A Republican Senator from New Hampshire spoke by phone with Iowa reporters this afternoon to criticize the Iowa Democratic Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate for dismissing safety concerns about housing terror suspects at a Midwest prison. In 2009 Democrat Bruce Braley expressed support for moving some of the prisoners detained in Cuba to a prison in Illinois, about 40 miles from the Quad Cities. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte spoke at a telephone news conference organized by the Republican National Committee.
“Clearly I think this is an issue for the people of Iowa to consider because my understanding is that Congressman Braley’s prior record is not only that he supports bringing the Guantanamo detainees to the United States,” Ayotte said, “but that he believes that bringing them to Illinois would be a jobs bill.”
Braley’s Republican opponent is Joni Ernst and Ayotte told reporters that Ernst is “fully opposed” to transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the Illinois prison. Ernst has not made a public statement on the subject.
Ed O’Neill, a member of the Clinton City Council in 2009, issued a written statement through the Braley campaign, saying Braley “had extensive conversations with constituents, local officials and business leaders in Clinton, Jackson and Scott Counties” five years ago and found there was broad support for turning the nearly-empty Illinois facility into a maximum-security prison for federal prisoners. Clinton’s City Council and Clinton’s Chamber of Commerce publicly supported the idea. A poll conducted by the Clinton Herald in 2009 found 61 percent of area residents supported converting the prison to a federal facility for over a thousand prisoners, including about 100 former Guantanamo detainees.
Republicans in congress, however, opposed the move and the plan was tabled. Senator Chuck Grassley said he had “serious concerns” about bringing terror suspects within “a stone’s throw of Iowa.”