Candidates seeking the District 14 Senate seat fielded questions in an open forum hosted by the Jasper County League of Women Voters and moderated by president Bonnie Pitz on Monday night at Newton City Hall.
Republican candidate Amy Sinclair and Democratic candidate Dick Schrad expressed their views on issues ranging from gun control to environmental regulations in the final stretch of two campaigns ending in next week’s election.
Although former Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley lives in the newly-created District 14, which encompasses the southern portion of Jasper County including Lynnville, Sully and Monroe, he is not seeking re-election, thus leaving the seat open for the taking by either Sinclair or Schrad.
Schrad emphasized his support of education, small businesses and continuing education to support an “international workforce,” in his opening statement, as well as noting the importance of improving Iowa’s infrastructure.
Sinclair focused on the women and families she’s spoken with throughout her campaign and the issues they’ve conveyed concern over, while emphasizing her understanding of “what it means to be part of a community in rural Iowa.”
The candidates differed most notably in responses to a question regarding how they would vote to support “safe and affordable healthcare for women.” Sinclair responded with a letter to the editor detailing the risks women take in utilizing hormonal birth control, and thus arguing that perhaps requiring access to such drugs is not safe.
“I am not sure that requiring insurance companies to provide birth control is providing for safe and affordable health care for women,” Sinclair said. “Women’s health care is much broader than abortion and contraception, it goes into a whole range of needs that are addressed by our current system.”
Schrad disagreed, explaining that while he recognizes the problems with the current version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is a sign of progress and should not be scrapped entirely.
“We need to protect what is euphemistically referred to as ‘Obamacare,’” Schrad said. “Quite frankly, if you (repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) you’re going to eliminate a lot of coverage for an awful lot of people, including women.”
Both candidates recognized the benefits of community-based correctional facilities and stated they likely would support bills to fund newly-built facilities in Waterloo, Ottumwa, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Davenport that currently lack the resources to staff.
“We do need adequate staffing to ensure that we are promoting good and punishing evil,” Sinclair said. “Community-based correction works.”
Sinclair presented strong viewpoints regarding voter ID laws, comparing other instances in which citizens are required to present identification.
“You have to produce a photo ID to drive on our highways, you have to produce a photo ID to get on an airplane,” she said. “If indeed we have to produce a photo ID to do those things that are simple and mundane ... why on earth would we take our right to vote any lighter?”
Alternatively, Schrad was apprehensive to voice his support for such legislation on the premise that these laws may deter voters.
“If there are good reasons to look at this, then by all means, but, again, I’m very cautious about doing anything that impinges on voters,” Schrad said.
On the issue of Iowa Supreme Court Justice Wiggins’ retention, Schrad commented that many are supporting his removal for the wrong reasons, and that the solution is a constitutional amendment. Sinclair added that the issue at hand should be handled by the legislature, not by the judiciary.
Sinclair and Schrad both maintained support of the Second Amendment. Schrad, as a lifelong hunter, “could never understand the need to have an assault rifle.” Sinclair added that restrictions she would place on gun ownership would focus on violent criminals.
In other issues, Sinclair and Schrad agreed that limiting interest on payday loans would be beneficial to Iowans and that the state’s Mental Health and Disability Redesign, while a work in progress, is taking steps in the right direction. In addition, the candidates supported cleaning Iowa’s waterways through sustainable agriculture and incentives for farmers.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.