DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley apologized Tuesday to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley for comments recorded during a fundraiser in Texas in which the Democrat inferred Iowa's senior senator was unfit to be judiciary committee chairman.
"If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice ... on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said, as captured on the video posted from a January fundraiser. "Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."
Braley is expected to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate and would face one of six Republicans who are running in the June 3 primary.
Several issued statements demanding Braley apologize, arguing the comments were offensive to farmers. As the afternoon progressed, state Republican Party leaders and Republican candidates for other offices joined the chorus.
Braley apologized to Grassley in person at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, an aide said.
Grassley, a Republican in his sixth term, has long owned a farm near New Hartford, where he returns most weekends to work, although less than he used to. Grassley will be 81 in September.
Grassley has routinely noted in committee hearings that he is the only non-lawyer on the panel, which oversees judicial nominations. Grassley has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Northern Iowa.
Braley has a law degree from University of Iowa and was a lawyer in private practice before his 2006 election to the U.S. House. He is also past president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.
"I apologize to Sen. Grassley and anyone I may have offended," Braley said in a press statement issued by his campaign.
In the video, Braley also reaffirmed his opposition to "tort reform," a term normally used by Republicans to refer to legislation aimed at reducing court-awarded damages in civil cases. Private practice lawyers, a reliable and generous source for Democratic candidates, have long opposed imposing limits or reducing such damages.