Steve Reeder: Thanked the media for sponsoring the event. Welcomed his opponents. Said he decided to run for Congress because he and his wife are “patriots that love God, this country and Iowa.”
Over the last several years, he said, he’s worked hard and has paid attention to politics and watched a gradual erosion of the U.S. Constitution from a “radical left” that had “another agenda in mind.”
“That was frustrating to me that (Congress) wasn’t getting things done. Even in a time when the Republicans held the House and the Senate and the White House, there was, we still were spending more than we were taking in and we needed a balanced budget.”
Reeder said he’s been in business for 35 years and has always balanced his checkbooks.
“I see all these sharp businesses on the main streets of Iowa that do the same and I don’t understand why Washington could not do the same.”
Reeder said people are excited a businessman would get in Congress and represent the people of Iowa. His message, he said, is limited government, more faith and more freedom.
Randy Feenstra: Said he’s a Christian, a husband, a father and a constitutional conservative Republican. He’s running for Congress because the district needs a seat at the table. Talked about his record in the Iowa Senate over the last 12 years.
Feenstra touted his endorsement from National Right to Life and highlighted his lifelong “A-rating” from the NRA.
He mentioned he would stand firm against any red flag gun laws, which became a common theme for the night after he was given $5,000 by Main Street PAC and the PAC also announced it would spend an additional $100,000 on the race. Main Street PAC has a legislative priority of passing red flag gun laws.
Then he talked about immigration.
“Finally I’ve delivered on protecting the right against illegal immigrants, supporting Iowa’s ban on sanctuary cities,” he said. “These aren’t campaign promises or rhetoric, these are real results that I’ve delivered in Iowa. In Congress, I’ll continue to do the same.”
And, for the second time in his introduction, he said he’d fight against all red flag laws.
Jeremy Taylor: Taylor said America faces very critical threats. He mentioned the Coronavirus and its economic impact. Then he discussed the border and threats in the Middle East.
“But we also have an ever looming crisis from within,” he said. “We face a moral and spiritual crisis of who we are as a people and what will be.”
He talked about the $25 trillion national debt and asked if America would be a nation of secure borders or one that disregards the rule of law. He asked if the nation would value all life or live with a legacy of over 60 million unborn babies. He then talked about being a nation of limitless opportunity or one the socialist left increasingly takes over.
“We have to take back the U.S. House from the likes of Nancy Pelosi, but to do so, we must hold the Fourth District seat, which was almost lost to liberal J.D. Scholten,” Taylor said.
He too discussed his record in the Iowa House, which included an A-ranking from the Conservative Union and the NRA. He also had a 100 percent pro-life voting record.
He then provided his biography for the finish of his opening comments.
Bret Richards: Richards started by asking if people think Iowans solve more problems, or politicians.
“I bet I could sit down with any one of my neighbors and solve more problems in 20 minutes than politicians have solved in 20 years,” he said.
Richards said Iowans in their communities take charge, solve problems and create opportunities. He said he’s met a lot of people on the campaign trail and people often say he reminds them of someone they know.
He, too, discussed more biographical information.
“I see opportunity and our values just slipping away,” Richards said. “The survival of our way of life is too important to trust to just another politician. Instead, let’s send Congress an Iowa neighbor to get the job done.”
Congressman Steve King: Congressman King said he was “kind of glad” to go last and then absolutely let it rip.
“I reflect upon all my opponents here, they’re here because they believe the New York Times,” King said. “They can’t have anything else going on or they wouldn’t be here. They would have defended me instead, but instead, they believe the New York Times and they want you to believe the New York Times.”
King said he’s been all over the district and to all 382 towns for the past several years.
“I haven’t run into a credible Republican that came up and said, you know what, the New York Times is right,” King said. “They don’t believe that here.”
King said 75 percent of people polled said King is right. He said 15 percent believe the New York Times is right, but that 15 percent also said they were supporting one of his opponents.
“So they were just protecting their investment,” he said. “No legitimate person believes in the New York Times. That is why we have this primary right now, is because the New York Times has thrown a wrench into the works and political opportunists have decided that they wanted to jump into this thing, hoping that I am wounded. But you know, the truth shall set you free, and if you don’t think so, take a look at General Michael Flynn.”
King’s comments were seemingly directed right at his opponents.
“And you all need to know this, you’re running on the New York Times, and you’re running on no committee assignments. Can anybody stand up and say it’s what I said or did that caused that to happen? That’s not on me, that’s on the people that made that decision and the ones that need to rectify it.
“And you all should have stood up to defend me on that, and you were nowhere to be found. But I’ve stood up for every principle of this Republican platform – everything from renewable fuels to the Second Amendment to repealing ObamaCare to the immigration border security issue to the life issue. And I’ve led on the Heartbeat bill. And you know, the people that endorsed you Randy, the National Right to Life, they’re the ones that killed my Heartbeat bill in Washington. That’s why they are supporting you and why they’re attacking me, because I exposed them.”
The first few questions all had to do with Coronavirus:
Feenstra started and provided a personal story about a friend who is a businessowner and may not open again. Feenstra said he helped him fill out a SBA loan. He said he helped another family friend with unemployment benefit papers. Feenstra said it is a hard time, but he stands with Trump.
Then he talked about the devastating effects the virus has had on producers.
Taylor: Taylor said it’s important to reopen the economy safely and judiciously. He said there are things the government should not do, however.
“That’s multi-trillion-dollar bailouts, especially states like California and New York and Illinois,” he said. “Doing so will only endanger a nation that was already $23 trillion in debt. I am in favor of targeted spending for small business loans, for unemployment expansion and for individuals. What I’m not for is the pet projects of the socialist left.”
Taylor called for direct help for individuals and to make sure that help is targeted.
“We also have to preserve our liberties and freedoms at this time,” Taylor said.
Richards: Richards started his answer by telling King that he doesn’t believe the New York Times, but he believes the Republic is made better when people run against each other.
“It’s just the matter of the fact that we live in a republic and our voters have choices,” he said.
As for COVID-19, Richards said his family has been in business since 1977.
“We’ve been through some rough times, never like this though,” he said. “We’re actually at a stage where we could enter into a Great Depression again.”
Richards said it is important high-risk people are protected, but said small businesses cannot become idle.
“While our large businesses, which have been given so many regulatory protections over the last few decades, get every single advantage and remain open,” eh said. “Right now, small business owners that I talk to, they’re not worried about when they can reopen, they’re worried that they’re going to lose their customers for good because they already had the habit of going to large corporations.”
Congressman King: Congressman King said he thinks “we went a little too far when we launched into this, but we didn’t have enough facts to work with either.”
King said a payroll tax relief is a potential solution to help both employers and employees. He also called for gathering up the demographics of those who have tested positive. It would be essentially age, gender, weight, height and any pre-existing conditions. They would track whether someone was hospitalized, sent to the ICU, intubation or home recovery or to the cemetery.
“We could put millions of people in this database,” King said.
He said you could type in your own birthdate, age, height, sex, pre-existing conditions and you could know your risk.
“If you’re 19 years old and you’ve got less than a tenth of one percent chance of having a fatal experience with this, you can go back to work,” King said. “Don’t go see grandpa, who may not have a half a chance to survive this. But that way each one of us can make our own decisions along those lines.”
Reeder: Reeder said people in the country are hurting with death and damage to small businesses.
“President Trump did an awesome job of handling the crisis from the beginning,” Reeder said.
He said his favorite thing Trump did was delegating authority to the governors.
“That’s what our country was formed upon,” he said. “It wasn’t for the federal government to run our lives, it was to let the states and the people run our lives. I don’t want our freedoms being infringed upon.”
He called himself a strict constitutionalist.
Richards: Richards responded by saying he doesn’t want the federal government to track more data and would prefer to keep privacy intact.
He said the Iowa legislature needs to address the overreach written into he emergency declaration.
“A non-benevolent governor can actually take advantage and take our rights away from us,” he said.
King: King responded that he was glad Richards doesn’t believe the New York Times. He added that names, addresses and identifying characteristics wouldn’t be included.
“We’re looking for information that would save lives,” he said.
He also talked about a potential plan to help pork producers. He estimed it could be $10 million.
“It’s just too hard to hit,” King said. “Our individual producers, we’ve got to be there for them. This was shut down by government, we got to have their back.”
Taylor: Taylor called the Defense Production Act that President Trump supported “critical.”
“The other thing that I think is very important is that we understand under the system of federalism that the federal government doesn’t get to dictate from on high — that each local governor, the municipality is able to maximize his or her own freedoms and the people to which he or she is charged.”
Feenstra: Feenstra said family farms are going to go bankrupt.
“We must have a plan,” he said. “I’m glad that Trump stepped in on the Defense of Production Act.”
Another COVID-19 question followed.
Taylor: Taylor said we’re learning as we go sometimes and are continuing to learn more. He said we have reacted in a way that’s been measured and responsive in Iowa and in South Dakota.
“But what I would say is there has been overreach, there has been overreaction, and there’s been a tampling of our religious liberties and our freedoms in such a way that I don’t think is appropriate,” Taylor said. “Look at Gov. Whitmer over in Michigan, I don’t believe that we should ever have a situation where our churches are being closed. I do think that we ought to have a system where it’s voluntary and where we have personal liberty and freedom. We take recommendations and it’s a system, as I mentioned earlier, under federalism, local control is what helps to govern the day.”
Richards: Richards said Gov. Reynolds and President Trump have done a good job. He said hindsight is always 20-20, so a time will come to go back and learn from it. One lesson, he said, is America’s trade dependence on China.
“China is not some great country that’s a great trade partner,” he said. “They’re always looking out for their self-interest. So we’ve got to react to things like that.”
King: King said we did overreact to a degree but we won’t know how much until there is time and information.
“I don’t think we ever should have closed the churches in this country,” he said. “Could’ve given us some guidelines and then we take our risks on that, that’s a constitutional principle that I think got hit really hard.”
He said he didn’t make an issue out of it at the time because he didn’t understand the full scope of the virus.
“We’ve gone a little far on the domestic side of this,” King said. “But, we’ve under-reacted with regard to how we deal with China.”
China, King said, quarantined the Chinese in the Wu Han province area, but let the Chinese fly all over the world.
“When you quarantine medical equipment, tie up PPEs in China and send your people out to the rest of the world and quarantine them within the Wuhan province area, that pretty well sends a signal. Now, I can’t tell how much of this is strategized or how much of it is incompetence or how much of it is just apathy. But China needs to pay a price for this. There must be a reckoning.”
Reeder: Reeder said there’s been an overreaction by the media, who he said cannot be trusted – as Steve King knows – he added.
“They will spread lies and rumors for a number of reasons,” Reeder said. “What we have to do is sort through all the BS and look for the truth.”
Reeder shared concern with Democrat governors as well.
Feenstra: Feenstra said the reaction was all predicated on what China was telling America. He said we have to go after China.
“They did not tell us the truth,” Feenstra said.
He then said the World Health Organization covered it up.
Feenstra credited Trump for banning travel from China and fast-tracking vaccines.
King: King jumped in after Feenstra’s answer to say he was happy to hear Feenstra is supporting the Prime Act, which is a bill that King has worked on for a number of cycles.
The COVID-19 conversation continued some more. Taylor eventually hit Feenstra in one of his remarks.
“I applaud President Trump,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of his leadership as commander in chief. Appreciative Randy brought him up, I think he called him a novelty act at one point, but I think he’s showing the kind of leadership that our commander in chief ought to.”
There was yet another COVID-19 question.
Richards noted the topic had been talked about a lot already. He said the Governor and President are doing good jobs. He then pointed out that he was the first person on the stage to call out the overreach in Iowa Code.
“We gave up our churches,” he said. “We probably would’ve willingly done it. But when someone orders you not to do something that’s guaranteed in our Bill of Rights, there’s a problem. And right now that piece of code is still there in Iowa Code. It needs to be changed and a co-equal branch needs to be back in session and actually doing their job and changing the code.
“In the code it actually says you can have forced vaccinations. When there’s a time when everybody’s in a panic, what happens if a vaccination is rushed and a governor says you will vaccinate your kid and your grandma and you will take the vaccine too? We have choices. Informed consent is an important part of our rights as citizens. We cannot let this error be left in the code.”
King talked about Reynolds acting with confidence and boldness as well as decisiveness. He said it reminds him of the day she signed his Heartbeat bill. He said he called her 20 minutes before she signed it and told her to “own it.”
He said she did an excellent job then and is doing a great job now, according to Iowans who participate in his tele townhall meetings.
He finished his comments by calling for the net number of current positive cases in Iowa in each county.
Reeder reiterated that he doesn’t want to rely on the government for anything.
“Iowans are hardworking people,” he said. “They’re smart and they can make decisions for themselves.”
Feenstra noted he served with Reynolds together in the Iowa Senate and 10 years ago he knew she’d be a rock star. He went through legislative accomplishments again.
Taylor again applauded the efforts of Reynolds, but noted he disagreed with the closure of churches.
“As a U.S. Army chaplain who values the First Amendment, but I’m not here to play armchair quarterback,” he said. “She’s doing a better job than most governors.”
Taylor then talked about the socialist left and Nancy Pelosi using a crisis to fund their agenda. He talked about funding for those Democrat priorities.
After nearly 40 minutes were spent talking in circles on the Coronavirus, the debate finally moved along.
And this is where it got interesting.
The question was about PACs and PAC donations. As stated earlier Feenstra has been the target of criticism from everyone for his affiliation with Main Street PAC.
“The big money actually comes as independent expenditures, but you have your opportunity to turn them down,” King said. “And, when you look and see what PACs are supporting individual candidates, the ideology of those PACs generally reflect the ideology of the candidates.”
King said the last time he went out for endorsements was when Christie Vilsack challenged him. There were 60 agriculture organizations that endorsed King while Vilsack received zero.
“If you look at what’s going on now, this Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, I walk by them on Wednesday mornings in the Capitol Hill Club, where I chair the Conservative Opportunity Society and have for 16 years. I’m one of the few Republicans with a gavel in Congress.
“When you walk by you take a right turn you go into Conservative Opportunity, you take a left turn and you go into the Republican RINO PAC. And these are the people that are supporting Randy Feenstra. They are known as a RINO PAC. You don’t bother to say the Republican Main Street Partnership. They are the people that killed the repeal, the full, 100 percent, rip it out by the roots, repeal of ObamaCare. They’re the people that are advocating for red flag laws, which is why you heard him say he’s opposed to red flag laws because he’s endorsed by a PAC that is supporting red flag laws. And another would be National Right to Life. When you look at them, we had to fight them. They battled against the Heartbeat bill, not only in Washington but in the states around the union.
“They say they’re a pro-life organization, they’re not, they are incrementalists and they’re in the business to perpetuate their job.”
King also said Karl Rove’s PAC gave some money.
“Karl Rove holds a grudge against me because I killed amnesty every time he tried to bring it, now he’s working against me because he thinks if Steve King had been out of the way we’d have had amnesty long ago.
“You can trace this all back, look at the PACs follow the money, you’ll find out the ideology and the candidate reflects the ideology.”
Reeder had a tough task of following up that passionate answer from King. He said he hasn’t accepted any money from any PACs and he has no intention to. He said he will be representing with a reputation of honesty and integrity from 35 years in business.
Feenstra tried to counter by noting he’s received more than 1,900 contributions, with 80 percent coming from Iowans and 1,100 coming from the Fourth District – most of which come from his home county of Sioux County.
He said he was proud to be supported by Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rep. Megan Jones. He also defended endorsements from National Right to Life and Main Street PAC, claiming they came to him because they were excited about the Iowa Senate did for Main Street.
Taylor followed and landed another blow to Feenstra.
“I believe this issue is critical,” he said. “Follow the money, as Sam Clovis would say.
“As far as endorsements, I would say to Randy, respectively, we were born at night, some of us, but not last night. And so if you follow the money, you’ll know exactly the supporters that Randy Feenstra has, many of them are NeverTrump folks. So, when Randy Feenstra called President Trump a bit of a novelty act, some of his top supporters called President Trump treasonous. If you follow the money, and you actually see this is a danger.
“Senator Feenstra as Ways and Means chair, after promising conservatives that he would not expand sports gambling was the single most important person to the sports gambling lead lobbyists. That lead lobbyist set up a PAC for him later on after he shepherded that to the Senate floor and then voted against it so he could tell people back home that that was his principled stand. If you follow the money, you’ll see that there’s a danger.
“If you believe that it’s time to move on, from Congressman King respectfully, you will have in me a constitutionalist who is beholden to no one else than the Fourth District constituents. Not the PACs that support red flag legislation and not the moderates of our party and not to those who are the NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party.”
Richards followed, noting there is too much money in politics. He said his campaign is an example of doing it right. He said they hit 30 county fairs, went to the state fair, made countless parades and has been interviewed in every newspaper that will talk to him.
“And look at that, I did it without taking any Super PAC money or having big endorsements,” he said. “All you have to do and what Iowans want is to meet their representative face to face. To actually know where they stand on issues. I didn’t waste my time calling people for fundraising when I’d rather be out talking to Iowans. And that’s what they want.”
Richards said Americans know when you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and someone comes knocking, who will be listened to? The person with the $100,00 check or the person at the kitchen table across from them.
King responded and said the RINO PAC, there isn’t one member who is a member of the Freedom Caucus or of the Conservative Opportunity Society.
“Randy, you went to their school,” King said. “You didn’t just have them come to you. You went to their school to learn what they had to say. And then you end up with this endorsement from the people that killed the repeal of ObamaCare.
“And then with the US Chamber, they are the amnesty chamber. That’s the only thing we disagree on. That’s what it’s about. It’s about promoting amnesty. So we’re getting this figured out now. I think everybody doesn’t believe the New York Times, except I haven’t heard Randy tell us whether he believes the New York Times.”
Taylor said he sees himself in the ilk of the Freedom Caucus. He criticized Republicans for not standing for life, securing the border, cutting a billion dollars on $4.5 billion of spending and failing to repeal ObamaCare.
“That’s why we have to have constitutionalists who don’t just campaign as conservatives, but actually go and do what they say and actually follow through with promises made, you can find in me promises kept. That’s a key difference between me and Sen. Feenstra in this race.”
The candidates then talked about bipartisanship. You can listen to that exchange below.
After that they discussed a potential convention.
Then they bantered about RFS issues.
Finally, they reached closing comments.
King: King said he learned a few things – that three of his opponents don’t believe the New York Times, but one does.
“I learned that one of them is supported by the RINO PAC, the anti-Heartbeat PAC, the Amnesty PAC and the gambling PAC,” King said. “That tells you a little bit, birds of a feather do flock together. There is no way to maintain your integrity if that’s the people that are behind you. This is a swamp that is Washington D.C. And I’ve been under pressure because I have taken The Swamp on. And if you want to look at Donald Trump and see what he is facing, I’m facing the same thing on a bit smaller scale.
“I have never let you down. Not on any matter or principle. Not on anything that has to do with the platform of the Republican Party. I have run to the sound of the guns every time and I have not only walked towards the fire, I’ve walked through the fire. I can face those people down because I’m right and they’re wrong. And they know it by now.”
King then said that on April 20, he and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed he would advocate for King to be put back on committees as King has proven the allegations were untrue.
“There’s no argument against my fact check document,” King said. “They were false from the beginning.”
Reeder talked about his business experience. He also advocated for education in his closing comments. He hit on the life issue as well as his faith.
He appeared to get choked up when hearing a story of a child who met his biological mother as an adult after she gave him up to adoption.
“And he told her, the first thing he said to her was ‘thank you for not killing me,’” Reeder said. “So I will stand strong for pro-life. Our President is the first one that stood up there and defended life and has been a strong advocate for Judeo Christian values. That’s what Iowa is about.”
Feenstra finished reaffirming he is a Christian, a husband, a father and a constitutional conservative Republican. The closing comments mirrored the opening statement.
Taylor said he appreciates King’s service and hopes his tone and tenor in the race have honored King’s service while making the case it’s time for a constitutionalist who can lead. He highlighted his 10-part pro-life plan. He said he’ll stand for balanced budgets, term limits, the Second Amendment, repealing ObamaCare, a secure border, for the ag community and for freedom.
“When I served in communist Vietnam as a missionary I learned what it meant to live without freedom,” he said. “Faith leaders being persecuted, freedom of speech harassed and the government dictating the number of children you had. So I stand beside our President when he says America will never be a socialist country. No one will fight harder for this.”
Richards closed calling for more debates, calling the event very helpful. He asked people to consider his education as a civil engineer, his service in the Army and his role in the family business that employs over 300 people.
“I’m running because you deserve someone who will be focused on solving problems,” he said. “I’m running because you deserve someone who will put you, your family and your neighbors at the center of everything he does. We elected an unpolished businessman for a reason. We knew this country’s future was too important to trust just any politician that would be controlled by mainstream elite establishment values. It’s time for Iowans to change D.C.”