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U.S. Senate candidate Glenn Hurst says Democrats shouldn't nominate another centrist candidate if they want to win

Dr. Glenn Hurst stands in one of his patient rooms in his Minden, Iowa practice. Hurst is one of the three Democrats running for his party's U.S. Senate nomination.
Clay Masters
Dr. Glenn Hurst stands in one of the patient rooms in his Minden practice last week. Hurst is one of the three Democrats running for his party's U.S. Senate nomination.

IPR Morning Edition host Clay Masters sits down with another one of the Democratic U.S. Senate candidates for a conversation about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade, climate change policies and connecting with rural voters.

Dr. Glenn Hurst is a physician in the small town of Minden in western Iowa. Hurst, who also serves on the city council for this town of about 600 people, is one of the three Democrats running in hopes of facing Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in the fall. He doesn't have as much name recognition or money as Mike Franken and Abby Finkenauer. But Hurst says they’re not as progressive as him.

He says centrist Democrats are not going to win a statewide race.

“That's what we've been putting forward the top of the ticket for the last four general elections, and we've lost at the top of the ticket every time,” Hurst said. “We've got to put a candidate forward like the last one who won. That's Tom Harkin.”

Hurst says former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin was a “prairie, progressive pragmatic candidate who had progressive values and delivered on them.” He says he’d be that kind of candidate.

IPR’s Clay Masters talked with Hurst at his medical office in Minden. He says he's uniquely qualified for the U.S. Senate because he understands rural Iowa.

Glenn Hurst: So, essentially, we have no health care services out here. There's no place nearby to deliver a baby, unless it's Council Bluffs. If you can't deliver babies in your communities, then your communities aren't going to grow. And we're seeing hospitals across the state that are closing their OB programs, and continued shrinkage of the population because young people can't move to your community, right? They can't move there. So, your community ages, and then parents move away to be near their grandchildren and the community ages. And then we move the people who built those communities into nursing homes in Des Moines and Council Bluffs and your community dies.

Clay Masters: Given your profession, when the leaked Supreme Court document came forward about the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, as a medical professional, what thoughts did you have being a rural doctor here in western Iowa?

There's only two people who belong in your exam room. And that's you and your provider. And there's only one person who makes decisions in that room. And that's you. So, when a ruling like this comes down, it takes the ability to make decisions about your own care out of your hands; particularly in this case, abortion, from a woman's hand, it makes half of our population, a second class citizen because the rest of us all have control of our bodies at all times.

It is very distressing to see in the in the rural medical setting it’s again distressing because there is an amount of health care that is where abortion is necessary. I had a patient who had breast cancer, she was 32 or 33 years old, she had a 5-year-old child and a 2-year-old child and a pregnancy. And if she didn't take care of her breast cancer, she wasn't going to be there for her children. If she didn't have an abortion, she wasn't going to be able to take the chemotherapy necessary for her breast cancer. So this is a decision that nobody goes into lightly. But that everybody should have the right to go into.

How unpopular of an opinion is that to have in a community like Minden?

Well, I really don't think it's an unpopular opinion at all. We have the majority of the United States of America, that is in support of women having the right to choose. Minden, Iowa is just a slice of middle America. And I don't have any polling in our community to tell you that, but I certainly don't see pushback against it.

As far as unpopular opinions in a lot of rural counties in Iowa that once voted Democratic, we've seen a big shift since 2016. Why do you think that small towns across the state have kind of gone towards the Republican Party and especially in the rise of Donald Trump? Why do you think that's connected?

I think it's because [Trump] has been the last voice of change, dramatic change. I would I would contest your position and say it doesn't go back six or eight years. It goes back 16 to 20 years. It goes back 30 years. Iowans and middle Americans and certainly rural folks. We would like our freedoms respected. We would like the ability to do what we want to do be who we want to be with a lot without a lot of government involvement. And we've seen failures from the government and an injection of the government into our daily lives in a way that we didn't like and that's how Barack Obama won, right?

Barack Obama run ran on change he ran he was an outsider progressive and I have numerous people that talk to me about voting for Donald Trump after having voted for Barack Obama, because he delivered the same message. He ran on a message of we're going to shake things up in Washington D.C. It wasn't about I liked Donald Trump. It was about I don't like the way things are being done in Washington.

What kind of message do you think would resonate for the people of Iowa when it comes to climate change policy? Because we've seen that Democratic voters and left-leaning voters say that climate change is one of the biggest things they want Congress to solve. What kind of policies would you put in place?

Well, you've got to tie just about every policy you want to talk about to the economy. When I say the economy, I mean to your wallet specifically. So we need to be talking about economy as we talk about the energy crisis and climate change and the importance of doing something about it. How is that going to affect the bottom dollar?

In Iowa, there's great opportunity for generating wealth from becoming an energy state. What we want to be sure about is that everybody is on board with taking those types of steps. And sometimes it's not the energy production side that's of interest to them. It's about the quality of Iowa life. Iowans want to be out in the great outdoors. I like to hike. I like to fish. I've got family that likes to hunt, if you can't go outside, because the stench of CAFOs makes it so you can't even grill a steak on your back porch. Well, then let's talk about air quality. Okay, that's my personal freedom right there. If I can't process and drink the water in my community, that's a personal problem. Let's talk about what's being dumped into our water and who's doing the dumping. If you can't eat fish from the fish fry, and you can't let your dog retrieve the duck from the water because it's poisonous. That's a problem for daily Iowa living and there's a place that we want to hold people responsible

Mike Franken and Abby Finkenauer are also running in the Iowa Democratic Party's U.S. Senate primary race. Sen. Chuck Grassley faces a Republican challenger in state Sen. Jim Carlin.

There are several ways to vote in this year's primary you can vote in person at your county auditor's office beginning May 18. You canrequest an absentee ballot anytime up through May 23. It will have to be received by your county auditor by 8 p.m. on primary day, or you can vote in person on June 7.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.