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Earlier this month, the Des Moines Register editorial board interviewed the three Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate competing in a June 7 primary. Mike Franken, a retired Navy vice admiral, ran for the Senate in 2020. Abby Finkenauer, a former congresswoman and state representative, was defeated in her 2020 re-election bid. Glenn Hurst, a western Iowa physician, is running for office for the first time.
The winner of that election will face either incumbent Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley or Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin. The Register invited Grassley and Carlin for interviews, as well.
The Register editorial board is not issuing endorsements in elections for federal office this year.
Transcripts of notable answers during the interviews appear below the recordings of their visits.
May 9: Glenn Hurst
May 18: Abby Finkenauer
May 19: Mike Franken
Glenn Hurst: 'I could easily be identified and identified myself as pro-life at that time'
Question: What could you share about your experience as a family practitioner as it regards abortion?
Hurst: A woman in her mid-30s came in because she was in need of an abortion. And she came to us because she had seen an oncologist and she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. She's in her mid-30s. She is now with her husband. She is there with her, must have been 5-year-old child and 2-year-old child and she's pregnant. And she is about to go through chemotherapy which will absolutely damage a fetus that is rapidly reproducing cells. That's what chemotherapy attacks. It's why people lose their hair.
So she is about to go through an incredibly aggressive cancer treatment just to stay alive for her two children. And if she doesn't have that abortion, she … will not survive. The experience was we couldn't find a provider in western Iowa who could do that. … She ended up going to Nebraska and having the procedure done.
She is alive today. And she's there for her two children. So my experience with abortion, from very early on, was this is a medical procedure. It's a decision that's meant for the person who's whose uterus is pregnant. And it's her decision to make.
Question: Can you think of any issues where you've changed your mind after further research or hearing a poignant story or several?
Hurst: Well, sure, let's talk about choice. When I was a high school student, my Eagle Scout project was to raise money for the emergency pregnancy service — I was in school in Omaha at the time — emergency pregnancy service, which was a pro-life group that ran an education and, you know, it's like a thrift store for women who were pregnant and chose to keep their pregnancy.
My Eagle project was to raise money for that, that organization. And I could, I could easily be identified and identified myself as pro-life at that time. And, you know, part of medical education is, and being able to receive a medical education is, is being open to looking at data and making decisions based on data.
So my experience over time with data — and some personal stories, but I'm very careful … stories are the worst piece of information in terms of making a decision. So over time, that's a position that changed, and obviously, it's changed dramatically. I will still remain open. As a US senator, I believe it's one of the most important things that differentiates me from other candidates as well, is that I am used to not just looking at not just making the decision based on what the data says, but I'm judging the quality of the data before we make that decision, and also following up on what the results of our actions are, and changing that based on our own data. So I believe when we're talking about climate change, we're talking about health care, these are incredibly important qualities to have the ability to judge, interpret and act.
Abby Finkenauer: 'We need more people who are in touch and willing to actually do the work before it becomes trending on Twitter’
Question: Since you brought up the supply chain, I want to start in a little more spinachy place. You put out some detailed proposals, which we appreciate, the kind of legislative (focus), which makes sense, you’re running for the Senate. Is there anything you'd be lobbying the president to do from an executive perspective, that would be more swift to fix problems?
Finkenauer: One of the more recent issues — not that recent, just recent that people are paying attention to it — is, the baby formula shortage that we have in this state and in this country.
It was, in fact, over three weeks ago now, last month, that I was calling on the Biden administration to actually use the Defense Production Act to address this because I started seeing it as I was out there talking to folks, but also, because I'm a 33-year-old woman who has a lot of friends who have little babes at home and are trying to find baby formula. I started seeing them post it on social media. And I started looking into it and going, ‘Oh, my goodness, obviously, we have an issue when you have a recall happening back in February, and why is no one paying attention to this?’
And so that's where I called on the Biden administration to use the Defense Production Act to actually deal with the shortage (and do) everything to get those plants up and running in a safe way. But also making sure that they are stepping up helping with the ingredients as well and sourcing those. There's many different things that could that could be done using the Defense Production Act. It sounds now that the Biden administration is taking some of these steps that the Defense Production Act would allow you to do, but they seem to be doing it outside of that, which is fine. I'm glad they're doing something now.
But it was interesting, where it was actually a few weeks after I was calling for this, then all of a sudden, when people saw it peaking on Twitter, or might be an election issue or might be a political issue, then you all of a sudden have these people in D.C. wanting to actually draw attention to it and do something. And I just think that sad. I think that's sad that that's how it works. And I think we need more people who are in touch and willing to actually do the work before it becomes trending on Twitter.
Mike Franken: 'If you're a purveyor of mistruths, knowingly, should you be open for litigation? … I believe words matter.'
Question: Have you been a victim of, do you believe, disinformation campaigns? And how would you approach regulating or not regulating social media companies?
Franken: So is this personal or on the campaign path?
Question: We'll start with on the campaign.
Franken: I don't know. I mean, there's always somebody who's trying to make, and a military term, gouge away in on various networks and doing exploratory stuff. There's always bots out there that constantly hyperventilate and do things. The best thing to do is nothing. The problem is when you see some of these goofball things, you have to do something because there's a believability index which is too damn high not to. Nothing has been significant, until after this interview airs.
But I'm very aware of the implications of this. I ended up a high-technology task force some years ago that looked at the full spectrum cyber media manipulation, critical infrastructure, denigration, from assassinations to street demonstrations gone awry. And a series of things: space transportation issues, the whole spectrum. I headed up the task force for Department of Defense. And I am aware of probably something, incidentally, that you would like your senator to be well versed in. And I understand what can happen with media manipulation, and social manipulation in particular.
And I believe the government has a role as a refugee, or I'm sorry, as a referee in this matter. And it needs to be an active participant in deciding what is proper and what's not. And for too long, we've let this been the domain of industry, and only tried to pick up the pieces after the fact, which has prompted this Elon Musk action, which I'm not a fan. … I just don't care for a single individual to have control of that. Nor should anyone else.
Question: That's pretty fraught, that referee role. … What are a couple of the principles for refereeing?
Franken: Well, let's go back to the basic truth doctrine. And if you're a purveyor of mistruths, knowingly, should you be open for litigation? For those who are harmed? I believe words matter. Words matter as much as actions matter. And I'm ever so happy to hold people to account for their words, to include our past president.
I think this is the old definition of some more unsavory things, you know it when you see it. This is a new frontier. Not doing something about it soon will only make it worse in the future in my estimation. And the protocols I think are well understood. It’s just finding where those fences and walls are.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Opinion: U.S. Senate candidates meet with the Register