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Young, Axne Debate In Tight Race For Iowa's 3rd Congressional District

david young and cindy axne
John Pemble/IPR file
Composite photo of Republican Rep. David Young and Democrat Cindy Axne.

Two candidates running for Congress in Iowa’s competitive 3rd District debated a wide range of topics Thursday night in Johnston.

Republican Congressman David Young of Van Meter has been campaigning on what he says is his record of protecting people with preexisting medical conditions during his two terms in the U.S. House.

Democrat Cindy Axne of West Des Moines doesn’t see it that way.

“He voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which covers people with preexisting conditions,” Axne said. “He voted for the disastrous Republican health care bill that he actually lied to Iowans and said he would not vote for, and then turned around in the middle of the night and voted for it.”

“I said I cannot support it in its current form, unless it changes, and I brought changes to it,” Young responded later in the debate.

Young said the amendment he co-sponsored would have restored protections for people with preexisting conditions, although many health policy analysts question that.

Young also recently supported a non-binding resolution to prioritize those protections should anything happen to the ACA that would undermine them. Axne said she wants to shore up the ACA and add a public option. 

Iowa’s 3rd District covers 16 counties in southwest Iowa and includes the cities of Des Moines and Council Bluffs. Recent voter registration totals show a nearly equal number of registered Democrats and Republicans, and national political analysts think the race could go either way.

Young and Axne also sparred over recent changes to the federal tax code.

Young was asked about a recent poll that found 64 percent of Americans have seen no increase in their take-home pay since Republicans passed major tax legislation last year.

“That’s not what I’m hearing from the people I represent and that I visit in the 16 counties,” Young said. “I’ve received many emails and phone calls talking about how the tax relief with individuals and small businesses are allowing them to spend more of their hard earned dollars on their families.”

Axne said she would not have supported the new tax law because it’s “a wash” for most middle class families. She said she wants corporations and wealthy people to “pay their fair share.”

“I want to make sure this tax bill works for the majority of people in this state, not for corporations and wealthy people,” Axne said.

Axne said the tax cuts are increasing the deficit, but Young said he believes the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

The competitive race has brought in a lot of attack ads that seek to link Axne and Young to leaders of their parties.

Young was asked if a vote for him is a vote for President Trump’s agenda, as Trump said at a rally this week in Council Bluffs.

“A vote for me is a vote for the 3rd District,” Young said.

Axne was asked if vote for her is a vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Axne said the attack ads are false.

“I got into this race because I want to make sure Iowans have a voice out in Washington, and I’ll be working for Iowans,” Axne said.

She declined to say if she would vote for Pelosi to lead the House if Democrats get the majority.

The candidates were also asked about gun policies. Young said he supports a ban on bump stocks and “filling holes” in the background check system.

“We also passed legislation to make sure that we put some grants out there, the STOP School Violence Act, for schools to harden themselves, to hire school resource officers, to provide mental health funding as well,” Young said. He added he supports a program for states to set up “red flag” systems for temporarily removing firearms from people who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

Axne said she supports universal background checks.

“We need to make sure there are background checks at gun shows, person to person sales, online sales, and certainly, absolutely, I would ban bump stocks,” Axne said.

Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder is also running in the third district, but he was not part of Thursday night’s debate.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter