Read this candidate profile of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Schaben. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.
Give an example of an experience you’ve had as a car sales manager that you believe has prepared you to be a U.S. Senator.
Here’s one that comes to mind. The job is to go to work for the people. Now that I think of this one in particular, it has two that are very similar to it. We’ve had people that have purchased used vehicles from us. We’d gone through them and stuff happens shortly after people buy a used car. In both cases, the customer could not afford to get the car repaired. There were some big repairs that needed to get done. I think on one of them the transmission went out. One of them was a younger single mom and she was standing there with her mom in front of me. I wasn’t even involved with the transaction, however, since I got involved with it you have to carry it through to completion and find an amicable solution. In both cases we ended up finding the people a different vehicle and put them in the vehicle that was right for them.
What do you think is the one thing you can do in the Senate to help create jobs in Iowa?
One of the biggest things is to continue to fight for the Renewable Fuel Standards, continuing to fight for the renewable fuel industry. Last I checked, that was around 60,000 jobs here in the state of Iowa. Those are real jobs that are bringing in about $4 billion of household income to the people of the state of Iowa. So, looking out for the people in the renewable fuels industry is one way. Another way is working to simplify the tax code and make stuff easier for people to understand.
The proposed changes to the renewable fuel standard seem to signal that the administration may move away from grain-based alternatives to conventional fuels. Specifically what would you do in Washington to work in a bipartisan manner on energy policy that would benefit Iowans and still have a national appeal?
Like you just said, you have to find a way that benefits the Iowans. The current corn-based ethanol and the soy-based biodiesel are two big industries that are making a lot of ethanol for that industry. You’re also ending up saving people money on gas. That saves Iowans money too. You’re saving between 50 cents and $1.50 per gallon. Every little bit helps, but on the green side you have to look at the way that the production industry credits and you stay with the production-based credits because they’re the ones that help spur innovation and technological improvements.
Even with a former Iowa governor at the head of the agriculture department, farmers were kept in limbo for years over the new farm policies. How will you represent the interests of agriculture and rural communities in this environment ?
I always tell people that I’m bilingual in the sense that I can speak employer and employee. You also have to have somebody in the Senate, when representing the entire state of Iowa and visiting with senators from other states, who can speak the language of what’s important to them and visiting with senators that may be more concerned with a more urban approach to things and letting them know that what happens in the rural area also affects the urban area. First off, the food that we produce goes to market. That seems to work. That’s the easiest, most obvious answer. When farmers sell their product they buy things; whether it is cars or trucks. The automotive industry gets a lot of sales of pickup trucks that go to farmers. Not just pickup trucks but all different kinds of trucks; from sturdy trucks to that sort of thing. These are all things that benefit the national economy. There’s more to agriculture than just crops and livestock. Somebody’s got to move those to market. How do they get to market? What are the vehicles that transport them? It’s a big part of the economy.
You’re campaigning to become a member of the Senate from Iowa at a time when approval ratings are some of the lowest in history, hovering in the low to mid teens in most cases. What’s your explanation of how we got to this place where Congress doesn’t enjoy much favor among the population?
A big part of it is, everybody wants to see everybody go but everybody wants to keep who they’ve got. When you look that the people that are in there now from Iowa, whether you’re looking at Senator Grassley or Senator Harkin, they’ve been in there for three decades. If the people of Iowa wanted them to go, they would have voted them out of office. However, the people of Iowa time and again felt that they were being represented well by those people. Other people would have, I’m sure, disagreed and would like to see Senator Grassley and Senator Harkin go. A big part of it, though, comes from some of the partisan stuff and people not wanting to work with each other – not only across party lines but across background lines. Whether you’re talking people from Iowa versus other states, you have to be able to have a perspective where you’re looking at things on a national scale. Part of it, on the home side, is having candidates who are not afraid to face their constituents and not afraid to come out and answer questions. If you get people that do that, the satisfaction level will be higher. It’s basically making yourself accessible to the voters.
If you would become the republican nominee and win this seat, you would be facing the job of a senator, which is approving of presidential nominees for certain posts. When do you think it’s appropriate for a senator to block a presidential nominee? In what cases would you do so?
If you think that somebody is not interpreting the Constitution, you should feel free to block that nominee. The biggest litmus test should be the Constitution. When you’re looking at a federally appointed judge, you have to look at their history. If they have a history where their interpretation of the Constitution you might want to call into question, then you might want to slow things down.
There are liberal interpretations, living interpretations and more strict fundamental interpretations. How do you draw the line?
I understand both points of view. The Founding Fathers and their writing, at their time things weren’t thoroughly clear, but people don’t give them the credit they deserve when thinking that they didn’t have the foresight to imagine future possibilities when you look at some of the ambiguity that they left out there for future generations that would encompass any future possibilities. When you’re talking personal freedoms, freedom of speech and stuff, they wanted that to be as clear as possible. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech.
Nearly every candidate running for office, certainly in the GOP, says they want to cut government waste and bring down the deficit. Can you name a program that you would cut and why?
I just got done reading an article the other day about the Department of the Navy saying they want to put 14 ships, 11 cruisers and three amphibious assault ships through the shipyards to go through massive overhaul and extend their life from the 2020s to the 2040s. That would end up saving the federal government, I believe, $6 billion dollars. It might be more, but the House Armed Services Committee is saying that’s going to compromise readiness. You can build new ships. When you have people in the fleet and people on the front line saying here’s a way we can save money and not lose operational readiness but then you have politicians say that the military has it wrong then you have to call that into question. You have to take a course to look at it. The biggest thing is, when you talk to people on the front line, and it’s not just in the military, but in every different department and you talk to people in the civilian world and say, “What’s one way that your boss could cut costs?” Everybody will give you ways for a business to cut costs. You have to visit with these people on the front lines, whether it is the Department of Education, the EPA, the NTSD, the SAA, or any department of the government. When you visit these people and say, “Where can we trim some fat?” They’ll tell you. You have to talk to more than just the higher ups. You have to talk to the people on the front lines and they’ll tell you where waste is happening.
What program or department do you know of right now that you would cut?
The one with that 14 ship overhaul. That’s one that I would definitely look at and say why are we going to be building new ships when we could be extending the life of our currency 20 years?
Are we spending enough on national defense in your view?
I haven’t sat in on an intelligence briefing in over a decade, so to speak wisely on the issue I would have to be able to know what’s truly going on in the world. That’s a very broad question and I don’t think anybody in this race could answer that intelligently.
Immigration reform is an issue important to Iowa, but it has stalled in Congress. What immigration reforms would you support?
The biggest thing, before doing anything else, is securing the borders. I’ve been really clear on this. You can’t do anything until your borders are secured and until we know who’s here and who’s not here; reigning in the people who have overstayed their visas using the Department of Homeland Security numbers. There’s over a million people who were here on visas that the federal government has no idea where they are right now. In 1996, we were told we were going to get this straightened out and in 2004 we were told we were going to find out where these people are but it still hasn’t been done. That’s one thing. Encouraging programs like E-Verify is another thing that we can definitely do to help reign things in.
What about the real sticking point in Congress about any possible path to citizenship for the 10 to 12 million estimated undocumented workers in our country?
You can’t talk about that until you have the borders secured and a solid assessment of who’s here and who’s not here. Once that gets taken care of then you can talk about either a path to citizenship, amnesty, any of that stuff. But until the borders are secured, there’s no need to talk about it.
According to figures from NASA, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are due to human activities and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Do you believe the science that is out there among the vast majority of climate scientists?
I believe there’s something happening, yes.
Do you believe that human activity is a part of it?
Whether it’s human activity or not, that part I don’t know. Whether it’s American human activity or human activity from other nations, that’s the part to be determined. We’re on a level playing field with the world. Our engines in the United States have got some of the cleanest burning engines in the world. We have some of the most stringent environmental policies in the world. And to make things more burdensome for Americans when other people in other countries can’t even see their sunrise because there’s so much pollution. That’s not fair to Americans. We’re doing our part here. It’s time for people throughout the world to step up their role.
Should our government act on this issue?
Yes, it’s figure out what you’re going to do. We can ask them all we want, but it’s ultimately going to be their decision as to whether or not they’re going to want to clean up their power plants and clean up their factories.
The U.S. House has had dozens of votes to repeal, defund, or otherwise dismantle the Affordable Care Act. President Obama will not sign legislation repealing, dismantling, or defunding this legislation, but the law remains unpopular with most polls showing more people opposed rather than in support of the law. What are your ideas for revising the Affordable Care Act?
It’s probably going to be the same answer for everybody: Allowing people to purchase insurance across the state line, allowing small businesses to pool their risks together. If you allow everybody on Main Street to be in the one pool rather than in their own individual risk pool, your risks are lowered and your prices are lowered for your insurance premiums. Those are real market solutions that have been out there from day one. For whatever reason people have been saying the republicans don’t have solutions. Well, we’ve had solutions.