November 20, 2014

Four GOP candidates for U.S. Senate talk about defining life moments

Four Republicans competing for their party’s 2014 U.S. Senate nomination gathered at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny tonight for a forum where they were quizzed about their decision-making process and how they plan to avoid becoming a “creature of Washington” if they’re elected.

The first question, from moderator Erick Erickson of www.RedState.com, invited each candidate to describe a time or event in their life that shaped them into the person they are today. Matt Whitaker said it was when he met his wife, Marci.

“I had never met anybody as beautiful or as smart or as just wonderful as she was that cold January night in 1990 and that forever has changed who I am and what I am about,” said Whitaker, the first to respond. “She brought me closer to God and closer to my faith and we have been married now for 20 years and have three wonderful kids and without her I would be less than half the man I am today.”

Mark Jacobs talked of going through a period of self-reflection after retiring three years ago and sitting down at one point to write his own obituary.

“That was an experience that hit me right between the eyes,” Jacobs said. “I had been incredibly successful in business, but I recognized there were a lot of other areas in my life that I had not been as successful as I wanted to be…You know I’ve had more personal and professional growth over the last two and a half years than I’ve had over any other period of my life –spiritually, personally, professionally.”

Joni Ernst said her formative life experience came when she went on a college exchange to a collective farm in the Ukraine.

“They still farmed on that collective using horses and wagons. This was in 1989,” Ernst said. “The thought of the Soviet Union as a ‘super power’ and the thought of the United States as a ‘super power’ and how differently our people lived…and seeing the freedom that they so badly wanted…I decided that the best way to give back to my country was for me to join the military.”

Sam Clovis said the trajectory of his life changed on July 20, 1978, when he was in the military and the plane he was flying came close to crashing.

“After I got out of the airplane and had my physical, I realized that I’d lost about an inch-and-a-half in height. I’d broken a rib and I’d bruised my hips and back and I was black and blue from my shoulders down to my ankles,” Clovis said. “God had something else in mind for me that day and that’s a great message to send to me and my life has never been the same since.”

Tonight’s forum was sponsored by The Family Leader and streamed live on the internet. The four candidates will gather again next weekend in Cedar Rapids for a debate sponsored by the Iowa Broadcast News Association.