Marion County Republicans host Congressional forum

Screenshot of the Facebook Live Marion County Republican Debate. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

The Marion County Republican Party hosted a Facebook Live forum May 14 which featured every candidate seeking the GOP nomination for Iowa’s Second Congressional District. This seat represents Marion County in the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently held by retiring Democrat Dave Loebsack.

Marion County Attorney Ed Bull moderated the online forum, with County Republican Party Chair T. Waldmann-Williams serving as timekeeper. Candidates included Knoxville’s Steven Everly, Pella’s Rick Phillips, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Tim Borchardt and Bobby Schilling. Miller-Meeks has previously received the party’s nomination for this seat three times and lost each one. Schilling is a former Congressman from Illinois who recently moved into the district.

Schilling and Miller-Meeks have been exchanging uncomplimentary comments during the primary campaign. One of the first questions Bull posed was regarding the candidates’ stance on the late Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment”, which was “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”

“I will not supply ammunition for Rita Hart,” Phillips said. Hart is the only Democratic nominee on the ballot for the Second District.

Borchardt respectfully disagrees with the commandment, as sometimes people in his party are incorrect. Miller-Meeks agrees with the commandment, Everly said he will support whomever the party nominates.

“When somebody does come at you, it’s okay to punch them back and punch them back hard,” Schilling said.

Congressmen are appointed to committees while in office. Each candidate specified which ones they would like to serve on most.

Phillips would like to be on any committee that will reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Miller-Meeks would like to serve on the Health and Human Services, Ways and Means (the committee intended to steer federal spending), Veterans and/or Armed Services. Everly’s picks were Agriculture or Energy.

Given the herd mentality of Congress, as most voting results are divided along party lines, the candidates were asked if it matters who the district sends to Washington, D.C.

“You can either follow the herd, be a lemming, or be a leader,” Everly said. “I plan to be a leader.”

“The U.S. Constitution,” Phillips said. “Everything we do should be looked at through the lens of the U.S. Constitution.”

“We need to send doers to Congress,” Schilling said.

“Most people we send just vote with their party,” Borchardt said. “It is up to the candidate to represent what the people want.”

“Vote for what you believe in,” Miller-Meeks believes. She will vote along her values system.

Getting through the June 8 primary is just the first step. Whomever the Republicans nominate will be challenged again in the general election. When asked how each candidate plans to win, Schilling said he had previously taken a seat from Democrats. He believes he would be able to relate to those “Reagan Democrats” who voted Republican in the past.

Everly believes the district is “blue collar”, while past candidates have been elitists. He says he is just a working man.

Miller-Meeks said the issues that matter in this election are areas she knows, such as health care, free and fair trade, illegal immigration and others. She believes the party will win by being on the right side of these issues.

Phillips believes victory is possible through Republican ideals, being tenacious and showing no mercy toward the opposition.

Borchardt says he can go anywhere and relate to anyone, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status. He lives in Johnson County, known for being largely Democratic, and believes that will give him an edge in reaching those voters.

For final comments, Borchardt said he guarantees a win. As, like Donald Trump, he stands out among a crowded field of Republicans.

Everly reiterated that he is a common man with common sense, who has reached out to many voters. Miller-Meeks believes any of her Republican challengers would be better than socialism, but believes she can go toe-to-toe with Hart. Schilling believes he can excite the base and that nominating the same person will not work. Phillips often expressed his support for the Republican nominee, regardless of who wins the primary. He says the only thing that will matter to him in Congress is the Constitution.

Video of the forum can be viewed on the Iowa-Marion County Republican Party Facebook page.