The three republican candidates for governor had their sharpest exchanges yet during a televised debate this past weekend. Doug Gross, Steve Sukup and Bob Vander Plaats questioned one another during the middle portion of the debate, and Sukup opened by asking Gross to “come clean” on his appearance at a Hardin County Board of Supervisors meeting where Gross is quoted in the minutes as supporting a proposed hog confinement financed by Jack DeCoster, who has become an habitual violator of state environmental rules. Gross said he’d never done legal work for DeCoster, but instead worked for a feed supplier that wanted DeCoster’s business. Gross says he’s represented large and small hog producers and he’s proud of representing those in the number-one hog producing state in the nation.Gross said the republicans should focus their fire on democrat Governor Tom Vilsack. Sukup replied that the goal is to have Vilsack be a one-term governor, but says “We have to be straightforward with our records.”While Vander Plaats last Monday said he wouldn’t lob attacks at his opponents, he changed his tune Saturday, and came out swinging at Gross.Vander Plaats said Gross would find it hard to hold Governor Vilsack’s toes to the fire because Vilsack would be able to capitalize on Gross’ record as a lawyer/lobbyist. Gross made no apologies.Gross said he’s a good family man, has worked with a variety of businesses, and isn’t going to apologize for being successful. Vander Plaats also questioned Sukup’s leadership credentials.Vander Plaats said Sukup’s peers in the legislature hadn’t selected him as their leader, and neither had his family, as Sukup’s a vice president in the family manufacturing business. Sukup responded.Sukup said 54 republican legislators were supporting his campaign because he’d proven he could tackle the tough issues and get results. Vander Plaats said his peers had always identified him as a leader.The debate was sponsored by the Des Moines Register and broadcast statewide by Iowa Public Television.
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