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Greenfield discusses ending political corruption, COVID relief, campaign platforms in one-on-one with TV9

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 7:57 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, Democrat Theresa Greenfield spoke with KCRG-TV9′s Mary Green in an extended, one-on-one interview in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 8.

Greenfield, a real estate executive from Des Moines who has never won elected office, will face Republican incumbent Joni Ernst in the race for Iowa’s Senate seat.

She spoke with TV9 about what she believes needs to be included in a comprehensive COVID relief bill, what bill she would sponsor first in the Senate if elected, how police reforms passed into law in Iowa can set an example for the rest of the country, how much of the cost of the college the federal government should cover, and more.

Watch the full interview with Theresa Greenfield below:

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

Mary Green: “Theresa Greenfield, thank you so much for joining us here.”

Theresa Greenfield: “It’s nice to be here, Mary.”

MG: “We’ll start off here. Let’s consider for a minute that you win the Senate seat, but Republicans maintain the majority in the Senate. Pandemic relief bills have stalled over partisan differences. What would you do once you’re sworn in to ensure Iowans get the help they need?”

TG: “Well, Mary, I’ve been calling for help for months for a Phase 4 stimulus package, and I certainly published a list of the things I think we need to focus on for Iowans. There’s three buckets. It’s, one, keeping people safe and healthy following those public health guidelines, so investing in PPE, testing, contact tracing, emergency protection standards. I seriously don’t want to hear from another nurse — because I hear from them — that is wearing a mask for a double shift. Some of that is still going. So making sure we’re keeping all of us healthy and safe. Two, focusing on workers. Workers are the backbone of our economy, and I want to make sure they’re getting the help they need. With our unemployment rate the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, we have workers that need help. So extending those expanded unemployment benefits, another round of direct relief, paid sick leave. I’ll tell you what, we don’t want people going to work sick right now. We want them to stay home, and they need to stay home and know that they’re not going to lose a paycheck or lose their job, and they have the chance to take care of themselves and their families. So those are a few things. And then in the third bucket, it’s really about our economy and jobs, and Iowa is a state of small towns and small businesses. I’m a small businesswoman myself, and so focusing on how we continue to support them. We’re here in Cedar Rapids today. I met with a small business owner in town. Her revenues are down 75%. She needs another round of PPP, and so we’ve got to focus on those small businesses. And then something I don’t think we’re talking enough about, and that is our local governments. Many of them are going to need some additional support. Their budgets are in trouble, and that’s where our police officers, our first responders, our sanitation workers are working, and we need to make sure that they’re able to continue to operate. So my plan is called, ‘Back on Our Feet Plan,’ outlines more in detail.”

MG: “Out of those three buckets, what is one single item you would not be willing to compromise on a pandemic relief bill?”

TG: “Expanded unemployment benefits. Too many families right now are struggling and unable to pay their rent or pay their mortgage and put food on the table. I was widowed at the age of 24, and when my first husband died, I didn’t have a way to pay the rent. I got Social Security benefits and his union benefits, and it allowed me to do just that. I didn’t get rich, but you know what—I didn’t worry when I fell asleep at night, whether I could pay that rent. We need to make sure our workers are confident they aren’t going to lose their homes, they’re going to be able to feed their families, and we’re going to get them through this economic and this health crisis.”

MG: “Sen. Ernst touts that she’s rated one of the most bipartisan senators in the last two-plus decades. Why do you believe you’ll be able to accomplish more for Iowans?”

TG: “Well, Sen. Ernst told Iowans she’d be independent, and she was going to be different and make them squeal out in Washington. But the bottom line is and the facts are, Sen. Ernst went to Washington, she joined party leadership, and she votes 97% of the time with Mitch McConnell and party leaders. That’s not bipartisanship, and therefore things like an infrastructure package, we haven’t gotten it done, and frankly, I blame both parties for that. We need to come together and get some work done for Iowans and the American people, and infrastructure is a great example where we should be working together.”

MG: “President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brought some of the largest changes to US tax code in decades. Your party’s nominee, Joe Biden, has said he’ll eliminate some of these tax cuts, but that Americans who make less than $400,000 a year won’t pay a penny more than they’re paying now, at least not in taxes. What changes in US tax code would you fight for?”

TG: “Well, I got in this fight for Iowans, to put them first, and for hardworking families, and so whenever I look at changes to the tax code, I’m going to make sure any changes we make aren’t going to be made on the back of hardworking folks, middle class Iowans by any means. We have to make sure that we’re supporting our workers so we can grow our small businesses, which is exactly what our state is made up of. I’ll tell you what though — I wouldn’t have voted for that tax bill because it increased our debt by $2 trillion, and of course, now it threatens Social Security and Medicare, and it was the wrong thing to do.”

MG: “The recent announcement by the EPA that more than 50 ethanol waiver requests will be denied, following appeals from the state’s ag industry, and of course, from Sen. Ernst — is this enough to help Iowa farmers, many of whom, in this part of the state, are facing severe crop damage from the derecho?”

TG: “Well, I’m glad that those waivers got denied, but you know, they should never have been on the table in the first place—never. Sen. Joni Ernst sold out farmers for her big oil donors—Exxon, Marathon, Chevron. She voted to put one of their guys at the head of the EPA. They issued 85 ethanol waivers that have gutted the industry to the tune of about 4 billion gallons, and when you look at the price of corn right now, it’s up to about $3.50. That’s not making-a-lot-of-money prices. It’s not at all, and maybe some folks aren’t even going to break even at those prices. And so we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to protect and to grow our ethanol industry, absolutely. I got in this race, I don’t take one dime of corporate PAC money so I can put Iowans first, I can put our ethanol industry first, our farmers first, our seniors first. Instead, Sen. Ernst, she’s taken $2 million of corporate PAC donations and sold out Iowans.”

MG: “What would be the first bill you’d sponsor in the US Senate?”

TG: “There are many that I’d like to sponsor.”

MG: “One’s gotta be first, right?”

TG: “OK, one. We need to end political corruption, and it was the very first plan that I published. You know, if we want to take action on so many things, like lowering prescription drug costs for our seniors, who are being gouged, look, we’ve got to have Medicare being able to negotiate to do that. Sen. Ernst, again, sold out seniors. She’s taken over $200,000 from big pharma, leaving our seniors behind. So we’ve got to get that kind of money out of our politics. It starts with ending Citizens United, ending dark money groups that are in our elections. Those are the folks that are running all those nasty TV ads that ruin your football game, ruin your YouTube video. That has to come to an end, and end corporate PAC donations. Corporations aren’t people, and they only donate to influence our elected officials, and again, I don’t take one dime of corporate PAC donations.”

MG: “On your website, on the ‘Racial Justice’ section, it says you ‘support policing reforms that demand more transparency.’ What reforms do you believe need to be enacted, and do you believe this reform needs to come at the federal level, the state level, or even the local level?”

TG: “I do believe that we have to address systemic racism in policing but also in healthcare, in housing, in education, in lending. Black and brown Americans have suffered from discrimination — and Iowans — for generations too long, and we do need to take action. I’ll tell you what, we did a pretty good job on a first step here in Iowa. I’ve talked to our Black legislative leaders, and they worked hard to pass the Plan for a More Perfect Union, which requires racial bias training, de-escalation training, banning chokeholds and some other things. I think there’s no reason we can’t take those kinds of common sense reforms nationally.”

MG: “Is that something that comes at the federal level, you think?”

TG: “I think we should be looking at it at the federal level, absolutely.”

MG: “Iowa’s COVID positive case rate right now is sixth in the country, at least according to the most recent [White House coronavirus] task force recommendations. You’ve said that you support a statewide mask mandate. Two parts here — how would you encourage state leaders to heed this guidance, and what do you believe can and should be done at the federal level to slow down infections in states like Iowa?”

TG: “Right. I do support a statewide mask mandate. The White House task force wants Iowa to have a statewide mask mandate. You know, I think the way that we get through this pandemic with less infections, less loss of life, tragic loss of life, is by following the advice of public health experts—wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, using PPE, looking at emergency temporary standards, requiring them actually for every business so that they can operate safely and workers can be safe. We have to follow those public health guidelines, and I certainly support a statewide mask mandate and encourage all Iowans to wear a mask.”

MG: “Gov. Reynolds says that a statewide mask mandate would be unenforceable, so do you do something to either encourage her to put the mandate in order, or do you do action at the federal level to have everyone follow it?”

{05:26:38} TG: “Right, right. Well, I’ll tell you what, when you enact a statewide mask mandate, you set the bar. You let every Iowan know that they need to be wearing a mask. If you think that means we’re going to put people in jail, of course not. But we need everyone understanding that your wearing a mask not only protects you but protects your community, your family, your neighbors, your coworkers, and obviously, when we see the spread around the state of Iowa, which has had high infection rates and now high hospitalization rates, it’s critical that Iowans wear a mask.”

MG: “How much in the cost of college do you think the federal government should cover?”

TG: “Well I was the product of progressive leaders when it came to investing in education. Gov. Bob Ray, a Republican, invested in education, I think about to the tune of about 75%, but we’ll have to check that number, and it allowed scrappy farm kids like me to be able to go to college. I went to community college, and I got a job at Pizza Hut, and between that investment and grants, I was able to make enough money to pay my rent, buy my books, pay my tuition, and get a beer on Friday night with my friends. If you’ve been following my campaign, you know that I support and will be working hard to make sure that we’re investing again. I want to invest, though, in debt-free trade schools, technical schools, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs. We need more folks going into apprenticeship programs. They get paid through that program, earning while they learn. We’ll build a great workforce. We’ll set people up to have the skills to either earn a living wage or, better yet, start their own small businesses and restart this economy.”

MG: “Just to clarify: debt-free, not the same as tuition-free?”

TG: “Correct.”

MG: “Sen. Ernst — I think the big question here — she adopted Sen. Grassley’s famous 99-county tour when she was elected six years ago. If you’re elected, will you go on a 99-county tour every year?”

TG: “Absolutely, yep, yep. And you know, we’ve been talking with Iowans in all 99 counties. We’ve done over 250 events. Unfortunately, too many Iowans are staying home, and so we’ve had a great opportunity with virtual events to connect with Iowans in all 99 counties.”

MG: “Last thing, I’d invite you if you want to look directly at the camera and make a direct appeal to Iowans on why they should cast their ballots, whether it’s this week or on Nov. 3, for Theresa Greenfield.”

TG: “Well, thank you, Mary, absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s a delight to be here. I’m a businesswoman, I’m a mother of four, a military mom at that, and a scrappy farm kid, and I got in this race for you, to put Iowans first, to put hardworking families first. And while I travel the state, healthcare is the #1 topic people are talking about. It’s absolutely on the ballot. They also want the divisiveness to end. They want Washington to work like our hometowns, and I spent 14 years working as a community planner with hometowns, neighborhood groups, planning commissions, city councils, and I know that when it comes to solving problems, like a pothole in the street, that’s not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It’s a problem we need to solve, and so I will work with anyone and stand up to anyone to make sure that we’re getting jobs done for Iowans.”

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