Rod Blum and Ben Lange are running as Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Iowa's 1st District.
The 1st District includes 20 counties in northeast Iowa, including Dubuque, Jackson, Clayton, Delaware and Jones. The primary election is Tuesday, June 5. The winner of the primary will face Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley in this fall's general election.
The TH interviewed both candidates individually to ascertain their thoughts on a number of topics relevant to the position they seek. Here is a partial transcript of the interviews:
TH: Both candidates have said Congress must rein in federal spending. What specific areas do you believe can be cut?
Blum: I think we should reduce spending, cut it back to 2008 levels, pre-(President Barack) Obama, pre-stimulus. Then we need to freeze it there until revenues catch up. We need to make permanent the (former president George W.) Bush tax cuts. We need to permanently repeal the death tax, which particularly hits farmers very hard. That's about $700 billion to $800 billion in real cuts. And we need to do that, I think, over a three-year period. I think the debate should happen in Congress, an open and transparent debate on where things should get cut. If Congress can't agree on specific cuts, then let's just put it back to 2008 levels, as things were funded in 2008.
Lange: We have to face reality in the sense that there's a discretionary side and there's a mandatory side. Mandatory spending, if you look at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are going to consume every single penny of federal revenue over the next 30 to 40 years. So there won't be a single cent left for any of the discretionary. (With Social Security) those that are 50, 55 and older, they will continue to honor that promise and they will have that. For the rest of us that are the younger generation, we should have the same options as members of Congress do. They choose from about five to seven different plans out there or funds to invest their retirement savings into. It's monitored by the federal government, so it's not too risky.
TH: Do you advocate for reduced spending in the defense budget?
Blum: To sit and say our Department of Defense is one lean, mean, efficient machine, I mean, come on. Only a hawk would say that. I'm a businessman. I think we should have the strongest military in the world. That's one of the enumerated powers that the Constitution gives the federal government: to protect us. I'm not an expert in these areas, but I'm sure there's areas in the Department of Defense that can be cut. For example, it's called the Department of Defense, not the department of offense. We're trying to police the world. I don't believe we should be nation-building.
Lange: I'm positive there's wiggle room in every federal spending measure. I'm certain of it. But I'm also certain that we are asking men and women to risk their lives overseas. Certainly there is room to make cuts, but I don't agree defense should be cut just because it's part of this sequestration and politicians in Washington are too chicken to actually address the real problems.
TH: How do you view the role of the Tea Party movement within the Republican party?
Blum: The Tea Party is the greatest grassroots movement I have seen in my lifetime. I think the Republican Party over the years has gotten away from its platform, gotten away from its roots, gotten away from its principles. And most people that I speak to in the 1st District over the last seven months on the road agree with that. The Tea Party is what the Republican Party should have always been.
Lange: I think the Tea Party is like a lot of other Americans: they're just frustrated. They don't feel like those in Washington, D.C., are behaving the way our founders intended. The Tea Party will continue to be around so long as there's frustration with the federal government.
TH: If elected, how willing would you be to work across the aisle and/or vote against the majority of your party?
Blum: I, being a (former) basketball coach, use a sports analogy typically, like football: If a piece of legislation moves the football closer to the goal line of liberty, freedom, smaller government, then I will vote for that. I've got ideals. And I'm never going to change my ideals, change my core principles, ever. I know what I believe in. However, you get to Congress, every bill's not going to be perfectly the way Rod Blum wants it. I understand that.
Lange: Absolutely, I'm willing to work across the aisle. Talk about frustration. Go talk to people. They're just sick and tired. 'How in the heck can these guys get their job done?' The frustration stems because there's so much blockade. They're just hitting each other in the head over and over again. But I think the other side of that is, are you willing to stand up to your own party. Are you willing to stand up not just to the other team -- because it's easier to do that -- but stand up to your own guys on your own team when they start pushing you down the wrong path?
TH: What makes you the right candidate to face the Democratic incumbent in your district?
Blum: I think I'm authentic, I think I'm genuine. I don't want a career in Washington. I think career politicians are a huge part of the problem. I'm a businessman. I've suffered. We need people that have had some life experience, have lived through this, and once again that have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to Democrat leadership, Republican leadership, and if need be the president of the United States.
Lange: The question is who can win. Who can defeat Bruce Braley? There is no doubt about it that we have built the organization, the team, the resources to actually win this. The contrast with Mr. Blum is on who is best capable of representing and articulating the conservative message out there, and we are light years ahead on every aspect that is measurable.