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WATERLOO — Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Rep. Rod Blum for Iowa’s 1st District U.S. Congressional District seat squared off at a forum Friday night at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

More than 90 people were present to hear the candidates answer questions on health care, legalizing marijuana and campaign finance reform. Also present was a life-sized cardboard cutout of Blum.

The dialogue mainly focused on their political platforms, but during a question on campaign finances, Courtney Rowe criticized state Rep. Abby Finkenauer because she has received support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“They came in and decided that’s your candidate and they have tried to push the other candidates out,” Rowe said. “They have talked to staff with IDP (Iowa Democratic Party), they tried to get them to only coordinate with that campaign. I know this because staff members have told me. I can’t name them because they don’t want to lose their job, and that’s wrong.”

Rowe went on to advocate for publicly funded elections.

George Ramsey also advocated against the involvement of the DCCC in the campaign.

“I certainly don’t believe that they DCCC should’ve been involved in this campaign this early,” Ramsey said. “They should’ve allowed the four of us to do the things we needed to do county by county.”

Finkenauer, a two-term state representative from Dubuque, has received support from the DCCC, 14 labor unions and Emily’s List.

Health care came up often during the forum with all of the candidates advocating for some form of universal health care.

The event featured all four Democrats vying for the 1st Congressional District seat — Thomas Heckroth, Rowe, Ramsey and Finkenauer.

Heckroth agreed with Finkenauer that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United needs to be overturned.

“I think we do have to start with the fact that we have to overturn Citizens United,” Heckroth said. “Another thing we have to talk about is eliminating dark money.”

“Every campaign donation to my campaign is from an individual, and we have reported every single donation publicly,” Heckroth said.

The candidates answered eight questions, three from the moderator Chris Schwartz, a Black Hawk County supervisor, and five from the audience after they delivered opening remarks.

After the June 5 primary, Americans for Democratic Action and Schwartz will be hosting candidate events until November, he said.

“We’d be 100 percent comfortable supporting any of these candidates that get the nomination,” Schwartz said. “We’ll be working hard making sure voters know where the candidates stand on health care, the Trump tax scam and access to the ballot.”

The June 5 Democratic primary will decide who runs against Blum, a two-term Republican U.S. Representative.

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Staff Writer

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