The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Senatorial candidate visits campus

By Christian Caminti

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin kicked off her college tour last Sunday, Feb. 28, by hosting a town hall meeting at Grinnell College. Despite an adequate on-campus publicity effort by the College Democrats, the meeting attracted a mere forty-something people—less than a quarter of the initial estimate given to the Conlin campaign.

“Its difficult to herd Grinnellians,” said Matt Horowitz ’10 of, member of the College Democrats. “The town hall meeting worked to jump start awareness of Roxanne on campus. She’s gaining name recognition and hopefully people are getting excited.”

As staffers scrambled to rearrange furniture in Loose Lounge so the room didn’t appear quite so empty, one couldn’t help but recall images of Conlin’s general election opponent, five-time incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to filled parks and auditoriums. When Conlin finally took the stage and began to speak, the welcome music continued to play over the loudspeakers, effectively drowning out her first few sentences. With the bells and whistles in shambles, Conlin would have to salvage what promised to be a train wreck of a public appearance with her own substance.

Conlin, a practicing attorney from Des Moines, spent the first portion of the meeting delivering an extended self-introduction. As one of the first women ever to be appointed a United States Attorney, Conlin was responsible for promoting environmental protection, guaranteeing victims’ privacy in rape cases, jailing heroin dealers and prosecuting white-collar crime and corruption in public office. In addition, she served as the first female president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Detractors will inevitably point to her record as a trial attorney to paint Conlin as greedy and self-serving—it will be interesting to see, in the coming months, how such representations will combat the populist refrain that Conlin trumpeted throughout the night.

Conlin then opened the meeting up to questions, the most pressing of which was how she will defeat Grassley. Grassley, who has been active in Iowa politics for over half a century, has served in the Sentate since 1981. Recently, he attracted both praise and disgust across the nation by inserting himself loudly into the debate over President Obama’s Healthcare plan and coining such phrases as “death panels” and “pulling the plug on Grandma.”

In 2009, Grassley’s approval rating dropped from 75 percent to 57 percent, with only 39 percent of Iowans supporting Grassley’s role in the Healthcare reform. It is in the Healthcare debate that Conlin sees an opening against the well-established and well-funded incumbent of almost 30 years.

“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. It is immoral not to have healthcare in this country,” Conlin announced proudly to the room’s applause. “And Grassley’s record is indefensible. We’re not going to match Grassley dollar for dollar so we need people power. It is all about showing up”

In an interview after the meeting, Conlin went on to stress the importance of the college vote.

“Obama showed the way,” Conlin said. “It’s extremely important. We care about the same things as college students, healthcare, the environment,” she said. “And especially now: jobs, jobs, jobs.”

If you are interested in supporting Conlin’s bid for the U.S. Senate, weekly meetings will be held at 5 p.m. on Mondays in the Grill.

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