One of the men looking to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by Tom Harkin was inspired by the long-time senator from Iowa.
"I was in college at Iowa State and saw him speak," said Congressman Bruce Braley who visited Estherville on Friday. "I was impressed by the way he spoke and worked to be a champion for the people."
When Harkin announced he was retiring at the end of his current term, he called Braley and encouraged him to run for Senate.
Congressman Bruce Braley speaks to Emmet County Democrats at Mother Nature’s on Friday. Braley is seeking the Senate seat held by Tom Harkin who plans to retire in 2014.
Photo by David Swartz
Braley met with Emmet County Democrats at Mother Nature's in Estherville.
The congressman said he has ties with Estherville. A cousin he grew up with in Brooklyn, Iowa, was living in Estherville when she was diagnosed with cancer.
"I learned about the compassion of Emmet County residents," he said.
Braley he can be a voice for all Iowans in the Senate.
"You must turn out voters in all parts of Iowa is how you win a Senate race," he said.
Braley currently represents Iowa's 1st Congressional District and has since 2007.
In the area he first ran, Democrats were getting crushed in rural counties.
Braley said he knew if he talked to people in a language they could understand, he could win them over. In his most recent election, the only counties he lost were those home counties of Jim Nussle and Charles Grassley.
Braley is in the process of visiting all 99 counties in Iowa and says he has 15 more to visit by the end of this year.
Braley said he knows what it means what it means to put in a full day's work saying he has been everything from a truck driver and bartender to a waiter and dish washer. After receiving is law degree from the University of Iowa, he has practiced law for the past 23 years.
Since being elected to Congress, Braley said he has focused on policies that will strengthen and expand the middle class.
"I want to give young people to stay and work here in the state (of Iowa)," he said, using his three children as an example.
Braley is looking to partner with Emmet County Democrats, noting that Democratic candidates won the county in the past two presidential elections, but that Republicans often carry the county when there is low turnout.
Braley held a question-and-answer session with the approximately two dozen area residents who attended Friday's event.
Braley was asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
He said he was encouraged by Secretary of State John Kerry's push to resume negotiations.
He and a congregational delegation recently visited the area and said most had praise for Kerry's work.
However, issues in Syria overshadowed that progress.
"They're realizing the status quo is not working," he said. "I'm hopeful that we can continue to make incremental progress."
Another resident had concerns about the middle class.
Braley responded by saying Iowans are fed up with the gridlock in Washington because it makes it difficult for businesses and people to plan for the future.
Braley touted one of the most positive pieces to pass recently was the Water Resource Development Act.
"It's supposed to be passed every year, but this is the first time it's passed in seven years," he said.
Braley said one of his top priorities is investing in infrastructure.
He said that bill passed because of a Republican congressman who met with Democrats. It passed unanimously out of committee.
"We were all amazed when we saw only three red lights out of 435 congressmen," he said.
Braley said that bill should be an example for all freshmen congressman.
The final question for Braley was about global warming.
Braley said he served on a committee that came up with the only bill that addressed the climate.
He said while several Iowa companies had signed their support for the bill, a utility company took full-page ads out in the state to complain about that bill. The Senate didn't get that bill out of committee.