political-parties2Candidates in two of Iowa’s congressional districts debated on live television last night. The first district debate featuring Republican Congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque and Democrat Monica Vernon of Cedar Rapids was held in Cedar Rapids. The first topic raised was about red tape that’s held up federal funding for the city’s flood protection.

“We can’t earmark in congress. We don’t control the Office of Management and Budget,” Blum said. “…I went to work and got an amendment…that was voted on and passed…It says: ‘Don’t forget about Cedar Rapids. Make it a priority.'”

Vernon said “gobbledygook” was holding up construction of the city’s flood wall.

“Cedar Rapids and many communities up and down the Cedar and all of these rivers need flood protection systems,” Vernon said. “I hope that this effort gets it for us, but let me tell you…it just sounds like a lot of finger pointing.”

Both candidates expressed support for expanding trade, but Vernon said she opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership. Blum said he hasn’t decided yet how he might vote in congress on the deal.

“I have not read the agreement yet. It’s a lengthy agreement when there’s that many counties involved,” Blum said. “Both presidential candidates have said that they don’t think the TPP is good…but according to industry experts, it would be good for Iowa and good for ag.”

Vernon responded: “My opponent has spoke for a long time about being in favor of NAFTA and NAFTA-like trade agreements and really these have been awful agreements for the state of Iowa. We’ve lost thousands of jobs.”

Security issues were at the forefront of the debate in Council Bluffs featuring third district Congressman David Young, a Republican, and Jim Mowrer of Des Moines, his Democratic challenger. Young questioned Mowrer’s willingness to allow Syrian refugees into the country and Mowrer shot back.

“Do you want to send them back?” Mowrer asked twice.

Young replied: “I want to protect America, Jim.”

Mowrer asked: “What is your experience protecting America, congressman?”

Young answered: “My first solemn oath when I was sworn in is to protect and defend the constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. I’m not going to take a chance and when ISIS says they want to infiltrate our refugee system, I’m going to take it seriously.”

Mowrer said: “I lived it. I know what it takes to keep America safe.”

Mowrer said while being a veteran is not a requirement for being a member of congress, he has a “unique perspective” because he is a veteran. The two candidates discussed border security as well. Young is co-sponsoring a bill written after a Council Bluffs woman was killed by a speeding drunk driver who was in the country illegally — and who has vanished after posting bail.

“It’s hard for me to believe that he wouldn’t support Sarah’s Law,” Young said, touting the “bipartisan” legislation.

Mowrer said: “We need to fix our immigration system top-to-bottom. We have to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Young said he favors “piece meal…targeted approaches” to immigration problems, rather than “10,000 page bills.”

Iowa Public Television hosted the third district debate in Council Bluffs. The first district debate in Cedar Rapids was co-sponsored by The Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG television.