U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. D-Iowa, said the 4th Congressional District deserves a legislator who will not take delight in divisive rhetoric as Harkin charged U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, does. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. D-Iowa, said the 4th Congressional District deserves a legislator who will not take delight in divisive rhetoric as Harkin charged U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, does. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Monday, November 5, 2012

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a veteran legislator who fought alongside other farm-state Democrats and Republicans to lay much of the groundwork for what is today a thriving biofuels industry, is challenging the suggestion that U.S. Rep. Steve King played any kind of measurable role for wind-energy, ethanol or biodiesel advances.

“Well, he was in Congress at the time, and I think that’s about all you can really say right now,” Harkin said. “Senator (Charles) Grassley and I had worked very hard together going way back on the production tax credits for wind.”

In an interview in Carroll Saturday afternoon during a campaign event for Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack, Harkin credited Grassley, an Iowa Republican, with key policies for the wind-energy industry.

“We’ve worked very hard on the biodiesel also,” Harkin said. “But you know I can understand that Congressman King would want to take credit. He was there when we did it.”

Harkin, as well as Christie Vilsack and her husband, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, spoke to about two dozen people at Carroll County Democratic Party headquarters just after noon. Christie Vilsack faces King, a Kiron Republican, in the new 4th District, 39 counties in western and central Iowa.

“This district is going to be extremely close,” Harkin said. “All the polls indicate that, but I believe the momentum is on Christie Vilsack’s side. You can just sense it as I travel around the district, and I have.”

When they are making up their minds in the 4th District, voters aren’t looking for King’s brand of representation, Harkin said. They want a practical, problem-solver, not a partisan warrior, he said.

Harkin described King as a “vociferous ideological warrior.”

“I don’t know why Congressman King takes such a delight in being so vocal on so many hot-button kind of issues and just taking outlandish positions on things,” Harkin said.

Harkin said Iowans should be particularly dismayed about King’s July 2006 speech on the House floor in which the congressman displayed a model of a proposed southern border barrier that could carry an electric current to discourage breachers in a way King said was similar to the management of livestock.

“Every time I hear that, and I hear him talk like that, it’s like fingernails going over a blackboard,” Harkin said. “That’s not the kind of thing that elected representatives ought to be saying. That’s been his whole sort of representation in the Congress. I don’t know that it does a heck of a lot of good for the district or for Iowa.”

Tom Vilsack pledged that his wife would be a classy representative of the district.

“You will never, ever be embarrassed by anything she ever says or does,” Tom Vilsack said.

Christie Vilsack said 4th Congressional District voters should consider that members of the U.S. House travel the world representing them. She pledged to work on issues of economic importance to the district and steer clear of national talk-show stages.

“Really, what we’ve gone through in this campaign is a long job interview,” Vilsack said.

In The Daily Times Herald interview, Harkin said President Barack Obama has been strong on agricultural exports and keeping markets open and has been solid on transportation “which moves our grain and products.”

The Iowa senator said the president has made the right moves with support of crop insurance and made a key farm decision early in appointing Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary.

“These things all add up, and they add up to an underpinning,” Harkin said. “They didn’t have anything to do with the drought and maybe the high prices, but just making sure the system works and the agricultural system is working.”

Harkin said the president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to do everything it could to expand ethanol.

“I know this because I worked with him on it,” Harkin said.

Harkin added, “That’s money in our pockets here. That’s jobs here in Iowa.”

The president also has supported the production tax credit for wind energy, Harkin said.

“He gets it,” Harkin said. “He talks about it all the time. (GOP presidential candidate Mitt) Romney is opposed to it. So I don’t understand why anyone in the agriculture sector of Iowa, or in the energy sector of Iowa, would ever support Mitt Romney. Obama and Tom Vilsack have done everything together to support our agriculture sector and our renewable energy sector.”