US Senate candidates meet

Two of the three GOP candidates for the US Senate met this evening on a stage at Iowa Public Television. The format gave one candidate 45 seconds to address a question, the other 90 seconds, then the other candidate a final 45 second to rebut.  It was rare for either to use the entire amount of time they were allotted.

The first question from moderator Dave Price of WHO-TV was about illegal immigration.  Candidate George Eichhorn, the first to be given a chance to speak, said the laws are on the books to deal with the problem, yet there is a lack of "will…resources…and courage" to enforce those laws.

Candidate Christopher Reed said illegal immigrants should be treated "like the lawbreakers that they are" and deported.  Reed criticized "sanctuary cities" that welcome immigrants and he labeled Postville, Iowa — the site of an immigration raid earlier this month — as one of those sanctuary cities.

Eichhorn was given a chance to rebut and he returned to his previous theme: "Clearly, it’s a matter of will and determination."  But then he raised a criticism of Senator Tom Harkin (the fellow each of these two men want to run against in November), questioning a provision in a bill Harkin supported which would grant agricultural workers who are immigrants five years of amnesty.

The next question about naming English as the nation’s official language.  Eichhorn said English was the "language of success and advancement" and he suggested English is "a defactor if not an official language" already in the U.S.  Reed’s initial answer was: "Emphatically yes."  He then talked about Israel’s common language requirement.

A couple of foreign policy questions were posed; both appear to support the Bush Administration’s prosecution of the war in Iraq and its approach to foreign policy. .

Switching to the economy, both said they support the Bush era tax cuts and Eichhorn said letting the tax cuts expire for "the rich" would be "the biggest tax raise that America has seen in its history."  Reed, too, backs the Bush tax cuts and said he’s ask Harkin when was the last time he saw a poor man give someone a job.

The next question was about the "borrow and spend Republicans" and whether either man thought it was  fair characterization of Republicans in congress.

Eichhorn first launched into a discussion about Demcorats acting at the state level, then launched into a criticism of the farm bill (which Harkin helped craft) with what Eichhorn said were "$20 billion of budget gimmicks."

Reed suggested some Republicans in congress are "not real conversatives and they’re not voting their true conscience in Washington.  They might be influenced by outside forces.

The discussion turned to health care.  Both favor preservation of a market-based system.  Reed said it would be wrong to let "Tom Harkin and his people" enact a "socialized" health care system. 

Halfway through the debate now.  The candidates have made only a few direct references to Tom Harkin.  Ah, but as quickly as I typed that, Reed — in an answer about how to address the nation’s energy woes — said it was "deplicitous" for Harkin to criticize oil companies while his wife sits on the board of Conoco. 

The two men mainly appear engaged in a competition to show their grasp of the issues. Eichhorn just referenced thorium. Nearly 40 minutes in and neither has offered viewers any biography of themselves.  Reed once referred to himself as a small businessman during the discussion of tax policy; Eichhorn has never referenced his background whatsoever (although his reference to the "U.S. legislature" should be a give-away that he was once a state legislator).  I guess they’re assuming the people who would tune in to a "debate" at 9 p.m. on a Friday night know who they are, or they wouldn’t be watching.  In fairness, though, the format does not lend itself to bursts of biography and neither candidate appears to be polished to the point of dribbling a personal narrative into their answers about how to cut government waste or cure the nation’s economy.

Ah, at 9:50 p.m. Reed referenced Eichhorn’s time in the legislature.  He was not complimentary, suggesting "government grew" during Eichhorn’s tenure. 

Eichhorn replied that was not the place.  "We cut the legislators’ salary while I was there," Eichhorn said.

Now, closing comments — two minutes each.

Eichhorn said he’s proud of his "common sense conservative service to the state of Iowa." Eichhorn mentioned this was Reed’s first run for public office, he mentioned endorsements from "Republican leaders" without listening them by name.  .

Reed begins by declaring that "Washington is broken and we cannot fix it by sending the same man back for a fifth term."  He  mentions he’s a veteran of the Navy and mentions endorsements, naming Bill Salier.  Salier, as you may recall, tried to face off against Tom Harkin last go-round but lost to Greg Ganske in the 2002 Republican primary.

If you want to watch the hour-long "event" it will soon be posted on Iowa Public Television’s website.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Did you like the questions?
    We didn’t want to focus on areas of agreement.