Glenn Hurst is starting his campaign for the U.S. Senate with what he knows best — health care.
A physician in the Pottawattamie County community of Minden — population 600, Hurst believes healing the health care system is key to not only improving lives, but developing thriving communities.
Hurst, who has been chairman of the 3rd District Democrats and the Iowa Democratic Party Rural Caucus, and helped found Indivisible groups in western Iowa and Nebraska, sees the state trending in the wrong direction.
“We’ve seen our communities shrinking in services and in population for the past 40 years” he said, which coincides with the time Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has represented Iowa in the Senate.
Rural Iowa has lost a quarter of its population in that time and the 2020 census found 68 of the state’s 99 counties lost population.
Hurst prescribes a range of cures, including addressing climate change, jobs, infrastructure and codifying Roe v. Wade. He believes that making health care services available — as they once were — in communities of all sizes will revitalize Iowa.
However, Hurst, 51, has seen primary services diminish. Full-time hospitals have become critical access hospitals. Many have dropped obstetrics services. At least 13 nursing home in rural Iowa have closed. Physicians’ office have become physician assistants’ office.
He wants to use his background and experience in health care “to break that cycle of loss service so that we can then begin the cycle of growing.”
Hurst is one of five Democrats seeking state party’s nomination to face Grassley, who is seeking an eighth Senate term. The others are former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids, farmer and former county supervisor Dave Muhlbauer of Manning, retired admiral Michael Franken of Sioux City, and veterans advocate Bob Krause of Burlington.
Hurst is optimistic Democrats — and all Iowans — will benefits from a robust primary contest focused on nominating a candidate who can attract and motivate voters rather than winning the backing of national party leaders.
The last three election cycles have shown Democrats how not to defeat Grassley, Hurst said. “Trying to make ourselves look more like Chuck Grassley, or whoever it was we were running against right, trying to make ourselves look palatable, that is not the way to win a race in Iowa,” he said.
Conventional wisdom, Hurst said, is that Iowans are divided relatively evenly between Democrats, Republicans and independents who could go either way. He believes there are many independents who have “staunchly Democratic principles who were frustrated with three lackluster candidates, and they're kind of done with that party.”
His goal is to unite and motivate the Democratic base by using terms like health care is a human right, Medicare for All, intelligent immigration and climate action.
“We're going to unite people around that and then we will carry that message to those independents in the middle and reassure them that this is a way forward for us,” Hurst said.
“There's no politics behind wanting your community to thrive. We all want our communities to grow and thrive. We can deliver that message when we have first united the Democratic base.
“That's how we’ll win against Chuck Grassley.”