The four Republicans who hope to win the G.O.P.’s second congressional district nomination were at a forum just outside Mount Pleasant last night.

Rob Gettemy of Marion said his three rivals had all “lost big time” in the past and he is the only candidate who could offer the G.O.P. a “fresh face” to oppose Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack in November. “I think I contrast very well with Dave Loebsack. He’s taught government his whole life and now he’s in government. I’ve been an entrepreneur, worked for an entrepreneur and now I teach entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa,” Gettemy said.  “When Dave Loebsack sees a problem, he thinks government is the answer. When Rob Gettemy sees a problem, I see individual responsibility, entrepreneurship and job creation as the answer.”

Marianette Miller-Meeks, an eye doctor from Ottumwa, ran against Loebsack in 2008 and lost and she’s seeking a rematch in 2010.  She, too, accuses Loebsack of seeking big government solutions to every problem. “I’d like less government where people are empowered to unleash their potential.  I would like everyone to have the opportunity that I had as a child with no money to achieve what many people would call the pinnacle of success,” Miller-Meeks said. “I want everyone to be small enough to succeed, not too big to fail.”

The other two candidates — Christopher Reed of Marion and Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids — ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008. Reed won the G.O.P.”s nomination for the U.S. Senate, but he lost to Tom Harkin in the General Election.  Reed said he’s the congressional candidate who can get “crossover” votes from Independents and some Democrats who have “buyer’s remorse” when it comes to Loebsack.

“Because I am a small business owner, I know what it means to meet a payroll, create jobs and employ Iowans. Dave has no idea, so I’m going to get some of those Democrat votes,” Reed said.  “But the independents can look at me as someone who is going to stand up for their children and their grandchildren. It is high time that people go to Washington and understand that if we don’t take care of our children and get them out of debt, get the trouble that they’re going down right now, then it’s all over.” 

Rathje touts his business experience, too. “For more than 20 years I’ve been working with companies all across the U.S. in effort to eliminate waste, control spending, improve bottom lines and bring these jobs back home to America,” Rathje said. “It’s going to be the blue-collar worker that elects the next congressman and I believe that my history resonates best with them.” Rathje runs two companies, International Procurement Systems and the Genesis Group. 

About 100 people attended last night’s forum for the four congressional candidates.

(Reporting by Theresa Rose, KILJ, Mt Pleasant)