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House candidates clash on social issues, budget

BY NICK HASSETT | NOVEMBER 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Candidates for the Iowa House 73rd and 77th legislative Districts clashed on issues at a candidate forum Thursday evening.

The forum, co-hosted by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, took place at the Coralville City Hall. The format allowed attendees to pose questions to the candidates, which were read by a moderator.

One of the issues that received the most attention was gay marriage and the Iowa Supreme Court decision in the Varnum v. Brien case, which legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.

“The issue has grown to a level that’s too big for me to give my opinion on,” said

Steve Sherman, the GOP candidate for the 77th District. “It needs to go to a vote —that’s the most fair and adequate way to end this.”

Bobby Kaufman, the GOP candidate for the 73rd District, agreed, but added that he was not against gay rights.

“I’m a strong proponent of rights for gays, such as inheritance and hospital visitation,” he said, noting that his best friend throughout college was gay. “We need to stop playing politics with people and make sure their rights are upheld, and we need to put it to a vote.”

However, Sally Stutsman and Dick Schwab, the two Democratic nominees for the 77th and 73rd District, respectively, said they were in support of the decision and would not attempt to hold a vote on the matter.

“The judicial system has settled this issue,” Schwab said.

The candidates also discussed Stand Your Ground legislation, which was pushed by Republican lawmakers earlier this year. The legislation aimed to authorize Iowans to use deadly force in the case of a home invasion without legal action.

The two Republican candidates were in support of the legislation.

“Everyone has a fundamental right to protect themselves,” Sherman said. “If someone uses force under current law, they immediately need lawyers to protect themselves.”

“It’s a complex issue,” Kaufman said. “I’m not a gun-rights crazy nut, but if someone enters your home, the thought that you are not able to protect your home and your family against armed assailants is ludicrous.”

But Stutsman disagreed.

“I don’t quite understand why we need to go a step further with Stand Your Ground,” Stutsman said. “There are laws in place that provide protection to use force.”

Schwab thought those existing laws are enough.

“The right to bear arms is given to us,” Schwab said. “But there’s a requirement for judgment and boundaries.”

The candidates didn’t disagree on everything. When the discussion turned to the Iowa budget surplus, even the opposing candidates found some common ground.

“We need to fully fund education,” Schwab said. “We need to adequately fund our state mental health programs, and we need to increase our reserves and prepare ourselves for a federal debt crisis.”

Kaufman, Schwab’s opponent in the 73rd district, mostly agreed.

“We need to fund some areas that have been starved, but there’s nothing wrong with a savings account,” he said, adding that he would focus on education and health care as areas to increase funding.

Stutsman wanted to see increased funding.

“Iowa is in great shape,” she said. “We need to make sure there’s adequate funding for all of our programs.”

However, Sherman wanted to see tax rebates for Iowans, and increasing the reserves.

“I think we can do better on job growth,” he said. “We should look to increase the surplus as much as we can. Any program of merit needs to find ways to pay for itself.”


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