At least five Republican gubernatorial candidates will appear Sunday at a forum in central Iowa. One of former Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s associates filed paperwork on Wednesday to create a campaign committee should Branstad enter the race, and Branstad will not participate in Sunday evening’s forum at Living History Farms. Arthur Smith, communications director for Polk County Republicans, says creation of the Branstad exploratory committee isn’t a sure signal Branstad will run.
“I’m certainly not on the bandwagon of saying that it means that (Branstad’s) definitely going to run,” Smith says. According to Smith, the five candidates who will be there Sunday have a “valuable” chance to articulate their visions for the state. “It’s a good opportunity for us to hear what they have to say about that, to provide some thoughtful discussion around that for the folks that are there, the majority of which are grassroots activists,” Smith says.
While each candidate will be given a few minutes to speak to the entire audience, Smith says the candidates will then wade into the crowd to speak one-on-one with people. “It’s a casual atmosphere. It’s casual dress,” Smith says. “We’re going to be there from 5:30 until probably 8:30 or 9 and, you know, have hopefully a lot of time for folks to have more intimate kind of conversations with the candidates.”
The candidates who have confirmed they’ll be at the event are Jerry Behn, a state senator from Boone; Christian Fong, a business executive from Cedar Rapids; Bob Vander Plaats, a business consultant from Sioux City, Chris Rants, a state legislator from Sioux City; and Rod Roberts, a state legislator from Carroll. A sixth candidate, Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton, has travel plans this weekend and has told organizers he may not make it back in time for the event.