By Mike Glover
Republican incumbent Charles Grassley has spent more than five decades in public office, and Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin argues it's time for a change.
In what some expect will be an anti-incumbent election, Conlin has repeatedly tried to tie Grassley to the status quo.
"I think that one thing that is clear is that Senator Grassley has spent 30 years as a United States Senator and 52 years in public life," argues Conlin. "What is he going to do in years 31 through 36 that he couldn't have done in year one through 30?"
Whether that argument works will be clear Nov. 2, when voters will decide whether to elect Grassley to a sixth term.
Grassley doesn't hide his long record, starting with being voted into the Iowa Legislature in 1958 and continuing with his election to the U.S. House in 1974 and the U.S. Senate in 1980.
But Grassley claims he's never lost touch with Iowans during his decades in Washington. Every year, Grassley notes, he holds meetings in each of Iowa's 99 counties, and it's rare that a week passes without him returning to the state.
"I combat it this way -- that Washington is an island surrounded by reality," said Grassley. "I come home every weekend, hold town meetings in every county every year."
Conlin countered, "He says he comes home and visits. I live here and have lived here all my life."
Grassley has typically cruised to victory by large margins, but Democrats promised Conlin would offer a tougher challenge this year.
Conlin is well-known in Iowa. After graduating from Drake University's law school, she headed the civil rights division of the Iowa Attorney General's office, and she founded the Iowa Women's Political Caucus. President Jimmy Carter appointed her as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa in 1977.
In 1982, Conlin won a three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary but lost to Republican Terry Branstad, who is now seeking a return to the office he ended up holding for four terms.
Following her election loss, Conlin focused on building an extremely successful law firm, but she remained involved in politics, including serving as chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party.
During the campaign, Grassley has focused on his connection to Iowa and his support for low taxes and limited government. He also has noted his support for alternative energy, including biofuels, in a state that leads the nation in ethanol production.
"I wrote laws for solar energy and biofuels," said Grassley. "Our future is right here, not in Saudi Arabia. I want to do even more here in Iowa."
Conlin has called for cutting taxes for middle class families, strengthening enforcement of businesses income tax laws, and ending energy subsidies for oil and gas companies. She also wants more transparency in lobbying and campaign finance records.