Kimberly Graham announces 2020 challenge to Sen. Joni Ernst

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Kimberly Graham. — photo courtesy of Kimberly Graham for U.S. Senate campaign

Democrat Kimberly Graham has announced she is running for the U.S. Senate, becoming the first candidate challenging incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst. This is the first time the Indianola attorney has run for public office.

“I’m running because it’s time for us to be represented in the Senate by a working person who knows what it’s like to pay skyrocketing medical insurance premiums and to have too much month left at the end of our money,” Graham said in a Facebook post announcing her candidacy on May 3.

In that post, she listed her top priorities.

I believe health care is a right. Our country has the money to provide good medical and dental care to all, but so far, we don’t have a majority of people representing us who have the will to get it done. We need medicare for all, now.

I believe climate change is a national security threat, an environmental health threat, an economic threat and a threat to our existence, ultimately. We need major, significant action on climate change, now.

I believe we need a higher minimum wage, affordable day care and affordable, decent housing. We need all of those to lift more people out of poverty.

I believe in equal justice for all. We need to dismantle the school to prison pipeline and ensure the fairness of our justice system. We need criminal justice reform.

I believe mega-corporations have been allowed to become far too big. They are steamrolling our small towns and running our family farms and farmers into the ground. We need to strengthen and enforce anti-trust legislation to create a more level playing field for small farms and small businesses.

Graham moved to Iowa from California in the 1990s to attend Drake University Law School, but her family has roots in the state. Her father was born in Des Moines, and her grandparents on both her mother’s and father’s side were from rural Iowa.

“I’ve been working since I was 14: in a dry cleaner, as a waitress, store clerk, and housecleaner. I worked my way through college,” Graham wrote on her campaign site. “I wanted to help people for a living so I went to law school, paying my own way and taking out student loans. I still have student loan debt. Now I work as an advocate for abused or neglected kids in court.”

Graham specializes in collaborative law, which is an approach to divorce and family law that stresses reaching agreements without adversarial court proceedings. Graham also stressed collaboration in the post announcing her candidacy.

“I believe we are too divided,” Graham said. She added, “We need leaders who speak to our common values, who refuse to disrespect, name-call or insult anyone and who treat everyone with common courtesy and kindness.”

That statement, although mild in tone, draws a distinction between Graham and Ernst.

Ernst has worked to cultivate a reputation as unfailingly polite and concerned about bipartisanship. She has also been a firm supporter of Donald Trump, and until last year’s election was over, was a backer of Rep. Steve King. More recently, she made the blatantly false and inflammatory claim that Democrats running for president openly support infanticide.

(Rep. Seth Moulton responded by making a donation to Planned Parenthood in Ernst’s name, and encouraging others to do the same.)

Without mentioning the senator’s name, Graham draws an even sharper distinction between herself and Ernst when she sums up her goal on her site: “My goal is to be the best senator money *can’t* buy.” (Emphasis in the original.)


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As Politico first reported in 2015, money from the Koch brothers and a donor network organized by the billionaire brothers played a major role in Ernst winning first the Republican nomination for Senate in 2014, and then the general election.

Ernst was “a little-known Iowa state senator and lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who was considering a long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate,” when she first attracted the Koch’s attention in 2013, according to Politico.

“In the Ernst race, the Koch support included hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of television ads funded by undisclosed donors and tens of thousands of dollars in direct campaign contributions,” Politico wrote.

In addition to the Kochs, the NRA has also been a generous backer of Ernst. Even though Ernst is still in her first term in the U.S Senate, she is already one of the top recipients of NRA spending.

“I believe big money in politics is threatening our democracy,” Graham wrote in her Facebook post. “We need campaign finance law changes.”

On her campaign site, Graham pledged her “campaign will be funded only by donors like you, and *never* by corporate PACS, the NRA or the Koch Brothers.”

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