4th District Democratic Congressional candidate Christie Vilsack says she&rsquo;d use the position of U.S. represenative to lure ag-tech companies to western and central Iowa. She tossed around a toy football made of soy during a picnic with supporters Saturday at South Side Park in Carroll.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em> Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns</em></span>
4th District Democratic Congressional candidate Christie Vilsack says she’d use the position of U.S. represenative to lure ag-tech companies to western and central Iowa. She tossed around a toy football made of soy during a picnic with supporters Saturday at South Side Park in Carroll.  Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack says she’d steer clear of cable-television cameras and talk-radio microphones in favor of a heavily localized approach to service — one in which she sees herself as a economic-development leader for western and central Iowa as much as a voting representative in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

“Basically, I’m running for Congress for one reason, and that is to make sure people can still live in places the size of Carroll, live in the towns smaller than Carroll, Glidden and Dedham,” Vilsack said.

Speaking to about 20 supporters during a Saturday afternoon picnic at South Side Park in Carroll, Vilsack, who would later campaign door to door in the city, criticized U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, for using a western Iowa platform to launch and cultivate a personal brand as an outspoken, often intentionally controversial, conservative.

“My opponent sees the job as a way, I think, to promote himself,” Vilsack said.

According to The Sioux City Journal, while he represents 32 western Iowa counties, King is a frequent guest on major media television and radio programs espousing traditional conservative values and politics. Even those appearances are part of “a calculated and concerted effort” to advance those values, King has said.

“I need to take the message to their constituents. We need to move the political center in America to the right, and the most effective way I can do that is to do media — national media and media within the district — wherever I can, as often as I think I can carry a message,” King told The Journal. “I could go there and just take care of the district and put my votes up and stay out of the spotlight. I might have time to go fishing if I did that. But that’s not doing everything I can do to move our agenda.”

Vilsack said she’d work with local development organizations and others to attract businesses to the new 4th District in the U.S. House. Specifically, Vilsack said she’d seek to assist with development of smaller agriculture-technology companies that, for example, use soy to produce a variety of products — like a toy football she had in her car.

“I should be bringing prospects to you, or at least educating them about what’s here,” Vilsack said.

When pressed later by The Daily Times Herald about this pledge, about why a member of Congress should be involved in business development, Vilsack said she would use the position of congresswoman to open doors others can’t.

“People don’t necessarily know you’re here or what your workforce is or what raw materials that you have available,” Vilsack said in the interview. “It seems to me that any time I’m anyplace else in the district, or anyplace else in the state of Iowa, or anyplace else in this country, including Washington, or if I’m traveling on behalf of my state, or if I’m ever on TV for any reason, that I should be talking about this district. I shouldn’t be talking about anything else. I shouldn’t be talking about dog-fighting. I shouldn’t be talking about the divisive social issues.”

King recently made national headlines in suggesting the federal government has no role in regulating animal fighting. King went further than a states’ rights argument, though. “When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that,” King said in July, according to media reports.

In her remarks to supporters, Vilsack said she would make civility an operative word in her service.

“As you know, when we live in small towns, we have to live with each other for the rest of our lives so we don’t have the luxury of being rude to people and not getting along because nothing would ever happen if we did that,” Vilsack said.

In the Daily Times Herald interview, Vilsack said King’s representation places Medicare and Social Security in jeopardy.

“They are under threat,” Vilsack said. “He voted for the Ryan Budget twice, and the Ryan Budget basically sends older people out on the streets with vouchers and nobody I’ve talked to who is a senior citizen in Iowa wants to be wandering around trying to figure out their health care. We made a promise to senior citizens about Social Security and health care. They’ve paid into the system.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, has proposed privatization elements for Medicare, changes he says are needed to preserve reliable health-care for seniors

Social Security and Medicare are “inherently good,” Vilsack said.

“We promised, so we need to take care of that promise,” Vilsack said. “We really should do whatever we can to keep that consistency for people as they grow older.”

Carroll County’s employment rate stood at 3.5 percent for July — lower than the state rate of 5.3 percent and the national unemployment figure of 8.3 percent. If President Barack Obama is going to get the blame for the higher rates, does he deserve some credit for lower unemployment figures in western Iowa counties like Carroll?

“He should get it because he’s got a strong farm program,” Vilsack said. “Farmers are doing better now than they ever have in the history of this country.”

She added, “If farmers are doing well, we’re all doing well.”