Iowa small business owners gathered on Wednesday at a shopping center that was cleared out by Democratic Senate nominee Theresa Greenfield to highlight her "concerning" business record.
"We need someone in Washington who is going to be loyal and committed. Not being loyal and committed to a company you worked with for 30 years, that's concerning to me," Jacob Handsaker of Hands On Excavating LLC said at a press conference. "I'm concerned that small business owners will be tossed to the side when the next big dollar sign comes in."
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Handsaker and Mike Vaughn of BDI Signs spoke in front of the Apple Valley Shopping Center in Windsor Heights, Iowa, where Greenfield in 2015 cleared out mom-and-pop stores in an attempt to make way for German grocer Aldi. The pair appeared alongside Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann.
Both Handsaker and Vaughn said that they did not have a personal history with Kaufmann—Vaughn said that he was "there to advocate for small businesses." He also praised incumbent senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) for "stepping up for small business owners," citing her role in securing funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.
The press conference came days after nearly a dozen Iowa entrepreneurs sent a letter to Greenfield on June 8 expressing concern over her tenure as president of the Des Moines real estate firm Colby Interests. The local business owners criticized the Democrat's 2015 project calling for the partial demolition of the Windsor Heights shopping center to accommodate Aldi. Local tenants were "blindsided" by eviction notices signed by Greenfield that gave them 60 days to vacate.
"How can small business owners trust that, given your record of favoring a multinational corporation over Iowa small businesses, you would prioritize our needs as a U.S. Senator?" the letter states.
While Greenfield's proposal was eventually rejected by the Windsor Heights city council following opposition from local residents, the Democrat moved forward with rent-raising renovations that she acknowledged may "not fit into" existing tenants' budgets. At least five local businesses were displaced as a result of the project, and new tenants include national pizza chains Marco's Pizza and Papa Murphy's.
Greenfield, who did not respond to a request for comment, has called the scrutiny of her record as a businesswoman a "false smear." She has yet to answer the call from small business owners to provide "detailed records of the proposed agreement between [Colby Interests] and the German multinational corporation."
The controversy was highlighted in a new ad released Tuesday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It accused Greenfield—who has campaigned as a champion of small business—of putting "big corporations first" and kicking "Iowa small businesses to the curb." Kaufmann expressed confidence that the issue would lead to Greenfield's defeat in November.
"Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield has a clear record of turning her back on small businesses to line her own pockets," Kaufmann said in a statement following the press conference. "As more Iowans learn about Greenfield's failed business record, it's becoming clear that they simply can't trust her."