CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Michael Franken introduces himself as a principled, pragmatic, progressive Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate to remove “Trump-era Republicans” from office.
“I think (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and Sen. Joni Ernst are exemplars of what is fundamentally wrong in Washington,” Franken said. “Both sides have some to blame on this, but those two in particular.”
Franken, 61, of Sioux City, a retired three-star admiral who grew up on a rural northwest Iowa farm, is the most recent entrant in the five-way race for the 2020 Democratic Senate nomination. The winner will face Ernst, a Republican seeking a second term who, in recent polling, had a 57 percent approval rating.
His platform calls for health care for all, making America a place with clean air, clean water and a safe food supply and making sure everyone has the opportunity to climb the ladder of success.
Franken admits to being a “policy person” and wants to use federal policy to “ensure that future generations have a life that is a step better than mine and have the opportunities that I was fortunate to have.”
His principles, Franken told a few dozen people Sunday at an Iowa City house party, prevent him from being swayed by special interests “for the sake of political expediency.”
After a career that included commanding 24 ships and overseeing military forces in Africa, and years in policy, strategy and planning roles for the U.S. Department of Defense, Franken believes he has the pragmatism to “achieve the achievable” and is progressive enough to “aim for the heretofore unachievable.”
That would include a health care system modeled, at least in part, on European models. However, Franken is not convinced the time is right for a government-run, single-payer system.
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“Maybe someday we will go there, but I don’t think you can make that switch right off the bat,” he said in response to a question. “I think that is destroying what we have for some kind of utopian process. I think it would be total chaos.”
The goal is “comprehensive, cradle-to-grave health care as a birthright ... however we can make that transition,” Franken said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t.”
Ultimately, he said, voters need to ask themselves if they feel more secure today than they did three years ago.
“Is your health care more secure? Do you feel your educational opportunities are better?” Franken asked. “If you have a lot of ‘no’s’ you need to look at what your vote does.”
Franken’s credentials and experience impressed his audience.
“He has so much experience in world affairs, met so many world leaders and been to 140 countries,” said Ann Taylor of Iowa City. “He’s the right person for this place in time to repair our image and get our allies back on our side.
Jennifer Oliver of Iowa City liked Franken’s philosophy toward working across the aisle because “we need more win-wins.”
She wasn’t ready to commit to his campaign. “I’m gathering information,” Oliver said, “but Ernst has to go.”
Four other Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination in June 2020: Eddie Mauro, Cal Woods and Theresa Greenfield, all of Des Moines, and Kimberly Graham of Indianola. An independent candidate, Suzanne Herzog of Clive, also is running for the seat.