Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack (left) visits with Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus during a fundraiser Monday night in rural Carroll.  Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack (left) visits with Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus during a fundraiser Monday night in rural Carroll.  Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack says she’s intent on creating jobs in Iowa, county by county — not building the sort of national ideological brand associated with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

In an interview with The Daily Times Herald this week Vilsack, who is seeking the 4th District seat, a sweep of political territory in western and central Iowa, said she would bring a different approach to Congress than King has provided for the last decade.

“I haven’t heard him talk about what’s important to these 39 counties because he’s out being a pundit all over the country talking about his agenda and building his national profile,” Vilsack said. “I see this job as a very local job. It’s about making sure that we have economic opportunity for every person in the district.”

Earlier this month, King said he would debate Vilsack, a departure from his strategy in previous general elections. King did not debate his past three Democratic opponents — Matt Campbell of Manning, Rob Hubler of Council Bluffs and Joyce Schulte of Creston.

“I kind of feel like a hunter with a good hunting dog who has flushed the quail out of the hedgerow,” Vilsack said.

Moving forward, King and Vilsack’s staffs are ironing out logistics for a series of debates. King has suggested six before the November election.

“I think that people have demanded it,” Vilsack said. “I’m a credible candidate, and I don’t think you can deny a debate under those circumstances. I think democracy won last Friday when Steve King said he’d be willing to debate.”

Vilsack did not comment on possible locations but said Carroll would be considered.

“I think our teams will probably consider a lot of different places,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack spoke with The Daily Times Herald following a fundraiser Monday night at the home of Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus in rural Carroll. About 50 people attended the event.

“Even though she would be the first woman in Congress from the state of Iowa, that’s not why I am supporting her, even though she’s a Democrat, that’s not why I’m supporting her” Kraus said. “I’m supporting her because she will do more for west-central Iowa and Carroll County than any other candidate in the last 10 years.”

Kraus, 47, founder and president of Future Health Software in Carroll, said he expects Vilsack to be strong on transportation, education and the economy.

“She understands what it takes to make west-central Iowa a thriving economy,” Kraus said. “And she’s got all the connections from an agricultural sense. She gets it from an agricultural sense. Farmers are experiencing the best economic outlook in decades and there’s a reason for that, and with her in Congress, that is sure to continue where our current incumbent had nothing to do with any of that success.”

Vilsack, a former first lady of Iowa, is the wife of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a past two-term Democratic governor of Iowa.

For her part, Christie Vilsack will be talking about health care in a series of events in the 4th District next month. The Affordable Care Act — which is now being examined by the U.S. Supreme Court — allows parents to keep children on their health-insurance plans until they are 26 and prevents insurers from denying coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, Vilsack said.

She said federal health-care reform, often referred to as Obamacare, provides other benefits as well.

“I want to have that conversation with people on a really practical level,” Vilsack said. “How is this bill at this point changing our lives and how is it making a difference, and then what might happen in the future and how can we make it better.”

In the interview Vilsack pledged to be a strong advocate for the full four-laning of U.S. Highway 30 in Iowa.

Toward that end she has proposed a rural infrastructure plan and supports a transportation bill before Congress that she expects will provide 17,000 jobs in Iowa.

What’s more, residents of the district need only look at U.S. Highway 20 to judge King’s ability to deliver on U.S. 30 projects.

“I don’t see that he has finished Highway 20, and there are no plans for it to be finished anytime soon,” Vilsack said.