Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer spoke to constituents and answered questions during a meet-and-greet at Peace Tree Brewing Company in Knoxville on Nov. 2. 

KNOXVILLE — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer highlighted climate stability as his number-one priority if elected president during a meet-and-greet with Iowa voters.

“I would declare a state of emergency on day one,” said Steyer. “Rural America is a huge part of this solution. Rural America will be a partner in solving this crisis in a way that is profound and also profitable.”

The candidate said agricultural practices in Iowa will have to change to be more regenerative for soil, including better water management and sequestering carbon. 

“I know that farmers hate being told what to do,” said Steyer. “But I also know that the Federal Government is going to have to work with farmers to make sure that it's profitable to do the right thing and that there is an incentive to do the right thing to be prosperous.”

In 2013, Steyer founded NextGen America, a non-profit that advocates for climate change, promote social justice and increases participation in democracy through voter registration and grassroots organizing.

In addition, Steyer said he would fight for a living wage and access to affordable healthcare and education. The candidate said he does not support Medicare for All like fellow constituents Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but an affordable public option. According to Steyer, the United States is the only country that does not negotiate drug prices, and citizens pay ten times more for insulin than Canada.

“I don’t believe in Medicare for All, because I don’t believe that 160 million people who’ve negotiated to get healthcare through their employment should be told, ‘You’re going to do it my way, or you’re breaking the law,’” said Steyer. “I don’t believe you can take the whole system and turn it upside down and insist the government should do it all … we should have a public option that drives down prices.”

Many onlookers applauded in agreement, but Newton resident Lisa Cunningham is still on the fence about healthcare.

“I feel like they [Sanders and Warren] actually have a plan,” said Cunningham. “That’s the only way that we can address our broken healthcare system … by fundamentally changing it. Tom’s way, Pete’s way, I’m not sure that they’re going to fundamentally change it.”

Cunningham said she recently had a mammogram, which was covered by her insurance. However, it came back abnormal, so Cunningham went in again for an ultrasound. She says she received a $700 bill for the ultrasound.

“I was OK, thankfully,” said Cunningham. “But the problem is, they charged me twice as much for one breast as they did for two breasts that were covered under the ACA. That’s the problem with our health system.”

Constituents also shared their concerns about social security, the Electoral College, the immigration/border crisis, term limits in Congress and deceit in the Whitehouse.

Steyer began his campaign in July 2019 and is the sixth candidate to visit Peace Tree Brewing Company in Knoxville. 

Emily Hawk can be reached at or by calling the Pella newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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