Webster County Democrats heard from the two men looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, in the 2024 general election during the organization’s annual Pork Chop Dinner on Sunday evening at the Lions Den.
Ryan Melton, of Nevada, was Feenstra’s Democratic challenger in 2022 and in July announced his second campaign for the seat. In August, Dr. Jay Brown, an allergy and immunology doctor from Ames, also entered the race for the Democratic nomination.
Brown introduced himself to Webster County voters at Sunday’s dinner.
“I have to tell you that I have not run for public office,” he said.
Though he does not have that experience, he said, he is no stranger to politics. Several years ago, he was on the McFarland Clinic’s Board of Directors “during a very turbulent time” and helped oust the CEO.
“This is my first run at public office and I am inspired to do this because I’m so disheartened by what I see happening,” Brown said. “And what I see happening is the vilification of half of the country by the other half.”
Part of his inspiration for running for office are the high costs of prescription medications his patients are facing.
“My favorite economic factoid to quote to people is the little purple inhaler I prescribe for my asthmatic patients costing $425 a piece at Hy-Vee, and costing $24 across the invisible line of the Canadian border,” he said. “That’s messed up, I don’t care what your party is.”
Brown said that while some of the blame “ought” to go to “Big Pharma,” the rules that allow pharmaceutical companies to charge so much are set by lawmakers and politicians.
“And they’re not making good decisions for us,” he said.
The problem in politics today, according to Melton, is Republican extremism and that is the Democrats’ “foot in the door” with voters.
“I’ve been talking about extremism in the Republican Party and what that means for us, but I think it’s very clear to point out that there are plenty of Republicans that are really dismayed and disappointed by the extremist slant that their party leadership is taking that party down,” Melton said.
The move toward “extremism” has been most noticeable at the federal and state levels, he said.
“If you look at the state legislative level … the first time Gov. Reynolds tried to pass her school voucher bill, it didn’t pass,” he said. “And why is that? Because there were Republicans in Des Moines that saw how damaging it would be to rural Iowa and they pushed against it. The problem is that Gov. Reynolds primaried them and they aren’t there anymore.”
At the federal level, Melton said, Republicans who are “pushing back Trumpism,” anti-democracy and extremism aren’t “gaining any traction.”
“The candidates that are getting traction are those who are trying to outdo Trump in his own game,” he said.
Melton said that Iowa’s Congressional delegation — all Republicans — have “shown no backbone” to stand against “Trumpism” and “extremism.”