Democrat Senate hopeful Franken touts he’s ready for Washington ‘without training wheels’

4 The Record

Decorated admiral, engineer & physicist touts more experience in legislative affairs than Joni Ernst

 We are all clearly consumed with stay-at-home orders and social distancing.

One thing that’s not far off in the distance: Another election.

That would be the Iowa primary on June 2 if it happens on schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says he will send absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter to encourage voting by mail.

One of the biggest races on the ballot is the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Joni Ernst in the fall.

Five candidates — Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, Theresa Greenfield, Eddie Mauro and Cal Woods — round out the list.

There are clearly haves and have nots financially.

Greenfield leads the pack at more than $2 million in her campaign account to start the year.

Franken and Graham are in the thousands.

Eddie Mauro is playing the money game at almost $1.5 million.

Cal Woods had not filed a report yet with the Federal Election Commission.

We focus this week on Michael Franken.

He grew up in western Sioux County and spent a lot of his childhood in Lebanon.

Franken earned his bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Nebraska, then got a masters in physics at the Naval Postgraduate School and went on to do some advanced studies at MIT, the University of Virginia’s business school and the Brookings Institute.

Franken spent his career in the Navy, more than 36 years in fact.

He retired three years ago as a three-star admiral.

Franken was the first military officer to work for Senator Ted Kennedy.

At one point he became the Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Navy.

Despite never holding an elected office, Franken maintains his experience in Washington D.C. makes him better suited for the job than the other Democrats and incumbent Joni Ernst.

I spoke with the retired admiral on Thursday using the web conferencing platform Zoom.

Here’s the first part of that conversation from 4 The Record.

Crowded field 

These are highly unusual circumstances for an election year and none of the five candidates enjoys tremendous name recognition.

Franken’s policy positions are extremely similar to the others and he’s not the only candidate with a military background.

So Franken addressed how he can set himself apart in this crowded field and why anyone should think any of the Democrats can win in November when Iowa is considered a red state?

Approach during pandemic

Franken essentially can’t campaign publicly right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He shared the approach he is taking to win support in Iowa, where voters are used to the hand-to-hand retail politics.


Considering the current limits on travel and crowds, arguably the best way to deliver any message outside of doing interviews like this is campaign advertising.

Mauro started the year with ten times more money than Franken. Greenfield 20 times more.

Franken discussed how he can compete with that financial disadvantage.

Watch the full conversation in the video above.

Local 4 News, your local election headquarters, is proud to present 4 The Record, a weekly news and public affairs program focused on the issues important to you.  It’s a program unlike any other here in the Quad Cities. Tune in each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as Jim Niedelman brings you up to speed on what’s happening in the political arena, from Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and right here at home.

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