Two of the four Democrats running for U.S. Senate spoke at the South Side Democrat Federal Candidate Forum in Des Moines Tuesday night. State Sen. Rob Hogg and former state Sen. Tom Fiegen addressed a wide range of issues, including the environment and criminal justice.
Both candidates agreed on the need for sentencing reform. Fiegen also spoke about decriminalizing marijuana, doing away with for-profit prisons, and advocates for fewer prosecutors being appointed to the federal bench.
"We still have the throw-a-book-at-it mentality," says Fiegen. "My experience has been, I am not a criminal lawyer, I represent farmers and small businesses. I had a number of farmers who made bad decisions that ended up with them getting prosecuted. When I went with them and their criminal lawyer to court, it appeared to me that it was two-on-one. It was the judge and the prosecutor against the defense lawyer."
Hogg discussed his work on sentencing reform in the Iowa legislature, but takes a more holistic approach to criminal justice.
"I strongly believe that we need to prevent crime in the first place by investing in education, training, youth employment, and a full employment economy. We need to reduce the treatment of drug offenses as a criminal matter, and increase drug treatment as a public health matter," says Hogg. "I believe we can make real progress on this."
Regarding water quality and climate change, Hogg also referenced his work as a state senator such as the Watershed Improvement Review Board, the Iowa Flood Center and funding for the nutrient reduction strategy.
"I'm the only candidate in this race who has the record of bringing people together--farmers, business leaders and environmentalists--to actually make progress on these issues. I believe clean water solutions and infrastructure investments are an important part of a full employment economy," says Hogg.
However Fiegen, who served as a state senator from 2001-2003, says the state legislature has show no leadership in water quality, and therefore the federal government needs to step in.
"This is personal to me, my mother had thyroid cancer because of high nitrate in our farm well," says Fiegen. "That said, I'm going to tell you the Iowa Legislature is worthless on water quality. They want tax payers to pay for water quality. The polluter should pay. Everything they propose has been pennies in the bucket."
Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and former State Representative Bob Krause were not at the forum, but are also seeking the party’s nomination. The winner of the June 7 primary will go on to challenge six-term Republican incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley in November.