Thomas R. O'Donnell

Forget the big boar. Pin down some candidates on science at the Iowa State Fair

In Government, STEM on August 8, 2018 at 2:25 pm
Jeb! Bush speaks at The Des Moines Register's political soapbox at the 2016 Iowa State Fair. Credit: Zach Boyden-Holmes,The Des Moines Register

Jeb! Bush speaks at The Des Moines Register’s political soapbox at the 2016 Iowa State Fair. Credit: Zach Boyden-Holmes, The Des Moines Register

When it comes to science, Iowa politicians are largely blank slates. Most have only made vague statements about supporting science, protecting natural resources or balancing agriculture and the environment. Few have laid out actual policies on science and issues in which knowledge and evidence play major roles.

The March for Science Iowa group, with which I volunteer, is changing that. We’ve emailed questionnaires to candidates for Congress, governor and secretaries of agriculture and state.

Yes, there are still nearly three months left before the election, but the response has been … nonexistent. A few have acknowledged receiving the email, but no one has provided answers. I’m hoping that within a few weeks we’ll get replies.

In the meantime, we each have opportunities to get answers on our own – while also enjoying a corndog or other food-on-a-stick.

The Iowa State Fair starts on Thursday, and in an election year you can hardly walk down the Grand Concourse and spit without hitting someone running for office. Candidates, especially those running for statewide office, will be petting cows and pressing the flesh.

This is our chance to corner them. We can ask Fred Hubbell, Jake Porter or Kim Reynolds what they think of labeling genetically modified organisms. We can press Tim Gannon or Mike Naig about providing a healthy food supply while supporting rural populations and the environment – and how they would employ science to do so.

Fortunately, there are prime opportunities to ask these questions as The Des Moines Register hosts its soapbox, where politicians give their pitches – and, hopefully, answer a few questions. And if they don’t take questions, spectators can at least track them down before or after the speeches and seek their views on research and evidence-based policy.

If you aren’t sure what to ask, the March for Science Iowa can help. We’ve developed questions aimed at candidates for governor, Congress and secretaries of agriculture and state. The link has all of them; just copy, paste and print. Pick one or two or use them to brainstorm your own.

The Register’s soapbox schedule is here. First up on Thursday are Democrats Mike Fitzgerald, the current state treasurer (11 a.m.), and Abby Finkenauer (11:30 a.m.), who’s running for Republican Rod Blum’s seat in northeast Iowa’s First District.

If you can only ask one question, though, please consider asking why the candidate hasn’t yet answered the March for Science Iowa questionnaire – and if he or she plans to do so.

Thanks.

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