Franken seeks U.S. Senate seat

Friday, January 7, 2022
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Michael Franken of Sioux City is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Chuck Grassley. Franken announced his bid for the office in October.

LE MARS — In October, Admiral Michael Franken announced he would run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Chuck Grassley. The Sioux County native is seeking the seat as a Democrat.

Franken stopped in Le Mars as part of a northwest Iowa tour in mid-December to talk about his campaign.

Franken is a former Three-Star Admiral, with a long history of service to his country.

Born in the small Sioux County community of Lebanon, Franken worked for his father, and area farmers, as well as at Sioux Preme Packing Co., to make money for college.

He attended Morningside College, receiving a scholarship to join the Navy, and finished is college education at Nebraska studying engineering.

“That started an entirely different life, where I was a ship captain at the age of 40 and a commodore shortly thereafter of many ships, a land forces commander at the age of 52,” he said.

He has also held a number of policy and strategy jobs.

“I was the first director of a defense agency that spans multiple states and across many countries. I worked in a senator’s office, got multiple degrees after that, then was President Barack Obama’s chief of legislative affairs for the department of Marine Corps/Navy on the authorization the appropriation side of things,” he said.

“I’ve had a full, rich career and ultimately retired a three-star admiral, which makes me the senior military officer in the state of Iowa, retiree, and probably in South Dakota and Nebraska, since they’re nearby as well,” he continued. “And ultimately if I win election to the senate, I would be the most senior military officer in the history of our country and I think that’s interesting from northwest Iowa, that’s probably not a bad cap for northwest Iowa to wear.”

Franken had a two-fold answer when asked why he is running for the senate seat.

“Firstly, after the 6th of January (2021), having defended the nation against external threats to democracy, I find the necessity to defend it internally. And I believe I’m a stalwart member of the elected Senate in that I’m rural, I’m a bootstrap type of person, found my way in life. I’m not a socialist, I’m not a defund the police person, I’m none of those things. I am like you,” he said.

“Secondly, there’s a great bright future for Iowa. And I’m not so sure if you speak with the people today they would say their children have the same potential as we did when we were young.

“So Iowa has been curtailed in where it was. We’re not number one in education anymore. Childcare is a struggle for many. Jobs that pay so that you build up a nest egg so you retire with money and do what you want, you can have opportunities for your children and the like, is not the case for many Iowans today,” he continued. “We’re missing out. We’ve gotten stagnant in our elected officials. And I believe I offer a new vivaciousness and sensibility and opportunity, having served in Washington in the inner agency, I know how to get things done.”

Franken said being on some 30 different staffs through the years he has worked with people from all walks of life.

“They worked for me, I worked for them,” he said. “There’s not much that separates our needs, our desires, on the hierarchy of needs for humans, it’s pretty much linear.”

In working for Iowans, Franken would take their concerns and needs into account when making decisions on Capitol Hill.

He indicated when decisions are made that could bring harm to people, he would illuminate it. He would ask questions of those whose vote would be detrimental to his constituents.

“I’m not bought by anybody. I work solely for the Iowans and the nation which I have served longer than any of them have,” he said, referring to members of Congress.

“I would be sensible, common sensible, analytic, empathetic, care for human kind and care less about myself. I think what we lack with our elected leaders is servant leadership, people who actually care about others more so than themselves. I’m not wedded to the job. If I have to give up my job to give the proper vote, the right vote, I would that do that in an instant, as witnessed by resigning my commission in the Navy because it was the right thing to do at the right time.”

As he has traveled across Iowa, Franken has found that Iowans would like very much for the rest of Iowa to get vaccinated.

“Everybody has family members who refuse to get vaccinated it seems. And I think if more people got vaccinated, those last of the holdouts, would be obviously less threatened, the law of probability, and perhaps peer pressure, would say it as well.”

“Secondly, people vote their pocketbooks,” he said. “They would like a part of the share as the stock markets goes up, as John Deere stock goes up, as Wells Blue Bunny does better, etc. They would like a bigger share. That’s a discussion for management versus the worker and not versus, and it should be management and the worker.”

“This isn’t a fair society. I think we need a more fair society. It’s hard to get ahead in this world if you weren’t blessed at birth with the way ahead,” he said.

He went on to say, “The number one issue I hear Iowans talk about in coffee shops is healthcare. It’s a challenge, it is who provides care when, where, what type of care, how do you pay it, what program are they are on, are they in the network, are they not in the network, when is it open and how do I get there.

“It’s the most perplexing issue facing Iowans that I’ve heard in every coffee shop in the state. And the next tier down, is childcare, education opportunities, the infrastructure of this state, which is in many ways crumbling, and sustainable agriculture and how we become a net value to the nation in fighting extreme weather.”

He noted the many changes in agriculture, from farmers selling cattle and hogs to slaughterhouses and getting squeezed on the prices they receive, to the time when each farmer had his own machine shop to now when they cannot repair their implements due to the technology involved.

“There’s a person who has watched this all happen. He’s been in office 40 years. He’s watched all this happen. I will let it go at that,” Franken said.

On education, Franken said people need to see the value of apprenticeships and trade schools, which offer education for good paying jobs.

“I was raised like you, you get what you achieve. I’m a firm believer that government has a role to make sure that everyone can grab that low rung of the ladder, fairly, and then climb on up to the best of their ability. And that society should have the infrastructure necessary to give you that flat solid, baseline foundation to reach that first rung. Education, roads, childcare, offerings, medical, you shouldn’t be poor because you had a medical condition. That terminates your future because you can’t afford not to or you’re going to be broke because of something.”

Franken goes back to something his dad told him when he was growing up.

“My dad said, ‘Michael, you’re a doer in life.’ And by George, I want to be that for Iowans,” he said.

Franken and his wife, Jordan, moved back to Iowa and Sioux City in 2017, when he retired as a vice admiral. They have two adult children.

Franken is the youngest of nine children, who grew up on the family farm where his father had a machine shop and his mother was a school teacher.

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