In a contest capable of returning Republican control to the U.S. Senate, Greg Ganske said the race for Democrat Tom Harkin's Senate seat is "the most important race in the United States."
"We have the best chance of beating Tom Harkin this time," Ganske told a crowd of over 50 gathered for his campaign stop in Storm Lake at the Lakeshore Cafe Saturday morning.
Currently Iowa's representative of the 4th Congressional District, Ganske talked in depth about the differences between his philosophy and Harkin's.
"Tom Harkin likes big government and likes to control things from Washington," Ganske said. "I think government's the best when it's close to the people."
In a Senate race generating national interest, Ganske said a victory for him would help bring back a Republican majority to the Senate and would bring Iowa's other Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, back as chairman of the key Senate Finance Committee.
"We can win this election and get the Republican majority back and get Chuck Grassley's chairmanship back," Ganske said.
While Ganske has been criticized as being more independent than conservative, Ganske disagreed and said it is a matter of principle.
"I've stood on my principles," he said, citing the magazine Congressional Quarterly which called him one of the 50 most effective Congressmen. "I'm independent sometimes yet conservative. I want to take these principles into the Senate.
"Yes, I occasionally take an independent stand, but I do it when it's important for Iowans," he added.
There are many issues where Harkin is "losing sight of the big picture," Ganske said.
One area was Medicare reimbursement reform. Iowa ranks dead last in the country in the amount hospitals are reimbursed for Medicare patients. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Grassley would become chair of the Senate Finance Committee. That committee sets tax policy and Medicare policy.
"With Chuck Grassley as chairman we'd be able to fix the problem we have here with Medicare," Ganske said.
Because of the low reimbursement rate, Ganske said Iowa hospitals are "hemoraging."
"With me in the Senate, I know how we can fix this," he said. "We're talking about the economic survival of towns like Storm Lake, Red Oak and Manning - you can go across the state. If we don't have health care, we're not going to make it."
Also, Ganske said Iowa's Prescription Drug plan touted by Harkin and Gov. Tom Vilsack is a "typical case of overhype," saying it only saves people 17 cents per prescription. Senior groups and organizations like AARP offer prescription drug plans with higher discounts, he noted.
He said much of the problem comes from a law a "Democratic Congress passed 15 years ago," which limits competition for drug companies and causes prescription drug prices to remain high.
Ganske also suggested Harkin does not always represent the best interests of Iowa. Discussing proposals to change the flow of the Missouri River, Ganske said Harkin votes for the South Dakota tourism industry - not Iowa farmers.
"Increased flows in the spring would flood Iowa farms on the Missouri, and cutting back on flows would prevent grain barges from coming up the river," he said. "It keeps the resort industry with a steady level of water behind the dams, but it hurts Iowa a lot."
Harkin is also misleading when he announces "Harkin Grants" for schools, Ganske said.
"It's not like it's Tom Harkin's money, it's your money," he said.
He also listed several supporters of Harkin's campaign, including Barbra Streisand, Kristy Hefner and national gambling interests. Ganske said Harkin's voting record paints him as one of the most liberal Senators.
On the other hand, Ganske pointed out endorsements from Senator Trent Lott, the Senate Minority Leader from Mississippi, and current Iowa Senator Grassley.
"It's unusual for him (Grassley) to endorse someone this early," he said.
Ganske has been a Congressman since 1994 when he defeated 36-year incumbent Neal Smith for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.