Mowrer clear and convincing in Democratic debate6/1/2016
Congressional candidate Jim Mowrer on May 26 showed a professional political bearing that escaped his two rivals for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 3rd District, a sweep of the rural Hawkeye State bookended by Des Moines and Council Bluffs.
Mowrer, an Iraq War veteran who took on U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in the 4th District two years ago, ably managed himself in the 90-minute KCCI-TV/Des Moines Register forum, checking boxes that should be key for primary voters June 7.
“Who can unseat David Young?” asked Mowrer’s Democratic rival Desmund Adams, a Clive businessman.
Young, a Van Meter Republican and Chuck Grassley protégé, is a highly skilled tactician,
an instinctive pol quick on his feet, who will be well funded to defend the district, geographic turf Young calls “The Sweet 16” based on its county count.
In the debate, Mowrer weaved effective shots at Young (does the Republican support a “special task force” to round up 11 million undocumented residents and ship them back to Mexico and Central America?) into several answers. What’s more, Mowrer showed a comfort level in the public lights and a rural-urban connectivity.
Adams and the third candidate in the Democratic race, Mike Sherzan, a West Des Moines financial services professional (who should embrace the fact that he is largely funding his own campaign), presented as earnest amateurs.
Two heartening observations here:
Adams, an African-American who grew up in Chicago and lives in the Des Moines area, is reaching out to rural Iowa, attempting to understand our issues, although, when it comes to highway work, he referenced Interstates 35, 80 and 29 — not more country-folk stretches of road in the 3rd District such as U.S. 71, Highway 44, 25 or 92.
And Sherzan, a white businessman, was clearly the most forceful candidate on diversity and human rights issues. His genuine passion, the no-hedging answers, jumped through the TV screen.
“Building a wall is insane, and everyone should stand up against it,” Sherzan said.
Mowrer’s best moment came in response to a question about compromise.
What’s one issue on which the candidates won’t compromise?
“I will absolutely never, ever make cuts to Social Security,” Mowrer said.
Mowrer, born and raised on a farm in Boone County, southwest of Ogden, was 7 years old when his father, David, died in a farming accident at age 43.
A train collided with David Mowrer’s tractor and grain wagon at a rural intersection with two railroad tracks. One train passed and obscured a train going the other direction, creating a blind spot, Mowrer recalled to Political Mercury.
Bottom line: The family lost a dad and provider.
“We lost the farm, and we moved into town where my mother took care of my sister and me on a modest income,” Mowrer said in an interview. “But the only thing that really kept my family from falling so far down, that we couldn’t get back up, was the basic social safety net, and in particular Social Security survivors’ benefits. And frankly, that’s why I’m a Democrat because I believe, as I’m sure you do, that we’re all better off when one of us falls down we help one another get back up.”
One challenge to Mowrer that simply doesn’t have legs is the carpetbagger tag. Now living in Des Moines, Mowrer listed a Boone residence when he unsuccessfully ran against King.
Mowrer enlisted in the Iowa National Guard following high school. His unit, the 1-133 Infantry Battalion, served a 23-month deployment in the Iraq War. Mowrer served in active duty from October 2005 to July 2007. Then he worked at the Pentagon.
With former military men reintroducing themselves into civilian lives, Iowans are more encouraging than judgmental. Terry Branstad even has a program for it: Home Base Iowa.
Flipping the script on political correctness
Adams says he backs “rural re-population.” No one in my part of the state talks about labor issues and population with such a clinical term. If you lived here, understood life here in Iowa rural, you wouldn’t trot out the term. It makes us sound like experimental mice that need to be re-arranged in a cage.
What if a white, rural candidate suggested that “urban re-education” or values “re-orientation” were needed to end cycles of poverty and violence in Iowa’s inner cities? How would that go over? References to dog-whistle racism and the Third Reich would hit Twitter instantly.
Where they are vulnerable
Young can turn the Democrats’ answers Thursday night on the Second Amendment into highly effective ads in rural Iowa on one of the more animating issues for not just Republican voters, but right-leaning independents.
Mowrer’s comments on assault weapons (only the military should have them) and calls for universal background checks and gun-show restrictions can be framed by Republican PACs this way: “He wants the government, not the American people, to have the advantage with firearms. And when he gets through with regulations, rural folks will have to travel to the cities to buy guns and register in intimidating bureaucracies.”
Worst answer of the night
“I would consider it.” — Desmund Adams when asked if he would entertain the idea of serving just one term.
Rural states demand seniority from their elected officials to balance the power centers of urban America.
Sherzan said he’d support term limits, while Mowrer correctly observes that there are already term limits. They’re called elections, and they happen every two years for Congress.
Mowrer is the Democrat with the best shot at a very, very formidable first-term Republican. 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.