Senate candidate uses pedal power to spread message
Rick Stewart is not a typical political candidate.
First of all, Stewart is running as an independent for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Secondly, Stewart says he is only spending $5,000 on his campaign and not accepting any campaign contributions.
Thirdly, Stewart does most of his campaigning on a bicycle. The Cedar Rapids resident was biking through Mt. Pleasant en route to Burlington Tuesday morning and said he has been across Iowa five or six times since announcing his candidacy June 2, the day before the Iowa primary election.
“I started thinking about it [running for national political office] about two years ago,” he said. “I decided when Harkin retired to run for the Senate. I am not just running. I am in it to win it.”
Many of Stewart’s stances on the issues align more with the Libertarian Party than either of the two major parties.
He is totally against the drug war. “We have had more casualties in the drug war than any other war,” he begins. “There has been no decrease in drug usage. Prohibition did not work the first time and it is not working again.”
“The drug war makes me angry. Drug warriors make me angry,” he continues. “As of this minute I have yet to see the semblance of an honest defense of the drug warrior. The loudest drug warriors will not debate the issue, they just fire the biggest guns.
“The argument for decriminalizing heroin is the same as the argument for decriminalizing marijuana,” Stewart said. “Making them illegal does not decrease usage, but it does increase societal problems like disease, death, criminality, violence, gangs, police corruption, prison costs and, of course, unscrupulous politicians.”
The candidate said the $80 billion spent annually on the drug war could be returned to taxpayers, or spent on something useful.
Stewart claims drug addiction is a function of a person’s personality, not the drug.
Agriculture is huge in Iowa, Stewart readily admits. However, he is against all agriculture subsidies, calling them a crutch farmers must carry.
In 2012, Iowa farmers — according to United States Department of Agriculture statistics — received $782 million in ag subsidies, Stewart said. The subsidies were paid to 69,463 farms so the average farm received $11,257 in subsidies.
“A simple question — if you are a millionaire, do you need a $11,257 subsidy from the taxpayers to stay in business?” he asked.
Do you really want one? Or would you rather get off the welfare rolls and go on about the business of making real money?” he asked. “Iowa’s farmers aren’t children and don’t need an allowance from the big daddy government.”
Stewart is proud of the fact that he retired before he was 50 (age 48-1/2 to be exact). He worked at Frontier Coop, a $100 million natural herbs and vitamins company in Norway.
He readily admits he is not your ordinary candidate. “I am not buying any vote I’m not wishy-washy and I’m not afraid to disagree with the majority of people. Every one of my issues is open for comments.”
And after saying that, Stewart hopped on his bicycle and headed east, hoping he would not have to dodge rain drops.