6:30 p.m. debate: Listen live on WHO Radio
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Western Iowans will get a front row seat Sunday to the open U.S. Senate race in Iowa, which is attracting both national and statewide attention.
All six Republicans vying to succeed retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin have agreed to participate in a candidates' round table in Council Bluffs.
The 90-minute debate starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the gymnasium at Lewis Central High School. It will be broadcast live on WHO Radio.
The six have participated previously in forums, but this will be the first official “debate,” where all the candidates will be allowed to ask one another questions and engage one another on the issues, said Jeff Jorgensen, the chairman of the Pottawattamie County Republican Party and lead organizer for the event.
“To my knowledge, this will be the first actual, true debate with all six candidates,” said Jorgensen.
The Iowa primary is set for June 6, when Republicans will choose one of the six to run in the general election against the expected Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo.
So far, Braley is running unopposed.
The six Republican contenders: Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Des Moines; State Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak; Mark Jacobs, former chief executive officer of Texas-based Reliant Energy, who moved back to Iowa last year; Sam Clovis, a professor at Morningside College and former radio talk show host on KSCJ; Scott Schaben, a former car salesman from Ames; and Paul Lunde, an attorney from Ames.
For the first time in 40 years, a Senate race in Iowa will not include an incumbent. And the race could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. It has already attracted its share of national attention, and Republicans are pouring money into Iowa in hopes of picking up a seat.
Politico, an online newspaper, has named the race as one of the top 10 U.S. Senate contests to watch in this election cycle.
More recently, a conservative group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers has purchased three weeks of television and radio advertisements in which they criticize Braley for supporting the new federal health care law. Americans for Prosperity is spending about $500,000 on the ads.
The group takes Braley to task over President Barack Obama's promise that Americans could keep existing health plans if they wanted. Last year, many insurance companies canceled some policies that did not meet the standards set by the law, until Obama urged them to let people keep their plans for one more year while they sought comparable plans.
Braley has countered that he was one of the House Democrats who backed a GOP bill that would have allowed people to keep their existing policies.