Senator Grassley. (RI photo)

Both Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Mike Franken, the Democrat challenging Grassley’s bid for reelection, have completed tours with stops in each of Iowa’s counties.

Grassley addressed a crowd in the Taylor County Historical Museum in Bedford yesterday. “This is the 99th county meeting I’ve had for the 42nd year in a row,” Grassley said, and a crowd of about four dozen applauded.

During the town hall style forum, people in the audience expressed opposition to vaccine mandates for the military and President Biden’s move on student loan debt. One man questioned how the FBI and the Justice Department are treating President Trump, prompting a woman in the crowd to suggest defunding the FBI.

“That would look silly for Chuck Grassley to defund the FBI because I’ve been telling these law enforcement people that have been attending my meetings: ‘I want you to know I’m not for defunding the police,'” Grassley said, “but I know where you’re coming from because you can’t have the extraordinary confidence in the FBI that you ought to have.”

Near the end of the hour-long event, a woman in the audience told Grassley she’s no longer confident there are free and fair elections in the U.S. “I think Iowa is still better than some others, but I doubt them all,” she said.

Grassley. (RI photo)

In his reply, Grassley expressed opposition to election bills Democrats have proposed at the federal level and he praised the tighter absentee ballot rules Iowa lawmakers adopted early last year. “But right now, you say: ‘What can you do?’ About all you can do is talk to your state legislators, unless you want a federal law,” Grassley said. “And I hope you don’t want a federal law.”

Franken, a retired Navy admiral, chose Grassley’s hometown as the last stop on his campaign’s 99 county tour.

“He has chosen division and distraction over unity and understanding. Senator Grassley has made his choice and tonight I ask you to make yours,” Franken said, drawing cheers from the crowd gathered in a church basement.

Franken campaigned in New Hartford and four other cities Saturday. He started in Nevada, where a woman asked Franken if he’s confident the 2022 election will be fair given Republican-backed election law changes. Another woman said Republicans are undermining faith in government and elections.

“They tell a lie often enough and they persuade people. They start to believe it,” she said. “How do you fight that?”

Franken replied that if it’s not addressed, the country will devolve.  “This is not winnable. This is not good for the nation,” Franken said. “This is my issue about country over party.”

A man then asked Franken how he’d bridge the partisan divide. “The Inflation Reduction Act, there are some things in there that I’m not happy with, but it’s something and it moved the needle and that’s a positive,” Franken said. “My plan as any, I think, wide-eyed legislator should be — small bites at the apple, getting things accomplished.”

On October 8, Franken and Grassley are scheduled to appear together in a debate on Iowa PBS. The November 8th election is 69 days away.