Gov. Kim Reynolds announces during a rally on March 9, 2022 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds that she will run for reelection. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Gov. Kim Reynolds is officially running for reelection, she told a crowd of cheering supporters in Des Moines Wednesday night, promising to “ensure that Iowa remains a beacon of freedom, liberty and unlimited prosperity.”
“As long as I’m governor, Iowa is going to be a state where you can live your life freely,” Reynolds said. “Where you don’t have to wake up in the morning and worry about the next thing that the government is going to do to you, your business or your children.”
Reynolds, 62, made the announcement following a string of political victories: She signed a major tax cut and a restriction on transgender athletes into law the same week she delivered a national address on behalf of the Republican party. She touted all three wins and her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in a wide-ranging speech.
“It’s not about liberal versus conservative, it is not about Republican versus Democrat,” Reynolds said. “It’s about who’s going to fight to keep Iowa and America free.”
Reynolds served as the lieutenant governor to Gov. Terry Branstad from 2011 to 2017. When Branstad stepped down to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to China, Reynolds became Iowa’s first female governor.
She was reelected in 2018 to her first full term with Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, winning 50.3% of the vote.
Reynolds ended her speech by inviting other Republican candidates to the podium and leading the crowd in a chant.
“When we show up, we win,” the audience cheered, a sea of matching red campaign shirts. “When we show up, we win.”
Branstad and supporters praise Reynolds’ record, personality
Cindy Hoffman and Travis Klinefelter wore custom-made jerseys to the campaign launch: bright red, with American flag sleeves and “REYNOLDS GREGG 22” emblazoned across the back.
Hoffman, 61, and Klinefelter, 44, formed a friendship in the crowd at Donald Trump rallies, part of a group they call the “Front Row Joes.” They got to know Reynolds through political events – well enough that Reynolds called Klinefelter personally when he was in the hospital several years ago.
“She just really cares,” Hoffman said. “She seems like a genuinely nice person.”
Ty Rosburg, a Crawford County supervisor, said the campaign launch event was everything he hoped it would be. He, too, praised Reynolds’ authenticity.
“I just like her courage,” Rosburg, 58, said. “She’s straight to the point, she tells it like it is, she fights for the folks, and she really gives a darn.”
Branstad said he was proud of Reynolds’ performance as governor.
“She’s done a tremendous job,” Branstad said. “Better than anybody else that’s ever served in that office, including myself.”
Some attendees of the event raised the possibility that Reynolds might climb even higher than Iowa’s executive branch.
“She’d be a great vice president or president,” said Klinefelter, especially alongside Trump in a potential 2024 bid.
Branstad said it was “premature” to consider Reynolds’ next step, focusing instead on her prospects for reelection.
“She’s in the best position that any governor has ever been in in this state,” Branstad said. “I ran six times and never lost… She’s in a stronger position than I ever was.”
State of the race: Reynolds has high approval ratings, full war chest
Reynolds faces just one active Democratic candidate in November: Des Moines businesswoman Deidre DeJear, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2018.
Recent polls and campaign filings show Reynolds holds an advantage over DeJear as the campaign season begins.
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted in late February and early March found a majority of voters, 51%, plan to vote for Reynolds in November. That puts her 8 points ahead of DeJear, who had support from 43% of respondents.
Pollster J. Ann Selzer told the Des Moines Register the result was “surprising,” as DeJear still has low name recognition, and an indication that many people will vote along party lines.
“The play will be in converting the independents and then getting them to turn out, because independents are notoriously unreliable voters,” Selzer said.
Reynolds also has plenty of cash on hand going into the campaign season, according to 2021 campaign filings. As of January, the incumbent had $4.8 million in her war chest.
DeJear had just $8,500 cash on hand in the same January filing.
Businessman Fred Hubbell, Reynolds’ Democratic competitor in 2018, endorsed DeJear Wednesday.
“Iowa needs a governor who is ready to go to work and be a leader for all Iowans, instead of someone who caters only to her base supporters,” Hubbell said in a statement.
A Register analysis found many top Democratic donors, including Hubbell, had not donated as much to the party’s gubernatorial candidates in 2021 as they did to candidates for Polk County attorney and State Auditor Rob Sand.
Democrats: Reynolds has ‘failed Iowans’
Democrats criticized Reynolds following her announcement. In a statement, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said Reynolds had “bullied” teachers and kids, worsened the workforce crisis and “failed Iowans.”
“While Kim Reynolds seeks to divide us, Iowa Democrats are working to make Iowa a better place for everyone,” Wilburn said. “It’s time for compassionate common sense to return to the governor’s office.”
Competitor DeJear tweeted during Reynolds’ speech.
“She spewed the same divisive rhetoric that we know all too well from these last few years,” DeJear wrote. “Enough. It’s time to defeat her and bring real leadership to Iowa.”
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