Mountain climbing. Northwest Iowa democrat Kim Weaver campaigning for Congress against incumbent republican Steve King. We're asking democrat Weaver about the expedition on this edition of Iowa Press.

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For decades Iowa Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than 40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, September 30 edition of Iowa Press. Here is Dean Borg.

Borg: Most of the region encompassing Iowa's fourth congressional district hasn't elected a democrat to Congress in 30 years. As it is currently drawn, the fourth congressional district, 39 counties in all, stretches from Mason City to Sioux City and from Grundy Center to Ames and Harlan. Registered republicans, and those listing no party, each far outnumber fourth district democrats. Republican Steve King wants to serve an eighth term in Congress representing the fourth district. But democrat Kim Weaver, living in Sheldon in the far northwest corner of Iowa, wants the congressional seat herself. She is 51 years old, a state of Iowa employee during the last 20 years, first the Department of Human Services and currently an ombudsman for the Department of Aging. Ms. Weaver, welcome to Iowa Press.

Weaver: Thank you for having me.

Borg: And I opened the program saying that your congressional campaign is kind of like mountain climbing. Do you feel that way?

Weaver: Sometimes, sometimes I do. But what I like to tell people is that 60% of the population is registered democrats and no party so it's doable. I don't like to focus on that other part.

Borg: We'll ask that later on. And I want to add that republican incumbent Steve King declined our invitation to join us here at the Iowa Press table today. And across the table, Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Radio Iowa's News Director Kay Henderson.

Henderson: Let's start with the issue of immigration. It is an issue your opponent has emphasized during his terms in Congress. Would you support a path to citizenship for people who entered the country illegally?

Weaver: Most definitely. On my website I outline the fact that I support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And it was interesting while I was doing my research on it that the best source of information I found was the American Farm Bureau. They actually support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Henderson: What do you say to those who say if you broke the law you should have to go home and get in line again to enter the country?

Weaver: What I'm proposing is that those who are already in line aren't going to have people put in front of them who are here undocumented, that there will be a process that they'll take priority. But the thing is that in the report from the American Farm Bureau they say that if we follow Trump and Steve King's proposal to build three walls and have mass deportation it will increase farm labor by 149% because they estimate that just over 50% of farm labor is comprised of undocumented immigrants. And so I think that it's fine and well to say send them all back but let's look at the economic impact that that would also have.

Borg: What do you mean will increase farm labor?

Weaver: Farm labor because 50% --

Borg: You mean the jobs will go unfilled.

Weaver: Right.

Borg: Yes, okay.

Obradovich: This immigration debate has played out in a presidential race now and in my personal opinion, I know reporters don't get to have opinions, but I'm a columnist so I can, the tone has gotten worse and the divisions have gotten greater. How do you bring people together over this issue that it seems to be more polarized than it was when it went through the Senate the last time?

Weaver: What I'm hearing from people in the district is they're not more polarized. The people I talk to, republicans and democrats, do believe that we need a path to citizenship. In Sheldon we have, it's three Mexican restaurants that are owned by people from Mexico, we have three Mexican grocery stores again owned by Latinos, they're becoming a greater part of our society, they're our friends, they're our neighbors, they're our children's friends. So people, real people aren't as polarized as the politicians and they're trying to use this I believe as a sensationalistic scare tactic, the big bad people are coming to get us, when I don't think it's true.

Obradovich: You have followed a line of other democratic opponents to Steve King. The last two in particular have been better funded than you and Christie Vilsack also a lot better known. Have you figured out a different way to beat Steve King that doesn't require quite as much money?

Weaver: Well, I have to say that he has actually given me a bit of a boost. When he endorsed Cruz that is basically what led to him being primaried by Bertrand and the oddest thing is pretty much every day when I'm in the district I have republicans coming and telling me they're voting for me, but then they also say they're voting for Trump. It's a very strange dynamic and I usually just say thank you for your vote, I appreciate it. So he helped me out there. And the escalation of his racist rhetoric has also started to, people go whoa.

Obradovich: What do you mean by escalation?

Weaver: If you watch his Twitter feed he is actually starting to put out more blatantly racist language because I've been watching this guy since '12 pretty diligently, I worked really hard for Christie Vilsack, love the woman, thought she was fabulous and I worked really hard for Jim Mowrer, so unlike a lot of people I've been paying attention and there's a pattern to when he puts those things out and he has increased the number of offensive tweets that he has been doing.

Obradovich: But he is not, he's not debating with you at this point.

Weaver: No, and he wouldn't show up.

Obradovich: And so doesn't that leave you with a problem of raising the visibility of your candidacy?

Weaver: And we're doing everything we can. That is definitely a problem. And part of it is mainstream media is focusing all this attention on him and they don't mention who his opponent is. The Sioux City Journal was fabulous to me during the primary. Any time they would have an article about him or Bertrand they'd also mention at the bottom and his opponent is Kim Weaver from Sheldon. But you look at like MSNBC, CNN, Rachel Maddow, all those people love to have him in front of their camera because he's click bait for the website, did you hear the stupid thing Steve King said today, and so the fact that I can be on your show, I was on Insiders earlier, we live streamed the Des Moines Register editorial interview, we're doing everything we can to get out there and I have people all over the country who are pushing other journalists to be actual journalists and not sensationalists and say hey, this guy has an opponent.

Obradovich: You mentioned though republicans voting for you. But Steve King handily won his primary over a republican opponent. Do you think that republicans are actually going to vote for you when they wouldn't vote for Senator Bertrand?

Weaver: I don't know so handily considering he's incumbent Congressman and you look at Bertrand got it was 40 some percent of the vote in Clay County and if you look at the areas where Bertrand did well they were also areas that Trump did well.

Borg: How would the fourth district see a difference if you were representing the district? How can you better represent the district than it is currently being represented?

Weaver: Well, most people are familiar with the offensive things he says. Some people are aware of the fact that InsideGov has ranked him the least effective member of Congress, he has cashed $2.5 million in paychecks and not passed a single bill, I'm getting there, and what they don't know is that we're happy that he's ineffective because the votes that he has cast would hurt our state. One of the things that I propose --

Borg: Name a couple of them.

Weaver: Voucherize Medicare, privatize Social Security, increase interest rates on disaster loans, decreased funding for flood insurance, and that was cast the year before we had the great big floods in Sioux City.

Borg: Alright. We're going to get to then what you favor and what you'd do. Kay?

Henderson: Steve King has been an advocate of getting rid of Obamacare, he says pull it up by its roots. If you are elected, would you make changes in the Affordable Care Act? And what would they be?

Weaver: I realize that the Affordable Care Act isn't always affordable for some people. And how we would go about making that more affordable I'm not quite sure and in Iowa we didn't have the full expansion of it so people just don't have as many options. What I love about it is the fact that people with preexisting conditions can still get insurance and can still get the care that they need as well as kids can stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old. My two youngest are still on my insurance, my oldest just went off of it and so tweaking it so that it's a little bit more affordable.

Henderson: How do you do that?

Weaver: I think that you have to expand the base and I'm a state employee and I have very good health insurance. If my employer were to say hey, we're going to give you this much towards insurance and you go buy in the marketplace, that would help, just expand how many people are buying the marketplace and it's going to drive the cost down.

Obradovich: Would you be open to going to a single payer system for health insurance?

Weaver: I would eventually but the thing with it is you have to realize there's so many insurance companies that employ so many people and what are you going to do, what is the economic impact of that? You can't just say, single payer, bam, because there's going to be a ripple effect in our economy. One of the things I would like to do is expand Medicare to cover nursing homes and assisted living and that would help farmers especially because I have in the last two years I had four residents that their families had to sell off pieces of century farms just to pay for nursing homes.

Obradovich: As we listen to the presidential race we hear a lot about the $20 trillion deficit. How do you expand Medicare and also keep Social Security solvent without completely busting the budget?

Weaver: The thing is with Medicare we're already paying for nursing home care for people, it's called Medicaid. After people sell everything that they own and get down to a $2000 limit then they go on Medicaid and that is 100% taxpayer dollars. Medicare you pay into. Medicaid it's just we have to find the money somewhere. So we're already paying for it, it's just a different funding stream.

Obradovich: But do you raise payroll taxes, for example, like for Social Security?

Weaver: Oh yeah, definitely you would for Medicare. If somebody said to me you're going to pay a little bit more Medicare every paycheck but your neighbor is going to be able to go to a nursing home or assisted living when they need to, or you're going to be able to, sign me up.

Borg: Since you deal in your profession right now with the elderly as an ombudsman for the state of Iowa, would you at all favor an income tax credit for those who purchase long-term health care insurance?

Weaver: That's an option but you wouldn't really need it if you expand Medicare. And part of the problem with long-term care insurance is if you have a condition such as sleep apnea you don't qualify for most of those policies.

Henderson: How would you make the Social Security system solvent?

Weaver: Definitely scrap the cap. I think that if you're making more you should be paying in more. My dad is a lifelong republican registered in South Dakota, an engineer, he worked really hard, started his company when I was three and we had a conversation one night and he said, I get this amount of Social Security and I really don't need it. And I said, dad, that's not very republican of you. But he just said he didn't mind paying in more if other people could be stable. And that's my mentality but it's not always everybody's.

Henderson: Would you raise the retirement age?

Weaver: No, absolutely not, because the majority of the people who really depend on Social Security have worked labor jobs and raising that age just means they're going to have to work longer and their bodies give out. People that sit at a desk it's a little easier to work a little longer. My dad is 76, he sold his company but he still consults and goes in sometimes but he can do that because he's not climbing up and down ladders or cleaning streets or doing road construction.

Henderson: Let's talk about some of the economy in your district. You have a lot of wind turbines. You have a lot of ethanol plants. Would you vote to extend the Renewable Fuel Standard requiring ethanol to be blended into gasoline? And would you also vote to extend the wind production tax credit?

Weaver: Yes and yes. I know that the Renewable Fuel Standard has some things that are concerning, the water usage, different things like that but you look at the economy, especially in northwest Iowa, in Sheldon we have an ethanol plant just a few miles north of town, I have family friends who work there or their spouse works there, they're good jobs, good jobs for our communities and I completely support that. And the wind turbines, we now have I believe it's 40% of our energy we get from wind. And I would like to move towards a clean energy grid and so I think we need to increase it and we need to make solar more affordable for people as well.

Henderson: By the time you take office the Bakken oil pipeline may be constructed if you were to be elected. Should President Obama intervene at this moment?

Weaver: I stand with Standing Rock at this point up in North Dakota. They're trying to build through their sacred lands and I definitely believe he should. And I'm also, when I'm driving down from Sheldon I drive south, I crisscross it, I go this way, I cross it I think it's close to eight times on my path down and I remember driving south on it's called the Marcus Blacktop and the first time I came across this road sign that said pipeline work ahead and I stopped and took a picture of it, I have it on my camera, as a lifelong Iowans, as the granddaughter of, actually great-granddaughter of people that homesteaded in South Dakota and my dad told me that the pipeline is actually going through a corner of the old family farm, I'm adamantly opposed.

Borg: You're opposed to the pipeline --

Weaver: I'm opposed to the use of eminent domain to take private land for private profit.

Borg: And the reason I'm questioning you is because you said you stand with the Native Americans and their burial grounds, but that doesn't say yes I would favor a detour and go around and still have the pipeline.

Weaver: I'm not in favor of the pipeline at all.

Borg: Alright. Kathie?

Obradovich: There are several counties in your district that are being sued by the Des Moines Water Works right now over water quality, water runoff from farms. How do you help bridge the rural and urban divide over water quality?

Weaver: Well, I had a couple of conversations with Bill Stowe to talk to him about what are the issues.

Borg: Of the Des Moines Water Works.

Weaver: Correct, thank you. I forget everybody doesn't know who he is, sorry. And I've attended some water quality forums and I took a tour at the research farm up by Sutherland, the Iowa State Research Farm and asked a lot of questions and one of the things that I propose is the implementation of planting industrial hemp. And somebody's like, how is that going to help with water quality? Industrial hemp helps to mitigate nitrates because of the way its grow system is and the root system also helps to prevent erosion. It can be planted in wetter areas because unlike corn that doesn't like its feet to get wet, it doesn't mind that. And I asked Bill Stowe, I said, would this be helpful? And he said yes. It's not the total solution but it would be helpful.

Obradovich: So do you give farmers an incentive, a financial incentive to plant it or through the conservation program?

Weaver: Yes, I think you need to give people a little bit of an incentive to try something new. And there's two sides to the camp. One is the farmer should pay for all of this and the other side is no they don't have to. Farmers have taken care of their land the best they know how. I don't believe that they have intentionally polluted the waters, I don't. Water quality is a problem for all of us and I believe that we all need to step up and say hey, here's some innovative solutions, let's help you implement them.

Obradovich: Where do you see the federal role because my understanding is that you support the Waters of the U.S., which is something that has grown to mythical beast status I think in the way a lot of farmers think about that and meddling from the federal government, so why do you think that the Waters of the U.S. regulation is a good idea?

Weaver: I also believe in being good global neighbors. If you look at a heat map of where the nitrates come down, the majority of the nitrates that contribute to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, a lot of it comes from Iowa and I believe that by educating farmers and educating even people who put fertilizers on their yards, all of that adds up. We need to be more aware of how our actions affect our neighbors. It's not just about growing more and more and more and more, it's also about making sure that we don't pollute the rest of the world.

Henderson: It sounds though that you're not in favor of having the federal government step in and regulate nitrogen and phosphorous applications on farm fields. You're still okay with the voluntary approach?

Weaver: I'm not really okay with voluntary, I think that we need to have some limits, and I think that they need to be scaled based on the size of the operation.

Henderson: So the federal government should do that or would you have the state government do that?

Weaver: I think I would allow the states to try to do it and if they don't then maybe the federal government needs to step in. I also believe the USDA can create programs to help farmers with the different solutions. Now, industrial hemp would have to come from the state. It's legal nationally but each state regulates that. So that would have to come from the state to be able to allow that to happen.

Henderson: The farm community is very much in support of the Transpacific Partnership. If you were elected and it came up for a vote in Congress would you vote yes or no?

Weaver: I would vote no.

Henderson: Why?

Weaver: There's not a lot of transparency. I'm also, I'm a union member, I don't believe that it is good for labor. I'm very concerned about not knowing all of the details. I understand that it would help livestock producers especially but again --

Borg: Farm interests are very -- your district is highly agricultural, farm interests support TPP.

Weaver: I know.

Borg: You're going to be elected up there?

Weaver: You know what, there's a lot of people that oppose the TPP up there as well. I think that people realize that when the entire national economy is hurting, Iowa hurts too, and I know that when farmers hurt, all of Iowa hurts. But that's just something and if somebody doesn't vote for me because of that I'm not going to sit here and say that I'd support it when I won't.

Henderson: Donald Trump has said he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Bernie Sanders was no fan of NAFTA. Would you support renegotiating NAFTA?

Weaver: I would definitely look at it. Again, I'm a labor member and I believe that NAFTA led to a lot of economic collapse in our country. And to be honest I don't know all the details of NAFTA so I can't say I'd change this and I'd change that. But trade agreements don't always benefit our country.

Obradovich: Is it realistic though to think that you could go back and renegotiate NAFTA at this point? I know Donald Trump says he can but that's a tough thing to do just process wise.

Weaver: Right. And that's why I said would you look at it and there's so many aspects to it that it's like you can look at it but what can you actually do about it? And it's like with the Affordable Care Act, it's a huge thing, there's so many different issues involved.

Obradovich: Speaking of tough issues, you have said you'd like to expand funding for Planned Parenthood when a lot of the argument is whether to fund it or defund it and you're taking it to the next level here. How is that issue playing in the fourth district?

Weaver: Actually really well when I put it into perspective. People say, oh you like abortion. Nobody likes abortion. So what do you do to decrease abortions? You decrease the cause of them which is unwanted pregnancies. So if you want to decrease abortions, you increase access and funding to Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care. That's just a logical thing to me. And also if you want to decrease abortions, you increase access to education for single mothers, you increase access to affordable daycare, you don't try to decrease SNAP funding, you don't propose legislation that would allow an employer to fire an unwed mother. Support families.

Obradovich: Couldn't the federal government though put that money into women's health care without putting that money into a provider of abortions?

Weaver: Planned Parenthood I believe is like 3% of their services is abortion services, the vast majority is preventative and reproductive services. And so, again, increasing access. In Colorado they had a grant to provide IUDs to young women, decreased unwanted pregnancies in teens by 47%.

Henderson: One of the issues in Washington, D.C. this week is whether 9/11 victims should have the right to sue the Saudis. If you're elected or if you were in Congress now how would you have voted? And what do you think should be done?

Weaver: I certainly wouldn't have voted to overturn Obama's veto. Part of the issue with that is that then it allows people to sue us too. We've been offenders of people, civilians dying in drone strikes, and so I thought it was interesting that some republican legislators were basically whining after they overturned the veto and realized what they did, that Obama didn't give them enough information. And I was just like, oh, so he was supposed to inform you on this? It wasn't your responsibility?

Obradovich: Also in the news another tragic elementary school shooting in South Carolina in this recent past. What would you do to try to prevent future incidents like that? And can you do it and still respect people's Second Amendment rights to gun ownership?

Weaver: First of all, I don't want to take anybody's guns. I grew up, my stepdad was with the Polk County Sheriff's Department, I had guns in the house all the time, my kids hunt. Some of my best memories as a child were tromping through cornfields.

Obradovich: But don't you think there are people who shouldn't have guns?

Weaver: Definitely, definitely. Felons, we already know that one. We need to close the terrorist loophole. If you are on the no fly list you shouldn't be able to get a firearm. And then people say that oh well it's too easy to get on the no fly list and it's too hard to get off. So change the process. That's pretty simple.

Borg: So you would tighten some of the gun laws right now, am I right, as to who has access to firearms?

Weaver: Right. And most people agree that felons, people with violent convictions, the issue with mental health, I'm an advocate so I also look at who gets to decide who is too mentally ill to have a firearm. You have to have a process. You can't just say somebody who is mentally ill can't have a firearm because who gets to decide that? You need to have a process. But I know that someone with a mental illness who has access to a firearm, much more likely to commit suicide and also much more likely to harm somebody else.

Borg: Ms. Weaver, we're out of time. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us.

Weaver: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Borg: And we'll be back next week with another edition of Iowa Press. It will be as usual, 7:30 Friday night and noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg, thanks for joining us today.

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Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. I'm a dad. I am a mom. I'm a kid. I'm a kid at heart. I am a banker. I'm an Iowa banker. No matter who you are there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. Iowa Communications Network. The availability of high speed broadband service is essential to fulfilling the promise of a connected Iowa. ICN's Broadband Matters campaign showcases the importance of delivering broadband to all corners of Iowa. Information is available at broadbandmatters.com. Iowa Community Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations, connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about for good, for Iowa, for ever. Details at iowacommunityfoundations.org. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. The Arlene McKeever Endowment Fund at the Iowa Public Television Foundation, a fund established to support local programming on Iowa Public Television.