A placid debate between GOP state senator Joni Ernst and Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley became heated in its closing minutes as Braley lunged at Ernst with attacks over the “Koch brothers” and Ernst swung back by asking how Braley could possibly claim bipartisanship when he is in a colorful feud with his next door neighbor.
Braley, who had carried a hard edge in his remarks throughout the debate, began the frenetic closing minutes by alleging that Ernst had told wealth donors at a “secret meeting” set up by conservative philanthropists Charles and David Koch.
Ernst then addressed Braley directly, saying, “Congressman Braley – you’re not running against these other people, you’re running against me. I am a mother, I am a soldier, and I am and independent leader. You’re being funded by Tom Steyer, who is a California billionaire extreme environmentalist. So remember, please, that you are running against me.”
“I realize that. And, Sen., President Obama’s name is not on the ballot. And I’m not going to owe President Obama anything on election day, you’re going to owe the Koch Brothers everything,” Braley responded.
A few minutes later, after Braley had attacked her over minimum wage issues, Ernst brought up a colorful feud between Braley and his next-door neighbor, who just this week announced in an interview with Breitbart News she will be voting for Ernst after decades of pulling the lever for Democrats.
“Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto your property. You’re talking about bipartisanship. How do we expect as Iowans to believe that you will work across the aisle when you can’t walk across your yard?” Ernst asked.
Braley, who was visibly shaken, said “That’s just not true. It’s just not true. I never threatened to sue anyone. It’s not true.”
Braley has admitted to bringing a formal complaint about four chickens owned by his neighbor, Pauline Hampton, but denied he threatened to sue her over the issue.
However, a contemporaneous email about the complaint quoted Braley telling a lawyer for neighborhood board of directors that he was demanding action that would “avoid a litigious situation.”
Prior to the more colorful moments of the debate, the two candidates sparred on Social Security, the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), and environmental issues.
On immigration, Braley pressed Ernst to urge Speaker John Boehner to bring the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill to the House floor. Ernst refused, saying she opposes “amnesty.”
“I do support bringing a lot of these illegal immigrants – there’s 11.5 million of them – I believe in bringing them forward, but not granting them amnesty. We have five million people waiting in line right now to receive United States citizenship, and we need to honor that commitment to those five million people,” Ernst said.
Despite that the bill would have afforded citizenship to millions of illegal aliens, Braley insisted it did not comprise amnesty.
“Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain did not vote for amnesty. Amnesty is when you break the law and there are no consequences. That’s why they voted for this bill. It has real, serious, tough consequences, including an admission that you broke the law,” Braley said.