conlin said.


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