An agribusinessman who runs the nation’s third-largest ethanol-producing company is contemplating a run for governor in 2010. Bruce Rastetter of Iowa Falls — a Republican — is C.E.O. of Hawkeye Energy Holdings which operates four ethanol plants in the state.
"I grew up a Democrat and I think what has clearly changed me is the whole class warfare that the Democraticy Party does today," Rastetter says, "that discourages people from getting a better educatiob, taking risks, investing in a business, creating jobs."
Rastetter is a big benefactor of Republican causes, donating almost $59,000 to the state and national parties, as well as various G.O.P. candidates in 2008. "We ought to think about if we agree on 80 percent of what we believe, then we ought to be inclusive in the party and we certainly ought to make sure that we broaden our tent rather than narrow it," Rastetter says. "…We ought to be about a party that is solution making to solve problems rather than just want lower taxes or less government or a better business climate."
Rastetter says he believes in all those things, as well as the "sanctity of life," but he argues it’s time for Republicans to offer new ideas to fix problems in education and the economy.
Rastetter is a well-known philanthropist, too, recently donating $2 million worth of seed money to Iowa State University for an ag entrepreneur program.
Jim Nussle, the Iowa Repubican party’s 2006 candidate for governor, kicked off his campaign with an event at Rastetter’s ethanol plant in Fairbank, Now, Rastetter is contemplating a run of his own, but he’s not yet ready to say he wants to be governor. "I don’t know that I, today, can say that I do for sure, but what I would say is that there is always opportunity in tough times or in good times to make a difference," Rastetter says.
According to Rastetter, people "sometimes listen better" when times are tough. Rastetter was at the statehouse today, soon after Democratic Governor Chet Culver revealed details of his budget plan which would cut most state agencies by six-and-a-half percent. Rastetter says he’s no fan of across-the-board cuts. "There isn’t a household in Iowa that is cutting their budget that doesn’t discriminately look at their budget and say, ‘You know, maybe we don’t need to go out for dinner tonight,’ but they don’t make across the board cuts," Rastetter says. "…That’s just an easy way out."
Rastetter argues state officials should "aggressively" review the state budget, close some programs and leave alone others that help Iowans "during these tough times."
Rastetter has held political office once before. He was elected to the Alden School Board just after he graduated from college. In 2004 — a year after he co-founded Hawkeye Renewables — Rastetter sold his previous business, a livestock operation known as "Heartland Pork."