Mike Naig and Tim Gannon.

The two major party candidates for state ag secretary say it may be time to discuss requiring that businesses use the federal E-Verify system to check if prospective workers are citizens or legal residents. The man accused of murdering Mollie Tibbetts was working at a dairy farm near Brooklyn under a different name, according to the family that hired Cristhian Rivera four years ago.

Mike Naig has been state Ag Secretary since March and he’s the Republican Party’s 2018 nominee to continue in the position.

“Now we see that there are people working in the state that are illegal in nature and so we need to see that we’ve got a workable ‘guest worker’ program and that we’ve got functioning systems that are predictable for the employer and the employees,” Naig says.

Democratic nominee Tim Gannon, a former aide to Tom Vilsack in the governor’s office and the U-S Department of Agriculture, is part of a family farming operation near Mingo.

“Anyone who’s breaking the law, whether it’s the employee or the employer, should face penalties and I think that if E-Verify is the system that makes the most sense to give employers that certainty that the person they’re hiring is here legally…then that’s what we should encourage people to use,” Gannon says.

The candidates discussed the issue during taping of tonight’s “Iowa Press” program that will air at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television. Both men expressed condolences to the Tibbetts family. Gannon also praised the community of Brooklyn for pulling together.

“Really shows what’s best about our small towns and rural communities,” Gannon said. “Her family has asked us not to politicize this and I think that that’s absolutely the right thing to do, to give her family and the community time to grievve and to process what has happened.”

Naig said it’s hard to imagine the pain the family is enduring.

“Our sincere condolences go to her family and the community that’s hurting right now, so we should remember that and make sure that we don’t over-politicize the situation,” Naig said. “…But it does bring to the forefront an issue that is important.”

On other issues, both candidates oppose state or federal laws that would restrict the amount of fertilizer farmers may use on their fields. Both men also support state regulation of the livestock industry rather than allowing city or county ordinances that would dictate where confinements may be built.