U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham talks campaign finance and health care in Iowa City

Kimberly Graham, an Indianola attorney, is challenging Sen. Joni Ernst in 2020 and is campaigning largely on a single-payer health-care option.


Tian Liu

U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham speaks at the Wild Culture Kombucha on July 22, 2019.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor

Kimberly Graham — an Indianola attorney and Democrat challenging Sen. Joni Ernst in 2020 — made a campaign stop in Iowa City in which she condemned Ernst on numerous fronts, focusing heavily on how Ernst raises money.

“I was really disappointed to see the level of money she takes from pharmaceutical companies, from the health-care industry,” Graham said. “I can’t be bought.”

She said she thinks she can run a campaign with $500,000, despite being told she needs at least $2 million to run a winning campaign. 

Graham said she decided to run for office after the 2016 presidential election and created a folder on her computer titled “by the people, for the people, 2020” where she has continually compiled information about Ernst. For two years, Graham has kept track of Ernst’s voting records, legislation, and her donation record.

“If I’m on a debate stage with Joni Ernst, I assure you, I will wipe the floor with her,” Graham said. “I will know every vote; I will know every Cabinet member she’s confirmed; I will know every federal judge who was utterly unqualified that she voted to confirm.”

For most of the conversation, Graham focused on wanting to implement a single-payer health-care system, saying an overwhelming number of Americans have health care that they can’t afford to use. She said the question she gets the most is whether she supports Medicare-for-all/single-payer option.

Graham said that although the U.S. is a large country, it doesn’t lack anything that’s necessary in implementing a single-payer health-care option.

“For people who are dragging their feet [saying] it’s going to be too hard, we can’t do it, it’s going to take too long, it’s going to be too expensive — I have a couple things to say about that,” Graham said. “It’s not going to be more expensive than what we’re all paying now, and it’s going to be better because we’ll actually all be able to use it.”

Graham has worked as an attorney for abused and neglected children for 20 years and is the owner of a solo practice law firm. Graham said she has never made more than $60,000 a year and she graduated law school from Drake University with $80,000 worth of student-loan debt.

 In the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans increased their majority in the U.S. Senate. Ernst has been called a vulnerable candidate in 2020 by numerous media outlets

 Two other Democrats announced a bid for Ernst’s seat, both with a business background: Eddie Mauro and Theresa Greenfield. Mauro and Greenfield do not support a single-payer health-care option.

Kyla Paterson, the Stonewall caucus chair for the Iowa Democratic Party and a member of the State Central Committee, endorsed Graham specifically for her work in the LGBTQ communtiy.

Paterson said that as a transgender woman, she feels Graham is a strong ally of her community and has spoken out about banning conversion therapy at the federal level.

“She’s pushing for a lot of progressive issues for the LGBTQ community, and I think that’s the most important part about her running for Senate,” Paterson said. “We need someone who can be a compelling argument against why Ernst shouldn’t be in office.”