A room full of long-time Iowa Republican Party activists offers a variety of different views on just who is the party’s best candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Frank Severino helped run a statewide Republican primary campaign in 2010. Severino said “thee” right candidate has yet to emerge.
“It’s got a long ways to go before someone is selected,” Severino said.
Severino was one of about 60 people who gathered for this morning’s meeting of The Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club.
According to Severino, Republicans have been hurt by the combined 32 years that Bob Ray and Terry Branstad have held the governor’s office.
“With Bob Ray in there as long as he was, Governor Branstad as long as he was, these legislators — good ones who would have been excellent candidates for these slots — went away,” Severino said. “These governors stayed too long, capped the system and people didn’t have an opportunity to move up and so, in my mind, that’s where we’re at where we’re at today.”
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, a former state senator, told the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club the U.S. senate race is “an important opportunity” for Republicans.
“I’m flattered to even be considered,” Reynolds said. “There’s great people throughout the state that are doing the same thing I’m doing and that’s talking to people, talking to grassroots activists.”
According to Reynolds, she’s had an “interesting discussion” with her own family because of what happened after the family meeting she held to talk about running for the state senate.
“We kind of went around the room and they said, ‘No, I don’t think so mom.’ ‘No, I think you should stay (county treasurer),’ ‘No, no, no,’ and so I got up the next morning and I said: ‘I’m going to do it!’ Now this doesn’t mean anything about this race,” Reynolds said, as the crowd laughed. “I’m not trying to tie the two together.”
AUDIO of Reynolds’ response to a member of the audience who joked the reason reporters from Radio Iowa and The Cedar Rapids Gazette were covering the event because she may be running for the U.S. Senate.
David Oman, a Republican candidate for governor in 1998, said at least three Republicans besides Congressman Steve King, State Ag Secretary Bill Northey and Reynolds are thinking about a senate race. According to Oman, it’s time to get a campaign started.
“If people are going to get into a campaign they’ve got to make that personal decision, put a team together, go around, introduce themselves and then start going to the county fairs and the parades and all of the events that we have in Iowa through a colorful summer,” Oman said. “You don’t do that overnight, so the end of April, early May is a very important time for people who are seriously pursuing this sort of race.”
Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning said Reynolds would make a “wonderful” candidate for the U.S. Senate.
“I also think she would be very good as a governor if that is a possibility for her in the future,” Corning said, “so it will be interesting to see what her decision is and, of course, what other decisions are.”
Matt Whitaker — a 2002 candidate for State Treasurer who served as a federal prosecutor during George W. Bush’s administration — is making his intentions clear.
“If Steve King elects not to do it, then I’m going to run, but obviously you just can’t step out and announce immediately after that because we’re all in a holding pattern right now,” said Whitaker, who attended this morning’s Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club meeting.
And Whitaker plans to run even if the lieutenant governor or ag secretary do.
“I think a good primary would be healthy for the party and, as the lieutenant governor said, we need to find the best possible candidate to run against Bruce Braley.” Whitaker told reporters. “…I don’t think anybody wants a brutal primary, but at the same time open senate seats only come around every so often, so at the end of the day you can wait your turn — and your turn will never come or, as my friend Tim Pawlenty said, you step to the front of the line and make it your turn.”
Whitaker backed former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty’s bid for the presidency in 2012. Whitaker endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry after Pawlenty dropped out of the race.
Darrel Kearney a long-time Republican activist who worked for Chuck Grassley’s first senate campaign in 1980, when Grassley was not favored to win either the GOP primary or beat Democratic Senator John Culver. Kearney predicted 2014 “can be a repeat” of 1980.
“When you are up against a very hard liberal like Bruce Braley…you really have to give the votes a really solid conservative choice,” Kearney said, “and that’s what’s great about all these candidates, because they are really solid conservatives.”
Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley announced in early February that he would run for the U.S. Senate seat Democrat Tom Harkin now holds. Harkin announced in late January that he would not seek reelection.
AUDIO of Kim Reynolds’ and State Auditor David Vaudt’s speeches to The Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club (mps runs 21 minutes)