House District 47 candidates share viewpoints at forum

First of two candidate forums; county candidates Oct. 11

Editor’s note: Candidate endorsements are listed at the end of this post. According to a statement released Oct. 10 by the Greene County Farm Bureau, the Greene County Farm Bureau does not endorse legislative candidates, however the Iowa Farm Bureau PAC does designate “Friends of Agriculture”. The Friends of Agriculture endorsements for the Nov. 6 general election were announced in September. The list does not include a candidate for the Iowa House District 47 seat.

~by Victoria Riley, GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The difference between the three candidates running for the Iowa House District 47 seat were clear by the end of a candidate forum held Thursday evening in Jefferson. About 60 persons attended the Rotary-hosted event. They probed the candidates’ positions on a variety of issues, with retired newspaper publisher and Rotarian Rick Morain as moderator.

In his opening statement, Libertarian candidate Pat Shaw, 53, of Boone said, “We all sit and complain about politics and the government. Voting isn’t enough anymore for me. I had to get in there and get my feet wet. I’m wet up to my knees right now.”

His job experience includes owning and teaching in a martial arts academy, work for Boone County Emergency Management, serving as union steward for Boilermakers Local 83 in Boone, and now in manufacturing utility trailers.

Democrat candidate David Weaver, 49, of Rippey, is running “because I want my daughter to grow up in an Iowa of charity, good will and compassion for our fellow citizens, not one of violence, lack of empathy, or division and conflict. We need to focus on building bridges, not walls,” he said.

He farms with his father in southwest Boone County. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Central College and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Iowa. He taught English in Japan and worked at college libraries before returning to the farm.

Republican candidate Phil Thompson, 27, of Jefferson said incumbent Republican Representative Chip Baltimore’s decision not to run for re-election “felt like a good time for me to put the last two years of my experience working in the Iowa House to do some good for my community.” He’s on the ballot “out of service, out of continuing a sense of duty that was instilled in me by my parents.”

Thompson joined the Army after high school and spent eight years in the service, including time as an Airborne Ranger. Since returning to Iowa two years ago he has worked in construction with two of his brothers and has been a legislative aide for Republican Rep. Dawn Pettengill in the Iowa House.

Candidates (from left) Phil Thompson, David Weaver, Pat Shaw

Top issues: The first questioner in the audience asked each candidate to name his top three issues.

Thompson named bringing equity to rural Iowa, particularly in funding issues; and creating job opportunities by making sure employers are not over-burdened with taxes, so they can succeed and pass on their equity to their employees.

Shaw named taxes, saying the state of Iowa should eliminate the state income tax; strengthening vocational education in Iowa schools; and legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational uses.

Weaver named education, increasing funding by 3-4 percent per year rather than the minimal increases of recent years; reversing privatization of Medicaid; and restoring collective bargaining for public employees, particularly teachers. He said he disagrees with how the legislature in 2017 ended collective bargaining without first bringing it up as a campaign issue.

School funding: The candidates agreed in concept that schools should receive more state funding. Thompson said the legislature should appropriate funds “adequately,” and that school boards should have more control and flexibility in how they use the state funds they receive, whether it be infrastructure or staff.

Shaw said teachers deserve more pay than they’re getting, and the legislature should find ways to get more money to schools, looking closely at finances. “We need to appropriate the money better in different areas. Teaching is one of the areas where we need to put more money.”

Weaver said we need to prize education and give schools 3-4 percent funding increases each year as needed. He said it’s a frustration that state funds follow commodity prices and he foresees a funding problem. He said schools and the state should look at business partnerships to get more technical training for students.

Source of revenue: A follow-up question was where increased funding for education would come from if the legislature cuts taxes.

Thompson said taxes aren’t the only source of income, that growing the GDP would lead to increased revenue via a better tax base.

Shaw said money should be redirected. He said the state of Iowa pays $40,000 per inmate per year of incarceration. He said people who have committed non-violent crimes, like possession of cannabis, are in prison, and that money could be used instead for education and Medicaid. He said people convicted of white collar crimes should be heavily fined, not sent to prison.

Weaver said money will be tight, but Iowa values should be considered. He said the state should look at how tax credits have been used by Republicans to incentivize business and specifically mentioned the state tax credit given to Apple. “The richest company in the world shouldn’t be getting tax credits from Iowa.”

Campaign finance: Moderator Morain asked about campaign budgets, including donations from individuals and from “favorable, friendly organizations.”

Weaver said he was happy to talk about money. His campaign has raised $46- or $47,000. There have been a few $1,000 checks, but most have been $25 or $35 checks. He has tried to spend as much of the money as he can locally. The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) will do “a little bit” of digital advertising and a mail campaign.

Weaver said he disagrees with the IDP’s campaign spending priorities so he’s reluctant to take much from the group. He said he asked the IDP staffer about the cost of a television commercial and when the answer was $200,000, he responded “I really like my signs.”

Thompson started with the Republican primary and said he did that with a very small budget put together by Army buddies and a few others. He knocked on doors and printed mailings on his personal printer. He said the primary campaign was his own sweat, “and that’s what I’m doing this time, too.”

He said he’s gotten “a huge assist” from the Republican Party of Iowa (including the television commercial), but his own game plan hasn’t changed. “It’s still just knocking doors and doing lots and lots of mail and hard sweat.”

He did not say how much he has raised but noted it’s available via the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. He said he’s received money from Iowans for Tax Relief and the General Contractors.

Shaw said his campaign is primarily self-funded.

Second Amendment rights: The candidates were asked about Second Amendment rights. Thompson has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the Iowa Firearms Association. He favors adding an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that affirms the right to keep and bear arms as “a fundamental individual right” and that “any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

Weaver said he defends Second Amendment rights as provided in the U.S. Constitution, but he wants more regulations “to keep everyone in our communities safer.” He’d like to add “red flag laws” so a family member could block a relative from purchasing a gun if a violent act is feared, and give local officials discretion in denying permits to purchase guns.

Thompson interjected that it was under Democratic Gov Chet Culver that discretion was curbed for sheriffs in the permitting process.

Shaw said citizens have “an absolute right” to have guns and that the extreme left wants to take guns away from people.

CAFOs: The candidates disagree on the regulation of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) by the state.

Shaw said he has worked in the hog industry and he can see both sides of the CAFO issue (air/water quality). “The smell is bothersome, but I really like ham and bacon,” he said. “We’ve got to support these hog farmers.” He thinks the state should regulate big corporations more.

Weaver said hogs are well cared for, and the construction of the confinement buildings is good for some segments of the economy. He said he’d like to see the master matrix updated, with a look at ownership and local control. “The local people should have a say in what happens in their community,” he said.

He said if he’s elected and there’s discussion of the master matrix he’d like to be part of it. “I’m a real true farmer… I’m fearful if we don’t send some real farmers down there, they’re going to screw it up.”

Thompson said the master matrix “is necessary as it is.” He does not favor more local control because it would allow counties to approve moratoriums on CAFOs. “It’s a huge industry in our state. It’s a big part of what we do here…. It drives the economy. I think making sure we don’t allow counties to take control of…..something that has such a huge impact on state commerce is really important,” he said.

“Brain drain”: The candidates were asked how they’d work to keep young Iowans in Iowa, reducing the “brain drain.”

Weaver said high college debt causes Iowa graduates to leave the state for better paying jobs. He said restoring collective bargaining would increase wages for young teachers, and that restoring state funding to public universities would decrease some of the financial burden on students, thus decreasing their student debt.

Thompson said Iowa needs to better equip young people with skills needed on today’s workforce – he named welding as an example – and said cities should have access to state funds for housing projects that would entice young people to stay.

Shaw suggested students should have more vocational classes in high school so they can perform the jobs that are available now.

Abortion: During the last session the legislature passed the “fetal heartbeat bill,” the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Candidates differ on their views of it.
Weaver called the bill “extremist” and said he would not have voted for it.

Shaw said he does not support public funding for abortion but he also wouldn’t hinder the right of a woman to get an abortion. He said abortion is a divisive issue and that “the government should stay the hell out of it.”

Thompson said he has a strong personal conviction against abortion and that he supports the legislation of the last session.

Areas of agreement: The candidates in general agreed they’d like to see less divisiveness in the Statehouse; that IPERS retirement benefits should be secure for all those who have already paid into the system; that immigrants are important to the Iowa economy and employers should use the E-Verify program when hiring them; and that the state needs to appropriately fund mental health services.

Weaver is endorsed by the Iowa State Education Association, the Iowa Firefighters Association,  and the Iowa Voters Conservation PAC. He is supported by the Iowa Hospital Association.

Thompson said he is endorsed by the Greene County Farm Bureau, the NRA, and the Iowa Firearms Association.

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