The secretary of agriculture and state auditor candidates were in Mount Pleasant Friday afternoon.

MOUNT PLEASANT - Two Democratic candidates for statewide office tag-teamed an event here Friday afternoon to introduce themselves to voters about three months from Election Day in November.

Candidates Tim Gannon, running for secretary of agriculture, and Rob Sand, campaigning to become state auditor, met with about 20 people at Jerry's Restaurant in Mount Pleasant to give their stump speeches and take questions from the audience.

Gannon, a farmer from Jasper County in central Iowa, also spent eight years in Washington, D.C., working for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tim Vilsack — a former Mount Pleasant resident and governor of Iowa.

He is challenging incumbent Mike Naig, who was appointed secretary of agriculture by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds when Bill Northey left Iowa to take a job at USDA in D.C.

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"We have got to — I think, as Iowans — send a message to folks that policies of the last 18 months have been detrimental to biofuels ... and also on trade, I think we got to send a message that Iowans didn't sign up for this and we don't to want to bear the brunt of an incoherent trade policy that I don't see any actual end in sight to," Gannon said, of President Donald Trump's administration.

As the son of a John Deere dealership owner, Gannon said he saw first-hand how a poor farm economy will branch out to affect all aspects of life in Iowa, particularly for rural communities.

"I don't want to see all those folks struggle because of bad policy in Washington, D.C."

He described the importance of investing in value-added agriculture that allows farmers to diversify their business outside of row crops and livestock. Gannon told a story of traveling with Vilsack to Madison, Wisconsin, where they visited a facility that manufactured plastic bottles. The green cap on the bottles, he said, signified it was made with up to 30 percent plant-based plastic.

"Imagine if corn cobs got to be something that we collected and sold and turned them into plastic on a larger scale. That could be a whole new revenue stream for Iowa farmers," he said.

 Debra Rodgers of Mount Pleasant chimed in toward the end of the conservation to tell the candidates she was glad to see young Democrats stepping up to run for office.

"It's really encouraging to see two young men like you," said Rodgers. " You make me feel hopeful. Things are so bad, it's like nothing is ever going to get better. But you guys, I'm really encouraged by both of you."

In addition to Mount Pleasant, on Friday the candidates also visited Wapello, Keosauqua and Donnellson.

Sand, a former assistant attorney general from Decorah, quoted Vilsack when he said, "This is our most important election in Iowa in 40 years." Not only are Sand and Gannon competing for seats, but Gov. Reynolds and Secretary of State Paul Pate also face serious Democratic challengers.

"We have all got an obligation to get up and to do the things we do to make sure that our Democratic Republic is a healthy one," Sand said. "If Tom Vilsack is out there saying this is our most important election in 40 years, then we have to act like it."

Sand has been campaigning on the slogan "wake up the watchdog," to call out Republican Auditor Mary Mosiman on what he describes as lackluster policies that don't help to save the state money or combat public corruption.

"I could wake up everyday to think up a new way to save government money, right? And I'm excited about that. I think that's a really great thing that we can do together if we can put someone in the office who has the energy to make sure the office is doing everything that it should be doing."

When asked whether the auditor's office could investigate how the privatization of Medicaid has affected Iowa's finances, Sand said there was "no reason" Iowans should wonder how the system is working because the auditor's office has the ability to subpoena records from the Managed Care Organizations.

"There's no excuse for that," he said. "We are taking a huge piece of our economy and a huge piece of our taxpayer money and totally revolutionizing what we're doing with it, and we don't have answers as to how well it's working."