Des Moines businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who has roots in farm country just miles north of the Iowa border, wants voters to know she understands the distinctions between small towns, that life is different in Carroll than in Creston, and residing and working in Algona is not the same as being in Cherokee.
“One of the things I’ve learned growing up in a small town is if you’ve been to one small town, you’ve been to one small town,” Greenfield, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said in a recent campaign stop in Carroll.
Case in point: She uses a self-made restaurant guide of all counties to hit diners and homespun restaurants.
Greenfield held events in western Iowa in recent days, including one at the home of the Rev. Richard and Kathy Francis in Carroll. She also visited the Times Herald offices for an interview. Greenfield, who is making her first run for elected office, faces a competitive primary in June with retired Adm. Mike Franken of Sioux City, a Sioux Center native; Des Moines attorney Kimberly Graham; and Des Moines businessman Eddie Mauro.
Greenfield — who describes herself as a “feisty farm girl” — grew up on a farm outside of Bricelyn, Minnesota, a town of about 400 near the Iowa border. Her high school class: 24 students.
The family raised row crops and hogs — and her dad worked as a crop duster.
“To me, that was fascinating as a kid, watching my dad soar through the sky,” Greenfield said. “It made me dream.”
She added, “I loved growing up on a farm — what can I say?”
Greenfield said her father was an early advocate for women and their roles in business, on the farm.
“My dad always said there were no boy jobs and no girl jobs, just jobs that needed to get done,” she said.
In event after event, Greenfield, who went on to a business career in Des Moines with commercial real-estate and homebuilding, leads with haymakers on agriculture, suggesting U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican Greenfield hopes to face in the general election, is not delivering for the Iowa farms on which she built her brand.
Ernst has supported President Trump’s regime of commodity-market damaging tariffs and small-refinery waivers for petroleum producers that have diminished the Renewable Fuel Standard, Greenfield contends.
“She rejects climate science,” Greenfield said in Carroll. “I’ll tell you, everywhere I go, your neighbors around this state, there isn’t a meeting I go to that people aren’t talking about climate change and climate action.”
Greenfield said there is a man-made climate crisis, and that global leaders need a “woman-made” way out of it.
“Lots of folks just recognize that this flooding we’ve had in southeast Iowa and southwest Iowa, the 3-inch rains that come day after day, the increased temperature rates, that we are gonna affect our cornbelt, the germination of seeds here,” Greenfield said.
For that reason and others, Ernst is no Iowa icon, Greenfield said.
She referenced a Morning Consult survey showing Ernst as the third-most-unpopular senator in the nation, behind only Maine’s Susan Collins and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“People like Ted Cruz better than her,” Greenfield said.
At the Carroll event, Manning City Councilwoman Elizabeth Leo said small towns get “lip service” from the government when they need action.
“The big issue (in Manning) is that our grocery store closed,” Leo said. “Our eating habits have changed because we can’t run to the grocery store in the middle of the week.”
Greenfield said the Iowa economy would be one of her priorities, along with health care and education. Much of her focus, she said, would be on leadership to resurrect and develop more markets for farm products.
“They’re in a world of hurt,” Greenfield said of many Iowa farmers.