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Senate Candidates Take Their Turn On The State Fair Soapbox

Michael Leland/IPR
Democrat Patty Judge (left) and independent candidate Michael Luick-Thrams at the Iowa State Fair Sunday

U.S. Senate candidates took over the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Sunday, with the Democratic candidate accusing Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley of ducking the fair’s forum, and an independent candidate criticizing the country’s “aristocracy of money.”

Former Iowa Agriculture Secretary and Lt Governor Patty Judge told a crowd gathered for the soapbox speech if she’s elected, she’ll try to get a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee and help write the next Farm Bill.

“We need to make sure that there is a strong safety net for family farmers, that we are looking out for the interest of family farmers in Iowa,” she said.

But independent senate candidate Michael Luick-Thrams of Mason City says both Judge and Republican incumbent Grassley spend too much effort supporting big agriculture and increased production, and can’t be trusted to protect Iowa's environment from the effects of large-scale farming.

“The soil’s getting tired," he said. " It’s not the soil that was here when our ancestors came.  Are we addressing that?”

Luick-Thrams says he holds both conservative and liberal views, and describes himself as “unbought and unbossed” by any party or wealthy supporters.  He describes the U.S. as not having an aristocracy as it has been known elsewhere in the world, but that the country has developed what he calls an “aristocracy of money.”  Luick-Thrams also says the campaign season is far too long, and keeps ordinary people from running for office.

“Ordinary people like us, like waitresses and farmers and truck drivers and others who are just ordinary citizens…who could finance such a campaign as part of that system?” he asked.  “The only ones left who can really run are those who either have a lot of money or can attract it.” 

Luick-Thrams says he was in the race to talk about issues Grassley and Judge are not talking about, like air, soil, and water quality.  He also called for part-time workers to get at least a week’s vacation, and for fulltime workers to have at least two weeks off when they begin their jobs.

Democrat Patty Judge told the crowd gathered for her speech that at the time of the State Fair last year, she was not expecting to be running for office this summer, but felt she had to after Sen. Grassley, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, declined to allow a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. 

“That obstruction that’s going on in the United States Senate has to end, and it has to end with this election,” she said.

Judge also accused Grassley of avoiding the public by not scheduling a speaking time at the soapbox.  Grassley told reporters in his regular conference call last week that he didn’t plan to speak at the fair, and has pointed out that he regularly meets with the public through his continuing series of “town hall meetings” around the state.

Libertarian Charles Aldrich of Clarion is also on the senate ballot this November.  He is not scheduled to speak at the fair.

Michael Luick-Thrams at the Iowa State Fair, August 14