February 24, 2014

Carroll County Republican Party leaders are organizing a U.S. Senate debate here with an eye toward an April 15 date.

Bill Fish, a member of the Carroll County GOP Central Committee, said all six candidates had agreed to an April 8 debate in Carroll, but that is being rescheduled in light of Iowa Faith and Freedom's setting its spring gathering for the same day in Waukee with former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as featured speaker.

Fish has reached out to the candidates about a possible Tuesday, April 15 event likely to be held at Santa Maria Winery in Carroll. The winery hosted an Iowa Public Television debate between U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, and his Democratic challenger, Christie Vilsack, during the 2012 campaign cycle.

Carroll Broadcasting would air the GOP Senate debate locally with WHO providing statewide access, Fish said.

Local Republicans had been working with WHO-Radio talk-show host Simon Conway about moderating the debate and hope to land him for the rescheduled one, if it takes shape.

If April 15 does not work for the candidates, Fish said, he would seek another date before the June 3 primary.

"We want to get local people involved so they can learn about the candidates," Fish said.

Fish said the scope of the debate, whether it would be wide-ranging or narrowed down to specific issue areas, is being developed.

The Republican U.S. Senate field now includes state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak; radio-talk personality Sam Clovis of Sioux City; former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker of Clive; Ames author and attorney Paul Lunde; Mark Jacobs of West Des Moines, the retired CEO of Texas-based Reliant Energy; and Ames car salesman Scott Schaben, a Kuemper Catholic High School alum.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo is the presumptive Democratic candidate. Veteran U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is retiring at the end of the year.