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UPDATE: Grassley, Sweeney draw few differences in candidate forum

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IOWA FALLS, Iowa --- After listening to state Reps. Annette Sweeney and Pat Grassley speak for nearly an hour, Joe Norte had just one question.

He asked the two Republican candidates for the Iowa House District 50 seat why he should vote for them in the primary June 5.

“Primaries are hard. They’re both good people, and they both are on the same side on the issues, and that happens to be the side I agree with,” said Norte, a retiree who lives in Iowa Falls. “As far as I can tell, aside from Pat Grassley being male and Annette Sweeney being female, they’re about the same as candidates.”

Neither candidate drew contrasts with the opponent, either during the debate or when questioned afterward. Notre left no closer to a decision than when he entered.

Grassley and Sweeney, both incumbent legislators, were thrown into the same district when the lines were redrawn for redistricting after the 2010 census. Both come from farm backgrounds. Grassley farms near New Hartford, while Sweeney hails from Alden.

The new district includes the northern half of Hardin County, Sweeney’s home, and the southern half of Butler County, where Grassley resides. It also includes all of Grundy County, which neither candidate represented in the past.

The Tuesday forum, sponsored by the Iowa Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa Falls Times Citizen newspaper, proved a cordial affair, with both candidates saying the election boils down to voting for the candidate of choice rather than against their opponent.

Neither Sweeney nor Grassley strayed from the views their party espoused in the Legislature. Instead of debating policy differences, they chose to highlight their work in the Statehouse.

Grassley serves as chairman of the House Economic Growth Committee, a role he says he pursued because his constituents’ top priority was jobs.

Sweeney leads the House Agriculture Committee, where she helped usher in the controversial Agriculture Protection Act that made it a crime to fraudulently gain employment in agriculture facilities. The bill is meant to keep animal rights activists from secretly filming inside livestock facilities.

Even when a woman disrupted the forum by shouting that Sweeney doesn’t defend the rights of domestic animals, Grassley stood up for his opponent.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate for anyone during a debate regardless of if you agree with either one of us on a specific issue,” Grassley said to applause.

When asked what is the biggest issue facing rural Iowa, Sweeney said she wants main street businesses to thrive in Iowa’s smaller towns. She sees the booming farm economy as an opportunity to make that happen.

“We need to look at revitalizing our downtowns. Lowering our commercial property taxes would be a great way to be able to do that. But also we need to attract new businesses,” Sweeney said.

Grassley pointed to property tax reform as benefitting all of Iowa. In particular, he said the House Republican plan would benefit all classes of property owners. He wants to see commercial property taxes lowered to encourage business growth.

“That issue I think affects all of Iowa because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states and the rest of the nation,” Grassley said.

No Democrat has filed to run in the heavily Republican-leaning district. The general election is Nov. 6.

EARLIER STORY

IOWA FALLS, Iowa --- After listening to Annette Sweeney and Pat Grassley speak for nearly an hour, Joe Norte had just one question on his mind.

He asked the two Republican candidates for the Iowa House District 50 seat why he should vote for them.

"Primaries are hard. They're both good people and they both are on the same side on the issues and that happens to be the side I agree with," said Norte, a retiree who lives in Iowa Falls. "As far as I can tell, aside from Pat Grassley being male and Annette Sweeney being female, they're about the same as candidates."

Norte left the forum at Ellsworth Community College no closer to a decision than he was before he entered.

Grassley and Sweeney, both incumbent legislators, were thrown into the same district when the lines were redrawn for redistricting after the 2010 census. Both come from farm backgrounds. Grassley farms near New Hartford, while Sweeney hails from Alden.

The new district includes the northern half of Sweeney's home Hardin County and the southern half of Butler County, where Grassley resides. It also includes all of Grundy County, which neither candidate represented in the past.

The Tuesday forum, sponsored by the Iowa Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa Falls Times Citizen newspaper, proved a cordial affair, with both candidates saying the election boils down to voting for their candidate of choice, rather than against their opponent.

Neither Sweeney nor Grassley strayed from the views their party espoused in the legislature. Instead of debating differences in policy ideas, they chose to highlight their work in the statehouse.

Grassley serves as chairman of the House Economic Growth Committee, a role he says he pursued because his constituents' top priority was jobs.

Sweeney leads the House agriculture committee, where she helped usher in the controversial Agriculture Protection Act that made it a crime to fraudulently gain employment in agriculture facilities.

Even when a woman disrupted the forum by shouting that Sweeney doesn't defend the rights of domestic animals, Grassley stood up for his opponent.

"I don't think that's appropriate for anyone during a debate regardless of if you agree with either one of us on a specific issue," Grassley said to applause.

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