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(Clarinda) – Five democratic gubernatorial candidates, and seven third congressional candidates took part in a public forum in Clarinda Saturday night.

A Rural Southwest Iowa Candidates’ forum was hosted by Democrats of Adams, Fremont, Montgomery, Page, and Taylor counties. The event was held at Wibholm Hall in Clarinda.

Gubernatorial candidates included Andy McGuire – who was represented by former state senator Michael Gronstal – Cathy Glasson, Jon Neiderbach, Ross Wilburn, and John Norris.

McGuire was born and raised in Waterloo, and earned a medical degree from Creighton University. Speaking on McGuire’s behalf, Gronstal said one of her main focuses in the campaign is healthcare.

“You all know what a rotten deal managed care has been for 600,000 Iowans,” Gronstal said. “One out of five Iowans is on Medicaid. One out of five. Their services are declining. The people that provide those services are going out of business because those managed care companies aren’t paying. It’s just a disaster in Iowa.”

Glasson grew up in the northwest Iowa town of Spencer, and currently resides in Coralville. She is a union leader and an ICU nurse. Glasson says one of her main goals is to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the state.

“The number one job of a governor in our state is to raise wages and improve the standard of living for all Iowans,” Glasson said. “Let’s face it. Governor Kim Reynolds, and the republican legislature, hasn’t gotten that job done. I can say that because here are the facts; 381,000 Iowa households can’t pay their bills each month.”

Neiderbach has 14 years of experience with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and provided objective analysis to legislators for budget and policy decisions. He says one of the best ways to improve rural Iowa is to provide more opportunities for the youth to expand their education.

“We can’t just talk about education spending, we need to give people specifics so they know what impact there is,” Neiderbach said. “We need to not only freeze tuition in our colleges, universities, and community colleges, we need to lower it. I’ll have a budget guy. I’ll have one hundred million dollars additional to start lowering tuition in my first budget, and fifty million dollars to start buying down people who have graduated or left school and have loans. Where will I get the money? Cutting tax breaks for the rich.”

Wilburn is a native of Davenport, and is the diversity officer and associate program director for Community and Economic Development at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He was a former mayor and city council member in Iowa City for 12 years. He says increased access to mental health care is at the top of his agenda.

“Our campaign theme is Let’s Be Iowa,” Wilburn said “Let’s make those decisions that vote people into office who are going to make decisions that positively impact Iowans every day. We need supportive services for individuals and families who are struggling with mental illness. We cannot close down mental health centers without a plan to support them in the community.”

Norris was raised on the Montgomery County family farm that his great-great grandparents settled in 1881. He served as chief of staff for Governor Vilsack, and held several key positions in the Obama administration. Norris says quality education is key to building a stronger state.

“Good schools and good healthcare are essential if you are going to have successful communities. Our governor is abandoning both in this state today,” Norris said. “When we passed the collective bargaining law, we said ‘teachers we don’t respect you.’ Minnesota is now advertising for the Iowa teachers who want respect. We don’t fund education enough. The challenges they face today are different than the challenges I had growing up in Red Oak. We expected then-Iowa to be best in education, and today our governor is accepting mediocrity.”

Seven democratic third congressional candidates made the trip to Clarinda Saturday night to discuss key issues. Those candidates included Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, Austin Frerick, Dr. Paul Knupp Jr., Eddie Mauro, Heather Ryan, and Theresa Greenfield.

Cindy Axne is a fifth-generation Iowan, small business owner, a mother, and community activist. Axne says one of the biggest issues for Iowa – and the country – is infrastructure.

“We need to build a baseline for our economic growth,” Axne said. “That means a solid infrastructure. That’s why I’m going to fight for more funding to make sure that we repair and build our roads and bridges, our water and sewer systems, and absolutely make sure that every Iowan has access to solid broadband and cellular. Everyone needs be able to compete in today’s new economy.”

D’Alessandro is known for running the 2016 Iowa presidential campaign for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. D’Alessandro says he endorses a progressive plan to get the country back on the right track, which includes increasing broadband opportunities for rural communities.

“Only about half the people in rural America have Internet that is considered adequate,” D’Alessandro said. “I would support legislation like House Resolution 800, which would amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. Not only would it set up a distinct office within the Department of Ag, it would allow authorization of federal money and development of access in underserved areas. It is a new deal approach to a new deal type problem.”

Knupp was raised in a union family in Youngstown, Ohio. He currently works at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines. Knupp says he will work for the middle class, especially when it relates to health care.

“For small businesses like here in Clarinda, the reason small businesses are struggling and closing is because they can’t afford the health care costs,” Knupp said. “I propose we provide free health care for every small business, which is traditionally defined as less than 15 employees. These owners just can’t afford to pay.”

Frerick is a Winterset native, and is a former economist for the U.S. Treasury. Frerick says he promises to break up big businesses, particularly in agriculture and the pharmaceutical industry.

“I think economic concentration is the issue of our time,” Frerick said. “Most Americans agree with our platform. Most Americans believe in climate change, paid leave, and Medicare for all. So, why is Al Gore making that same movie 10 years later? It’s because the Koch brothers are modern day robber barons. I love saying that because everyone’s heads nod. It makes sense. We are living in a second Gilded Age.”

Mauro owns an insurance company and has coached sports in the Des Moines metro. He believes defeating David Young is a big task, but requires a candidate who will take bold approaches.

“I’m hearing a lot of great stories and ideas tonight, but none of that makes a difference if we don’t have the right candidate with the right message to beat David Young,” Mauro said. “He’s been very difficult to beat the last two times out. I’m here to tell you that I am that guy. We win this seat when we talk about fields of opportunities for our current and new farmers. We win this seat when we talk about a crop insurance program, and a farm bill, that provides the tools and resources that all of our famers need – regardless of their size, practice, and their formation.”

Ryan is a Des Moines native who majored in political science at Drake University, and also served in the U.S. Navy. Ryan says that one of the biggest issues she’s focusing on in the election is sensible gun reform.

“I became really active with Moms Demand Action after Sandy Hook,” Ryan said. “I’d like for my 8-year-old and 10-year-old not to die in gun violence. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have gun reform. There should be background checks for everyone. There should be sensible things put into place that don’t make it so easy for people who don’t have the right frame of mind to get access to guns.”

Greenfield grew up on a family farm in southern Minnesota, and says she’s running for Congress with the same farm kid values and get-it-done attitude that she has demonstrated throughout her life.

“Working families want to make more money,” Greenfield said. “They want a well paying job for a job well done. We can help with that by investing in education, better training, better skills, and better jobs to get their American dream. They want rural communities to thrive again. We can do that. We have to invest in the public infrastructure plan that is needed, and continue to grow our green economy.”

Saturday night’s Rural Southwest Iowa Candidates’ Forum got underway just after 5 p.m., and featured a free will donation supper.

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