Kimberly Graham
"Trump is seriously dangerous; I hope 2016 taught people a lesson"
The Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate spoke with LPO about her campaign, and how to prevent division among Democrats.

This year Iowa will decide whether to re-elect Republican Senator Joni Ernst as one of its representatives in the Upper House. Elected six years ago, some polls put Ernst below 50% approval in her own state, so Democrats feel there is a good shot at turning this important seat and perhaps reducing the power of the Republicans in the Upper House.

From Des Moines, LPO spoke with Kimberly Graham, a lawyer specializing in children, interested in labor and environmental issues and in creating a new way of farming without harming the environment. Graham is one of five Democratic candidates in Iowa seeking to reach the Senate in November.

What did you do before you ran for the Senate?

I'm still doing it. I don't have the luxury, I'm not wealthy. I don't own a business that can just make money without me. I'm an attorney for children and for parents in juvenile court. Parents that have maybe alcohol or drug addictions or mental health problems and so their children sometimes are removed from their care. My job is to represent the children of the participants in a court drug program. I've done that for 20 years.

What would be your priorities if you get to the Senate?

The top three things we talk about most often are healthcare, the climate crisis, and children and childcare. Because of what I've done for twenty years representing children it's clear to me that as a nation we don't prioritize the health and well being of our children. A lot of European nations spend between 2 and 3 percent of their GDP on programs for children and families. We spend 0.6 percent of our GDP in the US. I hope that if I get to the US Senate that would be one of my main things. That I would be able to be a strong voice because I've watched what goes on with kids for 20 years. I'm also a mom. I would hope to put forward legislation that would make a lasting change to the way we do things. We don't have a universal childcare program, for instance. We also don't have parental leave. It's quite absurd. We talk a good game in the US about children and families... there's a saying, if you want to know someone's priorities show me their checkbook. We don't spend the money on the health of our people and our children. We don't invest.

I understand that you are very close to the agricultural sector. Do you think that the Green New Deal that Sanders is promoting is compatible with the agricultural industry?

As it is right now, for the industrial agricultural model, no. but as it can be and should be, for the health of the planet and the health of medium and small sized farms, yes. A 100%. When we put out these farm bills every few years what they often do is give more subsidies and tax breaks to industrial agriculture instead of small and medium farmers. There's a lot of farmers I've talked to over the state and they say "look, I would love to be able to farm in a way that's healthier to the environment, but I'm barely hanging on. I can't afford to do all this different stuff". We have more than enough money in this country to do everything we should be doing; we just need more people in congress who are willing to stand up and vote that way.

If we can find the money to spend billions of dollars bailing out crooks, people that should be in jail, from Wall Street, then we can afford to do all the other things that we should be doing to make investments in our country

Are you familiar with Modern Monetary Theory? The model on which much of the funding of the Green New Deal is based on.

Yes. I'm familiar with it, I wouldn't say I'm an expert. I literally have had one an hour class on it. Im super interested in it. I thinks its completely fascinating, I would love to learn more. I've been endorsed by an organization called brand new congress which links us with someone that is actually an expert on MMT so I will be learning more about it. But, to sum it up, it's basically saying, for instance, when we were attacked in World War II we didn't ask "how are we going to afford to defend ourselves", we just did it, we created the money and did it. If we can find the money to spend billions of dollars bailing out crooks, people that should be in jail, from Wall Street, then we can afford to do all the other things that we should be doing to make investments in our country.

I know that trade is also an important issue for you. What would you change about the USMCA as it currently exists? What don't you like?

I haven't read the entire agreement. I've read critiques of it. I was concerned about what the unions were saying about it at one point. Evidently the AFL-CIO and some trade unions had some input and felt okay about it. My dad and my mom, my stepdad, my son's father, are all unions members, and I was a union worker and organizer. So, unions and labor are extremely important to me. I know that when we have more unions and stronger unions the whole country benefits. Wages rise overall. My concern would be whatever effect it would have on unions jobs and labor. I know as a lawyer that the devil is in the details, and I haven't read every line of it. I'm always hesitant to comment.

What committees would you like to serve on in the Senate?

By population, Iowa is a very urban state because most of our population live in cities like Des Moines, but, by geography of course we're a huge agricultural state. So, the agricultural committee, definitely. There's also a subcommittee that has to do with children and families, I would want to be on that one. My dad and my grandfather were both in the military service, so I would be very interested in being in a veterans committee. I think it's important that if people are going to sign up to potentially lose their lives to defend the country and to do service, we need to take better care of them when they return. We have so many problems with traumatic brain injuries, with burns. There are problems with these burn pits in Afghanistan were people would inhale fumes and coming back with respiratory issues. And the mental health and the suicide rate for veterans. We need to be addressing that. It's a national crisis.

What do you think of the internal process in the Democratic Party so far? How do you feel about people's enthusiasm?

A lot of people not involved in politics before are willing to go out and volunteer. To times in the last week I've come home and there's a Bernie sanders thing hanging on my door. Hes pulling in people from all over the country who come here and are knocking on doors and are phone banking and are just very energized. The Elizabeth Warren campaign is amazing as well. There's a lot of excitement.

People have a right to say "I'm not going to vote" if they don't like the nominee, and I respect their choice, but, this president and administration is seriously dangerous to human beings. People at the southern border have literally been taken away and have died on custody. People in this country are dying because of how the healthcare system is. I mean, so many communities rights are under fire here

There are currently five Democratic candidates for the Senate in Iowa this year. How do you feel about the June primary where the official party nominee will be chosen?

I think it's going extremely well. We are a lower budget campaign because I'm not wealthy and I don't have a lot of connections to a lot of people with wealth, but we won the Iowa youth poll, which is a poll of older high school students, 85% of those are eligible to vote, and we won with 32% of the vote, and the next two people got 19. So, we won by a lot. We started with zero followers on Twitter last June, and we know have 35 thousand. We're getting a lot of traction. This is a moment with the popularity of Senator Sanders and Senator Warren and there are a lot of other candidates too. There are a lot of people who like our campaign who are supporting Pete Buttigieg; I had a woman I was talking to yesterday who was supporting Amy Klobuchar for president, but she likes how I focus on children. We're really pulling in a coalition of people from different campaigns. People are tired of politics as usual. Of huge corporate money on politics. Of corporations buying our politicians, and so I think that's why those types of candidates are getting so much traction.

When a Democratic presidential nominee comes out, do you think all factions of the party will be able to unite around the official candidate? Between centrists and progressives.

I think in 2016, I hope, that that taught people a lesson. People have a right to say "I'm not going to vote" if they don't like the nominee, and I respect their choice, but, this president and administration is seriously dangerous to human beings. People at the southern border have literally been taken away and have died on custody. People in this country are dying because of how the healthcare system is. I mean, so many communities rights are under fire here, the LGBTQ+ community, and on and on and on. Specially against immigrants and the whole embolden racism that this president has personified in his campaign, really tried to divide us by race and by religion. I think that enough of us see that that´s going to happen. I really hope, I certainly will be voting to whoever the democratic nominee is. I'm going be encouraging everybody to do the same. And I'm also doing that on the US Senate race. We are really encouraging everyone, whether they are supporting me or somebody else, whoever becomes that nominee against Joni Ernst, we are all going to support them and be campaigning out there for whoever it is if it's not me.