Our View: Hi-Line endorses Culver, Braley for offices

By Sheila Moussavi 2007

The Process:
With Iowa elections less than a week away, you might expect all Iowans to be researching and forming opinions on their state’s candidates.  Based on the reactions during a school poll however, this is apparently not the case at CFHS.

We polled students to see which candidates they preferred for Governor and Congressman,  and more tellingly than their actual choices was the fact that a substantial percentage of those asked had absolutely no idea what we were talking about.  In many cases, when 1st District Congressional candidates Bruce Braley (D) and Mike Whalen (R) were mentioned, students had never heard the names before.  Even fewer students recognized the names of their candidates for governor, Republican Jim Nussle and Democrat Chet Culver. Despite popular belief, these are names all students should know, and we encourage all students to learn about the issues and choose a candidate who best represents their opinions.

The Hi-Line editorial board decided to demonstrate this process by studying the issues ourselves and endorsing a candidate for both District Congressman and Governor.

In doing so, the editors followed the same methods we used two years ago when endorsing a presidential candidate.  Once again, rather than simply vote on Nussle or Culver, for example, we voted on each candidate’s position on specific issues.

To further control family, friend or political party influence, we made it a blind vote: We were not told which candidate each position belonged to.  This way, the editors were forced to think about individual issues rather than routinely follow the party they’ve identified themselves with.

These are the positions we voted on for each candidate, as gathered from their debates and individual websites:

Gubernatorial Candidates:
Chet Culver (D)—
1.  Education—Supports universal pre-school and promises to compensate for any federal cuts to the Head Start program. He also plans to emphasize a “private-public partnership” between government and corporations to help fund pre-school and higher education.
2.  Death Penalty—Culver supports the death penalty in circumstances concerning particularly heinous crimes (e.g. abducting and killing a child).  He does not intend to actively push for reinstatement however.
3.  Abortion—He is pro-choice and supports the standing abortion law.  However, he also backs the current Iowa ban on 3rd trimester abortions and mandatory parental notification.
4.  Energy/Environment—Supports alternative fuels and actively promotes renewable power methods (solar, wind, etc.).  He wants to create the Iowa Power Fund which would work toward making Iowa the nation’s leader in renewable energy.
5.  Social Security—Supports the IPERS pension plan and does not support privatizing social security.
6.  Same-sex marriage—This candidate would oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage but supports standing state law, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.
7.  Illegal Immigration—Culver wants to hold companies accountable by enforcing penalties for hiring illegal immigrants.  He puts less emphasis on border control.
8.  Stem Cell Research—He supports publicly funded research if it is well-supervised and peer reviewed.  He also intends to create the Iowa Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Jim Nussle (R)—
1.  Education—Nussle supports decreasing federal control and increasing local control in our schools.  He also supports the No Child Left Behind Act and reducing the number of administrators in high schools.  He believes in limiting college tuition increases to follow the Higher Education Price Index.
2.  Death Penalty—This candidate supports reviving the death penalty and plans to actively push for its reinstatement.
3.  Abortion—He is “100% pro-life” and supports a ban in all instances excepting when the mother’s life is in danger.  In the meantime, Nussle intends to settle for mandatory parental consent.
4.  Energy/ Environment—Supports Ethanol but voted against implementing the Kyoto Protocol.  He also supports the construction of oil refineries in Iowa and an increase in forest thinning programs.
5.  Social Security—Nussle supports a reduction of tax payments on social security.
6.  Same-sex Marriage—This candidate supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and voted in favor of a Washington DC ban on same-sex adoption.
7.  Illegal Immigration—Supports border control as a means of limiting illegal immigration.
8.  Stem Cell Research—He does not support embryonic stem cell research and backs placing limitations on regenerative research,

Congressional Candidates:
Bruce Braley (D)—
1.  War on Iraq—Braley supports investigating fraud in war-time spending and gradually turning the country over to the Iraqis.  He also wants to ensure proper body armor for the troops.
2.  Social Security—This candidate does not support the privatization of Social Security.
3.  Taxes—He promises to help roll back tax cuts and cut big oil incentives.  He will also support cutting the overspending in Iraq.
4.  Abortion/ Stem Cell Research—Braley is pro-choice (supports Roe vs. Wade) and encourages federal funding of stem cell research.
5.  Education—He intends to increase funding for early childhood, higher education and continuing education.
6.  Illegal Immigration—Braley wants to secure borders and ports and enforce penalties on companies employing illegal immigrants.  He also does not believe in amnesty for these illegal immigrants.
7.  Minimum Wage—He supports an increase in minimum wage.
8.  Fair Trade—Braley believes that countries involved in NAFTA and CAFTA need level work conditions for environmental regulation, child labor, health concerns, etc.
9.  Health Care—This candidate supports rewriting prescription benefits of Medicare and expanding health insurance coverage to all children or catastrophically ill patients.  He wants to also allow small businesses to pool insurance costs to share the expense.
10. Fuel—He intends to stop incentives to oil companies and to help Iowa become the world leader in ethanol and bio-fuel. Braley also wants to provide incentives for E-85 gas stations.

Mike Whalen (R)—

  1. War on Iraq—Whalen does not support turning the country over to the Iraqis; he believes we should remain in Iraq and continue the War on Terrorism until democracy is achieved in Iraq.
  2. Social Security—This candidate advocates personal savings accounts for young workers so they can invest their own money for their retirements.
  3. Taxes—He supports making the tax cuts established under President Bush permanent. He also advocates a modified flat tax to simplify the tax code and the repeal of the “death” tax.
  4. Abortion/Stem Cell Research—He is pro-life and does not support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and he encourages private research of adult stem cell lines.
  5. Education—He stresses that the decisions for education should be made at the state and local level, and the federal government should not override these local decisions.
  6. Illegal Immigration—Whalen does not believe in amnesty for illegal immigrants and stresses that the border security should be increased with more surveillance and barriers.
  7. Minimum wage—Whalen is not in support of an increase in minimum wage.
  8. Fair Trade—He believes that NAFTA and CAFTA have been effective in opening American markets as is.
  9. Health Care—Whalen stresses that there should be a cap on damages awarded in malpractice awards in order to control increased costs for insurance. Also, he endorses the idea of private, portable health savings accounts with substantial tax incentives for those who’d use them.
  10. Fuel—Whalen is in favor of expanding ethanol, biofuel and other alternative sources, as well as exploring more domestic sources for fuel such as coal and the oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in order to shift U.S. energy demand from the Middle East.

minimum wage—Considers the benefit of an increase to be overrated but still supports raising it if it includes tax incentives to help businesses.

The Result:
Without knowing who they corresponded with, the Hi-Line editors voted in support of Congressional candidate Bruce Braley and Gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver on all of the issues above.

Given the current economic and political turbulence in America, the Hi-Line editors overwhelmingly agreed that these two candidates have a better grasp on Iowa’s needs. Based on the accompanying poll, the majority of CFHS students who had an opinion on the matter support this conclusion.

But perhaps just as important as our conclusion is the opportunity this process gave us to learn about the individual positions and see how well they corresponded with our preferences on a more specific basis than just their political party.

We recommend this process to everyone, particularly those who weren’t exactly sure whether Nussle vs. Culver was a political race at all.  This political apathy, not to mention almost impressive inattention to yard signs, can be easily remedied, especially now that we’ve provided you with each candidate’s positions on issues that most matter. By looking over the issues, you can decide for yourselves whose views most nearly reflect your own.

And for those who refuse to get involved on the seemingly popular grounds that “all the candidates are the same” or “it’s only a smear campaign anyway,” looking at the issues individually might help you realize that it’s not that simple after all.

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