Jim Carlin, concerned with faith and freedom, seeks to climb the political ladder

Mason Dockter Mar 21, 2021 via Sioux City Journal: https://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/watch-now-jim-carlin-concerned-with-faith-and-freedom-seeks-to-climb-the-political-ladder/article_99e62507-3071-589b-a7b3-e6c028ecfbf7.html

SIOUX CITY — State Sen. Jim Carlin began his transition to a staunch political conservative after going through a religious reawakening in the late 1980s. 

Raised in an Irish-Catholic family in the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts, Carlin voted for home-state Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democrat in the 1988 presidential election. 

Carlin, 58, describes himself today as a “Reagan conservative,” invoking the Republican president of the 1980s who has maintained a longstanding popularity on the right. 

After representing Sioux City in the Iowa Legislature for four years, Carlin last month launched a surprise bid for U.S. Senate. He’s prepared to challenge incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley in a GOP primary.

In a speech announcing his candidacy on Feb. 15, Carlin referenced his Christian faith on several occasions, saying that he wants to defend “those who find wisdom in the Bible and are tired of being called bigots because they believe what’s in it.” 

“I started a journey of faith, where my faith as a Christian started to define my life,” Carlin said during a lengthy interview with the Journal in February at his Sioux City law office. “And, as I did that, my political views did change over time.”

A member of Morningside Assembly of God church, Carlin’s faith is noticeable in some furnishings in his office — the Bible on his bookshelf, a religious book for children in the waiting room, a pen stand on his desk engraved with the phrase “Jesus is Lord.” 

EAST COAST UPBRINGING

Though he often become animated about abortion, freedom, taxes and several other issues, Carlin speaks in a soft-ish voice. He maintains eye contact from across the large, handsome, somewhat weathered desk his mother, Claire, gave to him around the time when he moved to Sioux City three decades ago.

Carlin was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Dr. Daniel J. Carlin, the “town doctor” in nearby Dalton. His early life was spent in Dalton, Worcester and Quincy, Massachusetts, and Chatham, New Jersey. Dalton was a “working class town,” while Chatham was more affluent with “a lot of dads who worked on Wall Street,” Carlin said. 

After enrolling at Fordham College, Carlin joined the the U.S. Army in 1983 and served for two years before returning to his studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Marquette University. The Army, Carlin said, was an avenue for young men like himself to learn some much-needed discipline. 

“I didn’t get in any trouble but, it’s a good way for a young man to grow up,” he said.

As he approached his 30th birthday, Carlin moved to Sioux City circa 1991, after learning about the region through relatives.

“I really liked the down-to-Earth way people from Northwest Iowa just talk to you and relate to you,” he said. “The quality of life out here is, in my mind, much more preferable — if you want to build your life, raise a family.” 

He hung out his shingle at the Carlin Law Office, which specializes in medical malpractice and injury litigation. 

In announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Carlin stressed he has been fighting for the “underdogs of this world” throughout his career as a trial attorney. He says he intends to do well by the “Forgotten Man,” a concept that gained traction in the Roosevelt years and was revived more recently by Donald Trump. 

In his announcement speech, he told the story of an anxious young woman who showed up at his office on a Friday night 19 years ago. The woman wanted to sue Planned Parenthood after she took a pregnancy test at one of their clinics eight weeks earlier and it came back negative. She later discovered she was, in fact, pregnant.

She was upset that she had little time left to get the abortion she said she needed because her husband had left her and she could not afford another child on her pizza-parlor wages. 

Carlin asked the woman if she would consider giving up the baby for adoption. He offered to give the woman $500 a month until the baby was born and for “several months thereafter” if she did. The woman later gave birth to a daughter, who was adopted in Nebraska. 

Fourteen years later, Carlin was door-knocking in the Morningside neighborhood during his first run for the Iowa House in 2016. By chance, he stopped at the home of the woman he’d convinced not to have an abortion. He immediately recognized her.

“She was doing well and had her life on a good track,” Carlin said in his speech. “She said, ‘I want to show you something,’ and she walked me into the kitchen. She pointed to picture of a pretty, young girl on a horse. ‘That is my daughter,’ she said. I was overcome with emotion at that moment.”

As a state senator, Carlin has spoke passionately in favor of abortion restrictions. In particular, he cites his work with former state Sen. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City and other Republican senators to pass the so-called Heartbeat Bill,” which would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill in 2018, but the law was later struck down in court.

START OF POLITICAL CAREER

Before being elected to the Iowa House, Carlin’s only other electoral experience was a long-ago, unsuccessful bid for a Sioux City School Board seat. He was motivated to enter the political fray, he said, out of concern that American freedoms are at risk — a theme he has returned to repeatedly in his Senate candidacy. 

Support Local Journalism

Barely a year into his first year as a state representative, Carlin won a special election in December 2017 for the Senate seat vacated by GOP incumbent Bill Anderson, who resigned to accept a job leading the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation.

In 2018, Carlin won election to a full term in the Republican-friendly Senate District 3, which includes Sioux City’s Morningside neighborhoods, areas of rural western Woodbury County and most of Plymouth County.   

Carlson cites a bevy of accomplishments during his relatively brief tenure in the Legislature. A member of the Senate education appropriations subcommittee, he’s proud of his efforts to give kids in failing schools the chance to go to a better one, and to make Iowa schools safer with mandatory active shooter training. The trial lawyer also takes credit for stopping a bill that would have stripped injured workers with pre-existing injuries from being part of a workman’s compensation reform bill. 

The Republican also said he fought sex trafficking by advocating for stronger penalties and more resources to catch culprits, advocated for Iowa’s seniors and worked to freeze property taxes.

Carlin, who describes himself as a “populist more than anything else,” said he’s unhappy with the state tax structure in Iowa, which he bemoans as having “the third-worst tax climate for the middle class.” 

“When you add up all the taxes they have to pay, property tax, sales tax, income tax, state and federal, the cost of inflation on the middle class, if you have inflation that’s 2 or 3 percent a year, look at that over 10 years, you don’t see much of an increase in compensation. That’s like a 10 to 15 percent tax increase,” he said. Carlin especially loathes the “death tax,” also known as inheritance tax. 

“Then you throw in the cost of childcare. Childcare is incredibly expensive right now. And then, you know, the cost of health insurance. We only have one private-pay provider here in Iowa, so there’s no real incentive to lower costs or to improve quality,” Carlin said. “Those things hit middle-class people very hard.” 

During the current legislative session, Carlin also has made headlines for some controversial measures he has backed, including one that would require the state to anonymously survey professors and other employees of the state’s universities on their political affiliation, a so-called “bathroom bill” he introduced that mandates schools only allow students to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate, and another bill that would bar hospitals, health care providers and other employers from requiring their employees to receive vaccinations, including COVID-19 shots. The latter also would allow students to seek an exemption from a school’s vaccine requirement.

CHALLENGING GRASSLEY

For about a year, Carlin said he’s been thinking about running for the U.S. Senate, knowing that Grassley might seek another term in 2022. Grassley, 87, would be in his mid-90s by the time his six-year term would expire near the end of the decade.

As of this week, Grassley had not made a formal announcement about his plans, though he has hinted that he will run again. 

Carlin did not mention Grassley by name during his announcement, and said he respects the longtime senator. In an interview with the Journal, he didn’t say whether there was any Grassley-specific issue that’s prompting his run. 

“One of the reasons I got in early is, the scope of undertaking something like this is huge,” Carlin said. “You can’t do it in a year and do a good job. If you’re actually going to run in a primary against somebody who has been in it for a long time, you have to build up a grassroots, on-the-ground presence around the state. You can’t do that without announcing.” 

SUPPORT FOR TRUMP

In his campaign announcement at the Sergeant Bluff American Legion post on Feb. 15, Carlin jumped from one conservative hot-button topic to the next — religious freedoms, abortion, U.S.-China trade relations, the decline of the American family, welfare reform, the school system, the urban-rural economic and technological divide, the accomplishments of the Trump Administration, the election, the Forgotten Man and a discourse on freedom. 

Earlier this month, Carlin and other Iowa Senate Republicans took aim at Big Tech, approving a bill that would deny tech companies future state and local tax breaks if they were found by a court to have illegally stifled speech or political views. 

At his campaign announcement, Carlin cited concern about the increasing power of tech giants, especially after Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump from the social media site.

“We have to confront this here and now. Big Tech is a real threat to the freedom and future of what America stands for,” Carlin said. 

Carlin continues to voice strong support for Trump, even after some of the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to disrupt Congress from counting the electoral votes in an election won by Joe Biden. 

On several occasions in the last month, Carlin has warned about election integrity issues in the country, saying “there unequivocally was evidence of fraud.” Some Republicans have denounced the 2020 election results after some states made harried changes to their election rules amid the pandemic. The courts found little if any sound evidence that fraud actually occurred. 

“If something doesn’t statistically make sense, you need to look at it,” Carlin said of the 2020 presidential election, adding that he wants to see “uniformity” and/or “national standards” in election laws. 

Carlin won his first term in the Iowa House in the same election in which Trump carried the state by 9 percent over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Carlin said he was first motivated to run for elected office by an erosion of freedoms, and concerns that his children and grandchildren might live in an unfree country in 20 or 30 years. 

“You can’t passively sit by and watch these things happen,” Carlin said. “You have to get in the game.”

Carlin and his wife, Donna, have three children. 

“And I will tell you that it’s not of a lot of fun to make that three-hour trip each way (from Des Moines), it’s not a lot of fun to be away from my wife and my family,” he said. “I don’t enjoy it. But you truly can get some meaningful things done.” 

Jim Carlin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Paid for by Carlin for US Senate

Custom Website