DUBUQUE – A quartet of GOP U.S. Senate hopefuls spent the evening singing to the choir and asking them to carry the tune to fellow Republicans and conservatives.
Singing from the GOP hymnal Thursday evening, they promised to defend life, traditional marriage, gun rights and Americans’ pocketbooks. Each of the four candidates who accepted the invitation to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition house party spent little time parsing the issues. Instead, they spoke of their shared values, their life experiences and Iowa common-sense.
“We all agree on almost all of the issues,” Sam Clovis said.
“Anyone of us will be much, much better than a Bruce Braley in that seat,” added State Sen. Joni Ernst, referring to U.S. 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“There’s more common-sense on every street corner” in his hometown of Van Meter than in the nation’s capitol, David Young said, “and I will take it with me to Washington.”
“We need a true conservative who will hold the line and say ‘no,’” said Matt Whitaker, who asked his audience for their support and for them to “go out and spread the word about the wonderful candidates you meet tonight.”
That was, in fact, the point of the evening, according to Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a non-profit advocacy and voter education group.
Scheffler encouraged those in attendance to help spread the candidates’ messages, to volunteer for their campaigns and contribute money.
“Our members want to know about issues ranging from the defense of unborn life to what can be done to fix the economy, but we also want to know and measure the character of our candidates,” he said. “These meetings will help flesh those questions out.”
Although he was happy to open his rural Dubuque home for the forum, host Ron Herrig, who had not met any of the candidates, thought that 10 months before the Republican primary to select a nominee was too soon to begin the process of vetting the candidates.
“We should be doing this all year-round,” countered his wife, Becky Herrig. Maybe it’s because she’s a teacher interested in life-long learning, but she thinks anyone interested in politics should be listening to the candidates every chance they get.
“We’re not making a decision tomorrow, but if you wait until the last moment you might not make the best decision,” Pat Cline of Dubuque said.
Bill Haxmeier of Dubuque was there not just to hear the candidates.
“As much as I listen to the candidates, I listen to the people who know the candidates,” Haxmeier said.
The 2014 race takes on special significance, Scheffler said, because it’s the first time since 1974 there has been an open-seat Senate race in Iowa. He emphasized the importance of unity among conservatives if Iowans are going to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin with someone who shares their values.
“I’m not asking you to compromise, but bottom line, all of these candidates will agree with us on much more than what divides us,” Scheffler said. While there are some “non-negotiables like such as life and marriage,” he advised at getting into “spitting matches over little details,