WATERLOO — Sandra Campbell was glad to hear Theresa Greenfield acknowledge systemic racism is real. But she wanted to know what the candidate for U.S. Senate planned to do about it.
Campbell told Greenfield, the Democrat facing Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in the Nov. 3 election, about her own experience giving birth to her now-2-year-old son: Health care providers minimized her pain, she said, and then when complications arose didn’t communicate with her about what was happening.
“I didn’t know if my baby was going to live or die. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die,” the Charles City woman, who is Black, told Greenfield at the Empower Northend 2020 candidate forum Saturday. “It was the scariest moment of my life.”
Greenfield noted a recent 5-year, $10 million federal grant the University of Iowa received to study maternal mortality rates in the state, one of nine such grants nationally, saying she looks forward to its conclusions.
She said maternal mortality for Black mothers is higher than for other races. The Iowa Department of Public Health noted in 2020 it was up to three to four times higher than white mothers in the U.S.
“Sometimes it’s racial bias, I’m sure,” Greenfield said. “Health care providers — they want to invest in training and understanding and growing a more diverse care force in general.”
Campbell said Greenfield wasn’t very specific discussing systemic racism. But she favors Greenfield over Ernst.
“She came here, and she’s being very personable with us,” Campbell said. “She’s looking at all of us as a whole.”
Organizer Terrance Hollingsworth said he worked for months to get Greenfield and Ernst — and 1st District U.S. House candidates incumbent Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, state Rep. Ashley Hinson — to attend.
That only Greenfield showed up was a loss for voters, Hollingsworth said.
“Most candidates have spent an inequitable amount of time in farm towns, and pretty much have ignored urban communities — especially Black communities,” Hollingsworth said. “Yet, they are voting on bills that will have a great impact in the Cedar Valley without the benefit of listening to what we prioritize or what is important to us.”
Three moderators peppered Greenfield with questions on immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, Social Security, health insurance reform, education reform, income inequality, neighborhood investments and infrastructure.
The Rev. Edward Loggins III of Waterloo, wearing a Marines veteran hat, wanted to know Greenfield’s thoughts on calls to “defund” police departments.
“I don’t support defunding the police,” Greenfield said. “I support working on reforms, education, ending systemic racism.”
She called a new state law holding police more accountable and banning chokeholds a “good step.” She noted law enforcement must be at the table to discuss further reforms, while proposals like Ban the Box and debt-free trade schools and community colleges should also be considered.
“These are the kinds of things I think all go together,” she said.
Moderator Abraham Funchess, executive director of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission, decried the fact more candidates didn’t show. But he was happy voters got to hear from Greenfield on issues that aren’t normally addressed.
“That was refreshing,” Funchess said.
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