Republican Steve King and Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack met in Hampton Monday night for another debate. It was the first time the incumbent met his opponent on ground that wasn’t part of his old district. The two differed on just about every issue including controversial Iowa voter ID laws.
In the small town of Hampton, the Franklin County Courthouse lawn is scattered with campaign signs. Some plastered to the side of cars. Some on sticks, held by the dozens of voters here to support both Christie Vilsack or Steve King.
“I almost feel like there’s a possibility that we have a Republican that’s too far to the right for some people and a Democrat who’s too far to the left for some people,” said Hampton Mayor Shawn Dietz
Inside the historic Windsor movie theater,the debate touched on the economy, wind energy and the deficit. But the issue that really sparked a response from the audience was recent controversial voter ID laws proposed. The Iowa laws were proposed by Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz - who says they’re necessary to prevent fraudulent votes. But Vilsack says it could stifle voter turnout.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence out there that there’s voter fraud,” Vilsack said during the debate. “I think we should do everything in this country to encourage every person to vote.”
“I heard that, we should do all we can to encourage every person to vote," said in his response to Vilsack. "I don’t agree. I completely don’t agree,”
Vilsack said the laws could prevent many older voters from going to the election booth and there are situations where people just don’t have a picture ID. But King says fraud is on the rise.
“It is not a story - it is real and it is affecting the destiny of this country. and Matt Schultz has the right plan. And it needs to go beyond Matt Schultz’s bill and do more," Vilsack said.
“There’s nothing wrong with a photo ID. You’ve gotta have a photo id to cash a check, have a photo ID to vote," said mechanic and farmer John Schmitt. "I might go farther and say you don’t pay property tax, you don’t pay income tax? You don’t vote.”
But Patrick Palmer, the owner of a small computer repair store in Hampton says King goes too far.
“He’s just embarrassed me as a constituent about things he’s said about immigrants and various things like that,” Palmer said.
Whether or not this is an issue that will decide this election is unclear. Vilsack and King will debate again in Orange City on September 27th and in Sioux City on October 9th. As for the voter ID law, it’s currently tied up in the courts because of a lawsuit from the ACLU and the League of United Latin American Citizens.