With just two weeks left in the primary campaign, the two perceived front-runners in the race for the GOP’s U.S. Senate nomination fired directly at one another during a forum in Bettendorf tonight. Retired utility company executive Mark Jacobs chose to use part of his closing remarks to take aim at rival Joni Ernst, a current member of the state Senate.
“Senator Ernst, you know, you say you’re the front-runner in this race…another career politician, somebody who has missed nearly 40 percent of their votes while campaigning for a promotion this year,” Jacobs said. “Folks, I don’t think that represents a contrast against Congressman Braley.”
Ernst fired back during her closing statement.
“Four years in the Iowa state legislature does not make me a career politician. It does make me a public servant,” Ernst replied. “I am very proud of my 90 percent voting record in the Iowa Senate.”
Earlier in the evening, Jacobs criticized Ernst for supporting a bill in a state senate committee that would have increased the state gas tax.
“With all due respect to some of the folks here on this stage, one of us here has supported tax increases in the past and four of us have not,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs is more direct in his paid advertising, accusing Ernst of failing to “defend the family budget.” About a year ago, Ernst said she had changed her mind on the gas tax because the state was doing much better, financially, and there are other ways to pay for road repairs. This is what she said tonight: “Believe me, I’ve said this over and over again on this issue, that I made a mistake,” Ernst said. “How’s that? I made a mistake on that one.”
The two also quarreled about so-called “cap and trade” legislation to limit or “cap” a company’s carbon emissions, but allow the company to “trade” with others to buy carbon credits.
“Cap and trade is the largest tax increase on energy in history,” Ernst said. “..Mr. Jacobs, I think, has supported cap and trade in the past. I am opposed to that and I think most of us would be opposed to cap and trade.”
Jacobs responded: “Look, I have never personally supported cap and trade. I ran a large energy company that was going to be devastated by any type of carbon dioxide legislation and to say that I support cap and trade legislation is just disengenuous.”
Ernst pressed the issue: “I do believe you said you never personally supported it, but I believe there is documentation where you have talked about specific legislation with cap and trade and you did support it then.”
Jacobs replied: “Well, sure. Our company was going to be devastated by any type of carbon dioxice legislation and, sadly, a cap and trade was the least damaging.” T
he three other Republican candidates, for the most part, answered the questions posed by reporters and audience members and stayed away from attacking Republican rivals. About halfway through the forum, though, Sam Clovis — a Morningside College professor — expressed a bit of frustration with his time-hogging competitors.
“As I’ve had to be most of the time here, I’m the old guy up here, so I’ll be the most patient and quiet,” Clovis said, drawing laughter from the crowd before adding: “And I will contain my answer to 30 seconds.”
Scott Schaben, a car sales manager from Ames, called Ernst and Jacobs “professional talkers.”.
“My goal is to have a 100 percent attendance record and a 100 percent voting record. That is something I take very seriously folks,” Schaben said “I’m not here for my own ego. I’m not a hobby candidate.”
Matt Whitaker, a former federal prosecutor, was one of only two candidate on stage who mentioned the date of the upcoming June 3 primary in their closing statement.
“This election is about choosing a new face for the Republican Party,” Whitaker said.
The 90-minute forum was sponsored by the Scott County Republican Party, The Quad City Times and KWQC television.