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Political Mercury

Senate hopeful Hogg looks to challenge man he calls ‘living legend’

10/28/2015

One of Rob Hogg’s campaign pitches could be called a reverse Bruce Braley.

Hogg, a veteran Iowa legislator seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, speaks of his would-be general-election opponent, Republican Charles Grassley, in the way a grade-schooler might talk of the Washington Monument itself on a field trip.

“I have described Senator Grassley as a living legend,” Hogg said in an interview with this newspaper.

Photo by Douglas Burns

Photo by Douglas Burns

But voters deserve a choice, Hogg, a third-term state senator from Cedar Rapids, said.

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Grassley, 82, was first elected to public office in Iowa in 1958 and started serving in the Iowa Legislature when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

“I think it’s a good idea to get a new generation of leaders,” Hogg, 48, said.

Hogg said he is “somewhat inspired” by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, with whom he served in the Iowa Senate. He’s seeking to make the same political jump she did in 2014 — a move that was aided by her challenger Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley’s catastrophic political mistake in mocking Grassley for being a farmer, not an attorney, at a trial lawyers fundraiser in Texas. Hogg is with the law firm of Elderkin & Pirnie PLC in Cedar Rapids.

Hogg is also making an appeal to Iowa voters for balance — something the state had historically with Grassley and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who retired at the end of 2014.

“A lot of Iowans want balance in our congressional delegation, and we are now out of balance,” Hogg said.

In the interview, Hogg outlined three priorities in his campaign: action on climate change, campaign-finance reform, and getting Congress to work again.

He’s a strong supporter for renewable energy who managed ethanol and biodiesel-boosting bills in the Iowa Senate.

In 2013, Hogg published a book, “America’s Climate Century: What Climate Change Means for America in the 21st Century and What Americans Can Do About It.”

The Cedar Rapids senator made his campaign announcement in Callendar, where his grandmother, Esther Swanson Ladd, was born. Hogg said he selected the small town to make a statement that he understands and supports rural Iowa.

One of Hogg’s grandfathers, Mason Ladd, was longtime dean of Iowa Law School, and his great-grandfather, Scott Ladd, served on the Iowa Supreme Court.

On a key rural issue, Hogg is opposing a trade deal now before Congress that one of Iowa’s leading Democrats, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, says will be a boon for Hawkeye State farmers.

“My instincts are we can promote Iowa agriculture on the global market without the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Hogg said. “I don’t think that is necessary for us.”

Hogg said trade agreements should lift all other nations up to the worker safety, consumer-safety and environmental standards of the United States.

“I think we need to use global trade to raise people up,” Hogg said. “I do not think the TPP, from what I understand about it, meets that test.”

That’s a far different take than the one from Vilsack and Gov. Terry Branstad.

“Countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently account for up to 42 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports, totaling $63 billion,” said Vilsack in a statement. “Thanks to this agreement and its removal of unfair trade barriers, American agricultural exports to the region will expand even further, particularly exports of meat, poultry, dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, oilseeds, cotton and processed products.”

The trade agreement is among the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile and eight Pacific Rim countries.

“I think it’s going to be a very important issue for agriculture and Iowa in particular,” Branstad said during a town-hall meeting last Tuesday at the Pizza Ranch in Jefferson. “I think Tom Vilsack is absolutely right. This has a lot of potential to benefit us.”

On another high-profile farm issue, Hogg said he does not agree with the Des Moines Water Works strategy of filing a lawsuit against Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties over alleged nitrate runoff issues.

“It’s certainly not my preferred solution,” Hogg said.

Instead, Hogg said, there should be a legislative compromise that takes into account needs of farmers and water quality. He’s worked on such issues with the Cedar River in eastern Iowa.

Hogg supports investments to attack the clean-water issue, not more regulation, he said.

The senator is a member of the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa and supports four-laning of the federal route across the state. The highway runs through Cedar Rapids.

“We need to invest in our infrastructure,” Hogg said.

The two other candidates in the Democratic primary are former state legislators Bob Krause of Des Moines and Tom Fiegen of Clarence. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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