Kirsten Gillbrand (right), a U.S. senator from New York and Democratic presidential candidate, speaks with Carroll resident Margaret Gronstal (left) and her daughters, Mary Bruner of Carroll (second from left) and Ann Gronstal of Iowa City. Gillibrand spoke at Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll Friday.
Kirsten Gillbrand (right), a U.S. senator from New York and Democratic presidential candidate, speaks with Carroll resident Margaret Gronstal (left) and her daughters, Mary Bruner of Carroll (second from left) and Ann Gronstal of Iowa City. Gillibrand spoke at Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll Friday.

April 23, 2019

Carroll County Democratic Party Chairman Peter Leo quickly made one thing clear about the White House candidate he introduced in Carroll Friday afternoon.

“She is from the Iowa part of New York State, not New York City, so let’s just remember that about her — she’s from the part of New York that’s a lot like our state,” Leo said of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a 52-year-old New York Democrat who cut her political teeth in the more rural reaches of the state, both as a kid and a congresswoman, before representing the full Empire State in the Senate.

“I come from a red place,” Gillbrand said, adding, “I do well in blue, purple and red.”

She pulled 72 percent of the vote in her 2012 Senate race, the highest percentage for a statewide contest in the history of New York. As a Democrat, she did well in New York City, but Gillbrand said the rural vote came through for her, too, giving her the historic margin — an outcome Gillibrand thinks she can reproduce on a national level.

Gillibrand spoke to a crowd of 40 people at the Carroll campus of Des Moines Area Community College. She later stopped by the Times Herald for a 30-minute interview focused heavily on rural economic development.

“I really believe what this country needs is a fighter who will bring us back together,” Gillibrand said.

In the DMACC event, which blended a stump speech and question-and-answer session, along with plenty of time for personalized photos with the Oval Office aspirant, Gillibrand wasted no time displaying her rural bona fides.

Seth Johnson, operations manager for the Renewable Energy Group in Ralston, challenged the Trump administration’s granting of small refinery waivers for petroleum producers as an assault on the Iowa-commodity-boosting Renewable Fuel Standard, which is designed not just to assist farmers but to promote cleaner air quality.

“I support that RFS and I vow to uphold it,” Gillibrand said.

The senator said she sees agriculture as a national security issue — a perspective informed from her service on both the Armed Services and Agriculture committees.

“If you allow our farms to go out of business, if you allow only big farms to survive, what’s going to happen is consolidation, eventually outsourcing; eventually, we’re going to have to get our milk or our fruits and vegetables from someplace like China,” Gillibrand said. “We don’t ever want to buy our food from China.”

On health care, Gillibrand proposes getting to universal coverage through allowing people under 65 to buy in to Medicare based on their incomes — with a 4 percent rate to access the program, a process she says would transition the country into a single-payer system.

Asked by Matt Wetrich, a naturalist with Carroll County Conservation and a Jefferson City Council member, if she would model the United States’ health-care system after another nation’s, Gillibrand issued an immediate “no.”

Gillibrand also outlined a proposal for national public service that would allow people to exchange one year of service for two years of government-paid college, or two years of service for a four-year degree.