CEDAR RAPIDS — Retired Admiral Michael Franken thinks Iowans are looking for a U.S. senator with a sense of “inventiveness” to turn progressive goals into policies that span myriad issues facing the nation, including the political divide that makes taking action seemingly impossible.
One of five candidates for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate — the winner of which is expected to face Sen. Chuck Grassley in 2022 — Franken believes it’s necessary for the nominee and a future senator to see beyond the rhetoric to find ways to capitalize on the available possibilities.
Using the infrastructure bill as an example, Franken sees a need to think differently about Iowa’s resources. It presents an opportunity to upgrade commercial barge traffic on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, Franken said. Ethanol could be used, as it is in Brazil, to help fuel turbines producing electricity to increase Iowa’s resilience and sustainability.
“This isn’t high science. This isn’t fusion technology,” he said during an interview last weekend before the Linn County Democratic Hall of Fame celebration. Using available technology, Iowa could further improve its renewable energy portfolio while reducing its carbon footprint, he said.
Franken, 63, finished second with 25 percent of the vote in the 2020 Democratic senatorial primary to face U.S. Sen Joni Ernst, which drew heavy national interest. He believes his chances for success are better this time because “it appears the party will be sitting out the primaries … not having a thumb on the scale.”
Franken said it’s up to voters to decide whether his experience from his early days on a Northwest Iowa farm through a military career that included posts as a commander and a legislative affairs adviser to the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and managing a business make him better prepared to serve as senator than the other candidates. But he said he has no doubt he’s ready to step into the job and make a difference.
“There are a few things you can speak with me about that I can’t add value to the discussion,” Franken said.
In addition to that background giving him knowledge on a broad range of issues and the workings of Capitol Hill, Franken believes it makes him a “very hard target for that typical run-of-the-mill ‘We’re going to attack you, Mr. Democrat, for being fill in the blank.’”
In the Democratic primary, Franken faces former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids, farmer and former county supervisor Dave Muhlbauer of Manning, physician Glenn Hurst of Minden and veterans advocate Bob Krause of Burlington.
In the Republican primary, Grassley faces a challenge from Sioux City state Sen. Jim Carlin.
The 2022 primary election will be June 7 and the general election Nov. 8.