Challenger Rob Hubler came to Storm Lake Wednesday to personally deliver a letter challenging the incumbent western Iowa congressman, Steve King, to a debate over child health insurance.
The challenge, however, went unheard. He found the King office closed, and settled for taping his letter to the door.
Hubler said that he had previously driven to Sioux City and Council Bluffs offices for the congressman, where he had turned over similar letters to King staffers. He said he had mailed numerous other challenges hoping to reach King, including one to his Washington, D.C. office.
King recently voted against the emotional bill to expand funding for the bipartisan State Children's Health Insurance Program, serving children in Iowa under the name "hawk-i."
The bill passed both houses of Congress but was vetoed by President George Bush. An override attempt is underway.
When he was heavily criticized by Iowa Democrats, King challenged Gov. Chet Culver to a debate on the issue.
"We've heard the demagoguery, now let's hear the facts," Hubler said. "The people of (King's) district, especially the more than 9,200 households whose health insurance for their children is threatened because of our congressman's vote against SCHIP, deserve to hear his reasoning alongside the real facts."
King has said that he favors extending the current SCHIP program, which would otherwise sunset, to allow for more discussion. He indicated that he would not support a plan that would provide medical care insurance coverage to children of illegal immigrants.
"Iowans expect elected officials to be serious about the laws we consider," King said in a press release "(September 24). Governor Culver questioned my motives for voting against SCHIP expansion. All politics, no substance. I invite Governor Culver to come to western Iowa and debate me in public about the substance of healthcare policy. Iowans deserve substance over political slogans."
Hubler doesn't expect the congressman to jump at the invitation to debate his own opponent.
"You know as well as I that such an event is highly unlikely," Hubler said to King in his letters, going on to note that while King challenged the Democratic governor, he did not offer to debate fellow Republican Chuck Grassley, who is also in favor of expanding SCHIP and critical of those who opposed the bill.
"I talked with staff in both Sioux City and Council Bluffs and they were kind and courtesy and seem to know that I was going to be there," Hubler said after dropping his letter off in Storm Lake. "It is a little disappointing that no one was here. I feel that it's important that people feel like they are able to get into contact with their congressman or woman."
Hubler stated that there were very few people he's talked to that has seen or heard directly from Congressman King.
"Granted, I've mostly talked with Democrats and they might not want to see or hear from them," Hubler said with a laugh.
Hubler said he feels that legislation on the health and welfare of children should not be a political issue.
"Children are the most vulnerable of our society," Hubler said. "I had a list of 20 different items to debate Mr. King on and children were not on the list. We have a moral obligation to do what is right for them."
Hubler wants a response in seven to 10 days and hopes to debate King in a public forum within the Fifth District..
"No offense to the media, but I believe that this should be a public forum to get the facts out," Hubler said. "I question why he's the only representative of the Iowa delegation that voted against the bill and in an interview when asked about it, he said that everyone from Nebraska voted with him and I say to him he could go join them over there."
Proponents of SCHIP argue that it is vital in order to get doctors and clinics to care for children of the most needy families, who otherwise would clog hospital emergency rooms without being able to pay the bills. SOme, like Grassley, feel that it should be expanded to cover mental and dental health.
Opponents argue that the proposed SCHIP expansion backed by Gov. Culver would draw-in 2.1 million children of families who already have private health insurance, cause taxpayers to foot the bill for some families that could afford their own insurance, and worry that it depends on an unstable form of funding, future revenue from an additional federal tobacco products tax.