Candidate Profile: Brad Zaun
Read this candidate profile of 3rd District Candidate Brad Zaun. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.
Give me an example of an experience you had as a state senator that you believe prepared you to be a member of Congress?
I’ll tell you the biggest example I’ve had that would prepare me is obviously understand the process. But working across the aisle. Being independent, and doing what’s right rather than what the party is trying to influence you one way or the other. I’ve got a lot of good relationships across the aisle. Had one example of getting legislation through in the minority. I originally filed the dyslexic bill that we had in the Iowa Senate. Then I worked with Brian Schoenjahn, and then we worked together and got it through the Senate, got it through the House, and the Governor signed it.
It took a lot of conversations. I had a constituent that contacted me earlier in the year last year, and brought it to my attention that there’s teachers out there that are not identifying this learning disability. And there’s other states around the U.S. that have passed legislation to help educate teachers to discover, maybe there’s kids that do have this learning opportunity. I did that, of course I pre-filed that bill, came down to the capitol and talked to the education co-chair. I said hey listen, this is something I think we need to look at. Brian agreed, then of course we worked together and got it all the way through the process.
What do you think is the one thing you can do in Congress to help create jobs in Iowa?
My business experience really gives me an advantage, because I had a hardware store for 18 years. Right now I have an IT company with a business partner. We started about 6 years ago. In this company we’ve hit exactly 210 employees a week ago. So I understand the challenges. To create a better environment for people to grow their companies, we’ve got to cut the red tape and the regulations.
I was just in Red Oak and Atlantic and I talked to a lot of business owners around the town squares of both communities, telling me the paperwork is just getting out of control. We’ve also got to look at the tax climate that’s out there. And I think we need to look at that and improve that. If we cut the red tape, enhance the tax climate, lower taxes on business owners, I know we’ll be able to see new jobs created in the state of Iowa.
A March Iowa Poll shows 65% of those polled support an increase in the minimum wage. Would you support a minimum wage increase?
I’ve always been opposed to that in the Iowa capitol. I think there’s been one time that I’ve voted against that. I can tell you that what I am very supportive of is creating an environment for people to make a living wage rather than a minimum wage. If you go up to… the latest proposal’s at $10.10 an hour… it’s still hard to make a living and take care of all your expenses at home. What I’m all about is creating a better environment for job creators, like we just talked about in the previous question. To have everybody have an opportunity to make a living wage. So to answer your question directly, I would not support a minimum wage increase that’s being proposed.
The proposed changes to the renewable fuel standard seem to signal that the administration may move away from grain-based alternatives to conventional fuels. What would you do (in Washington) to work in a bipartisan manner on energy policy that would benefit Iowans and still have national appeal?
Well, one thing is I did co-sponsor the resolution, and was very disappointed in the current administration in regards to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Renewable fuels are good for the state of Iowa. I could tell you that what I would do in Washington, D.C. is fight for the renewable fuels industry here in the state of Iowa, and make sure that we are treated equally as some of the petroleum companies out there.
In regards to what we need to do, is we need to obviously capture some of the fuels that we have here in the state of Iowa, and make sure, I obviously would support the Keystone Pipeline, and there’s a lot of federal parks that are out there right now, that I know that there are some resources that are available as well, and I’d be open minded to having that conversation as well.
I think the question is more… that here in Iowa we produce so much of the corn that goes into these grain based fuels. How do you bring that argument to the rest of the country, so the rest of the country thinks it’s good for them too?
It’s real simple. We’re over there fighting in wars, and a lot of people that hate us, that we’re dependent on their oil. We’re best to rely on what we have in regards to resources in the state of Iowa. So I’m going to fight, obviously. If it comes to a sugarcane vs. corn-based ethanol fight, which if Marco Rubio is fighting for the sugarcane industry in the state of Florida, I’m going to be fighting for the corn-based ethanol plants and the farmers in the state of Iowa.
You’re campaigning to join Congress at a time when its approval ratings are some of the lowest in history… hovering in the low to mid-teens in most cases. How did we get to this point?
Because we have people in Washington D.C. that are not listening to the constituents. We have elected officials that are there for careers rather than public service. The dissatisfaction is because Washington D.C. is not listening. They’re delaying all the tough decisions that have to be made. I think the poll that you just talked about, they deserve.
This has been called a do-nothing Congress. In what areas can you imagine compromising with the other party to get something accomplished for Iowa?
Well I’ve certainly done that a lot in the state senate. There’s a lot of problems out there. We need to find common ground. I’ve seen this happen in the Iowa Senate. We have to work together. The only way we’re going to make tough decisions and move this country forward, is it’s got to be done in a bipartisan way. We’ve got to quit the bickering and we’ve got to get to work on behalf of the people we represent. So I would just say, we find common ground, and then that’s what we work on. We can find common ground throughout. I’m told there’s 17 senators that are up for re-election that are Democrats, that are running away from Obamacare. I could guarantee, we could find common ground in regards to some of the reforms that need to be done in healthcare, if we do it in a bipartisan way.
The U.S. House has held dozens of votes to either repeal, defund or otherwise dismantle the Affordable Care Act. President Obama will not sign legislation repealing, defunding or dismantling this legislation. But, the law remains unpopular… with most polls showing more people opposed to, rather than in support of the law. What are your ideas for revising it?
Well, first of all, there’s an election coming up this fall. Who knows what’s going to happen. But if the Republicans get in charge of the Senate, there will be opportunities to pass legislation from both the House and the Senate, and send to the President of the United States to repeal the Obamacare that was passed. Obviously that’s his signature legislation. The reality of that happening, is it’s probably not going to happen.
With that said, what the Congress and the Senate can do, because I know there’s a lot of Democrats that are not happy about how it turned out, how it was rolled out. I believe what you do is you try to override his veto if you’re not successful. One thing I’ve been very opinionated on, is it’s been very disappointing that the Republicans haven’t offered alternatives. Obviously I want to repeal what has already happened and the changes in healthcare. But like I said earlier, there’s a lot of common ground that we can find in regards to finding the changes.
I think the mistake that was made with Obamacare, is it was too big of a monstrous bill. Number one, nobody read it. Number two, nobody really understood it, and they just passed it. I think Nancy Pelosi said, well we’ll figure it out down the road. But what we have to do is, we have got to make changes in healthcare that I know will be better for all Americans, and certainly Iowans as well. And we’ve got to do it in a bipartisan way.
I would guess that most everybody agrees with the part of Obamacare which was where you could be able to transfer from one position or one job to another, the portability option. I know there’s a lot of people that agreed about the pre-existing conditions. I think we could come to find common ground on that. I think there’s some opportunities in regard to transparency when you get services, potentially being able to buy insurance across state lines, which is legislation I offered in the state capitol. And of course I know the sensitive thing would be some of the liability reform. But I think those would be some starting points we could try to work with in a bipartisan way.
Nearly every candidate running for office says they want to cut government waste and bring down the deficit. Name a program or department you would cut, and why?
When I talk about cutting spending, I say there’s three non-negotiables for me. That’s support systems for our elderly, for our disabled, as well as our veterans. But other than that I think everything should be, at least having a conversation about what is the priority of services that we deliver to our people that we serve.
With that said, I have a bill at the state capitol to shut down the Department of Education. I feel very strongly about that, and at the federal level as well. The reason why is because one size does not fit all. The challenges of Hyatt Middle School, on the east side of Des Moines, and the challenges there are in rural Iowa, and the challenges there are in suburban Iowa, are completely different. I believe there’s accountability. I’m a very strong supporter of local control, and I think that those local school districts could actually adapt to what their needs are rather than coming out of Washington D.C.
You can see a correlation of student achievement scores on the decline when the Department of Education was formed in 1979. They have not helped the process. Full disclosure, I’m married to a teacher. All the mandated paperwork that comes out of D.C. is overwhelming for these teachers. These teachers are spending all their weekends and a lot of their evenings putting together all the paperwork requirements for their students, and particularly even special eds for the IEPs. We need to cut down on that paperwork. I think in Iowa we know what’s best for our students.
I know that that’s a cliché. Only thing I would tell you is, I filed a bill to shut down the Department of Education in the state of Iowa. So I truly believe in this. I’m on the education committee. I understand some of the challenges. I’ve talked to administrators, like I said I’m married to a former teacher, and I’ve talked to a lot of parents as well.
Are we spending enough on national defense?
I think it all should be reviewed. I mentioned earlier, everything should be on the table: All the departments. I certainly would probably guess there’s been some fraud and some waste. I would particularly be interested in some of the foreign aid that we provide to a lot of countries that hate us. I also want to have that conversation.
I thought what was proposed with the 2% decrease in spending in Washington, which really hit the Department of Defense the hardest, was unfortunate. I don’t like these across the board cuts like what happened there, almost exclusively picking on the Department of Defense. We have to have a strong military in the United States.
If we could learn a lesson from what Ronald Reagan did… we really didn’t go to war. What we did was have a strong military and we had a president that everyone worldwide respected. I think we need to learn a lesson on how we did that. But I do think the military budget, the Department of Defense budget, is something we should have a conversation about. Just making sure it’s run efficiently, and there’s not a lot of fraud and waste in that department, as well as all other departments.
When you talk about aid to foreign countries, one example of that recently would be Syria.
I would definitely have a conversation about Syria. I guess the one I’d be most cautious about, is I know there’s a lot of foreign aid that goes to Israel. They’ve been great allies to the United States. And I think they promote freedom in that region, which is a very dangerous region of the world. But I do think that Syria and all the other foreign aid that’s going out right now, we need to have a conversation. I believe we need to spend the money that’s taken in by the taxpayers of the United States and take care of the United States first, before we take care of the other foreign countries that are out there.
Immigration reform is an issue important to Iowa, but has stalled in Congress. What immigration reforms would you support?
Well, I think we definitely need to have that conversation. Because immigration right now is broken. I would start with, we have got to make sure we have secure borders. I don’t know what the definition of that is, but I’m open minded to having that conversation. I don’t care how we get there as long as our borders are secure. I would even have the conversation about possibly putting the National Guard down on the borders.
But with that said, we have got to look at the process of immigration. I can tell you that I have talked to a farmer that had someone who was sponsored on a green card. He mentioned he sent this person, and paid them while they were going to Des Moines, to fill out the paperwork, start the process to become an American citizen. I can guarantee it that all our ancestors—which all of our ancestors here to this country—I guarantee ya, the process is so much more complicated then it was back then. I know for sure, and I’ve talked to different people that go through that process. I mean you’re talking about two inches worth of paperwork just to become an American citizen.
Bottom line for me, is I want to give opportunities for everyone to live the American dream. That’s why most of our ancestors came here. I want to look at the process. Secondly, it is not… I want to make sure that all the people that are incarcerated, that are illegals, that we get them out of this country. I’m tired of paying for them being incarcerated here in the United States. But it is not practical to take all the illegal immigrants that are here in this country and have them leave this country. I want them to become a contributing member of our society, and I want to give them an opportunity without amnesty.
According to figures from NASA, 97% percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. What’s your take?
OK. So, then my question to you, is all these countries that are saying this, what are they doing about it? That’s my biggest concern. I would acknowledge that our globe is warming, changing. What my frustration is, is we’ve got about 200 years’ worth of information, where we can actually track what the cycles of our globe is doing. This world and this globe has been here for thousands of years. We don’t have enough information to prove that there is global warming right now. I believe there is changes in what’s going on, but I don’t believe we have enough data to make the assumption.
I just went to a conference in Chicago. We supposedly had two of the best people, one saying there is global warming, another one saying there isn’t. Two brilliant people, from Harvard if I recall, that could not agree on this issue. What I do want to do, is I want to make sure that we have a great environment. I’m open minded to having this conversation. But I have not been proved 100% that this is man-made global warming. I know there’s global warming, but I don’t have enough proof that it’s man-made.
Secondly, what’s really disappointing to me is you hear all the data of what’s going on environmentally throughout the world. China’s an example. I mean, even if we do have the information to make a decision on making some changes in the United States… which I think we have. I really do. When I was a kid I remember going to large communities. We always drove there, we’d never fly. And you’d see a haze over these communities. I think the automobile industry has really helped clean up the environment and our air.
So I believe, until I have proof, if this happens, you’ve got countries out there that are abusing our environment on a day to day basis. And so, I agree we should have the conversation but I have not been sold on the theory that it is man-made global warning.
I’ve been supportive in regards to wind energy and the solar industry. I’ve taken tours. Last fall I took a tour with some of the lawmakers to see what the advances are in solar energy. The price has come down. A lot more people are going to have opportunities to put solar up. My bottom line in regards to energy is that my responsibility to the people I represent is to have reliable energy and affordable energy. I think that we have to, we can’t rely on one industry over the other. And I’m talking about solar or wind or coal fired, or whatever it is. I think what we need to do is make sure that we have a plan that delivers reliable energy at an affordable price.