GOP presidential candidates Perry Johnson, Will Hurd hold events at Iowa State Fair

By: - August 18, 2023 12:01 pm

Businessman Perry Johnson, a 2024 presidential candidate, joined Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a “fair-side chat” at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 18, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In the final days of the Iowa State Fair, 2024 Republican candidates Perry Johnson and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd held events and spoke with potential caucusgoers at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines Friday.

Many of the presidential hopefuls wanting to take on President Joe Biden have already made their stops at the fair — former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vied for attention during the first weekend of the fair, and others including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have shared their campaign pitch with Iowans, in addition to making trips to fair favorites like the butter cow and Iowa Pork Producers’ Tent.

Two candidates are planning to speak at the Soapbox Saturday, the final political stops for the state fair — former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Libertarian Chase Oliver.

Johnson and Hurd both have “fair-side chats” with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Hurd also planned to speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox Friday afternoon; Johnson spoke at the Soapbox last week, when he called for an end to U.S. financial aid for Ukraine.

While Johnson has spent significant time in Iowa campaigning, Hurd has not visited the state since he was booed at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner in July for saying Trump was “running to stay out of prison.”

Here’s what the candidates said at their fair events:

4 months ago

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

By: - 12:45 pm
Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, answered questions from the crowd during his talk at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 18, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd said former President Donald Trump lost the election “period, full-stop” when speaking at the Iowa State Fair Friday, saying that Republican Party needs to move on from discussions of the 2020 election results.

“You have to be clear and tell the truth, because if we continue to try to litigate things that have happened in the past, we’re not going to be able to address these issues of the future,” Hurd said. “And we should also listen to the vote. Donald Trump lost the House in 2018. He lost the Senate and the White House in 2020. And he prevented a red wave from happening in 2022.”

Hurd was met with some cheers at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox when he criticized the former president — a stark contrast from his last appearance in Iowa when he was booed off-stage at the Iowa Republican Party Lincoln Dinner for bringing up Trump’s indictments.

The candidate said there is a simple lesson to learn from the 2018 election: “Don’t be a jerk, and don’t be a socialist.”

He said President Joe Biden has “zero coattails,” which was why some voters elected Biden and Republicans to U.S. Congress, but he expressed doubt that Democrats or independents would change their vote from Biden in 2020 to Trump in 2024.

“I have Independents and Democrats that always come up to me and said, ‘You’re the kind of Republican we want to be able to vote for,'” Hurd said. “And that’s the opportunity for us. And there’s a reason that for 20 years, the GOP has failed to win the popular vote at the national election. I want to change that, and that requires us having a candidate that is actually going to be able to be attractive to all those kinds of voters.”

Speaking with reporters, Hurd criticized the Republican National Committee asking candidates to pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee ahead of the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee. Though Hurd has met the donor threshold to participate, he has not yet met polling requirements.

“My problem is not with supporting Republican nominees, it’s supporting Donald Trump,” Hurd told reporters.

Earlier at the fair, Hurd told Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that government needs to learn from the “mistake with social media” and regulate artificial intelligence.

In addition to talking about his appreciation for Barksdale chocolate chip cookies and a discussion with a New Hampshire man about a sun bear meme from China, the 2024 presidential candidate spoke about technology with Reynolds at a “fair-side chat.”

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, spooke with voters after his “fair-side chat” with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Aug. 18, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Hurd, who served on the board of OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, said that the technological advances coming in the next 30 years are “going to make the last 30 years look like we’re playing in the dirt with sticks.” He said that the country needs to be prepared to make sure Americans are not being hurt because of these changes in technology.

The number one way to make sure people are not negatively impacted by new technology like AI, Hurd said, is to make sure that these technologies are subject to civil liberties and civil rights laws. He criticized the federal government for “carving out” enforcement of laws on social media through laws like the Communications Decency Act, which he said contributed to issues like the rise in mental health issues among young girls linked with use of social media platforms like Instagram.

“If you and I want to go make a parking lot, we’d have to get a few permits, right, for a parking lot,” Hurd said. “So if you have a super powerful tool that’s the equivalent to nuclear fission — nuclear fission controlled is nuclear energy: clean power that can power the world. Nuclear fission, uncontrolled: nuclear weapons that can destroy the world. So let’s make sure we have a permit.”

But the Texas Republican said there were applications for AI and other emerging technologies to help the country as well. He said that AI exists to ensure “all learners should be able to have an AI tutor in their pocket.”

“We can have an infinitely patient tutor, teaching how the fish rather than giving you a fish,” Hurd said. “So every kid, whether it’s you’re learning trigonometry in seventh grade, or you’re wanting to change jobs in your 30s to do something else, having that tool to help us and using it as a tool … that’s how we take advantage of technology for it takes advantage of us.”

Last updated: 3:32 pm

4 months ago

Perry Johnson says all candidates but Trump are long shots ahead of debate

By: - 12:01 pm
Businessman Perry Johnson, a 2024 presidential candidate, joined Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a “fair-side chat” at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 18, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Businessman Perry Johnson said he understood he was a “long-shot” candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — and said that put him in the same position as every other contender but former President Donald Trump.

“We know that everybody running yet is a long shot, except Trump,” Johnson said. “I mean realistically, if you’ve looked at the polls … But one thing is certain, and that is we don’t really know what’s going to happen until we get to that debate stage. And that is when the race begins.”

Johnson spoke during a “fair-side chat” Friday with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.  Alhough he said he has gained in polls, Johnson and other candidates are still far behind Trump, who leads the field with an average of 54.1% in national polls as of Friday, according to FiveThirtyEight. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis comes in second at 15.7% and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at third with 7.9% of supporters in an average of 2024 primary polls that accounts for recency, sample size and methodology.

The Michigan Republican said he believes he will be on the Republican debate stage Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, having hit the needed polling thresholds in some new national polls and having 60,000 donors. Trump has not yet committed to participating in the debate or holding a competing event, but weighed in on the subject on the social media platform TruthSocial Thursday.

“People know my Record, one of the BEST EVER, so why would I Debate?” Trump wrote.

Johnson did not address Trump’s most recent indictment in Georgia over his alleged interference in the state’s 2020 election results, but said his “heart is with him.”

“I’m not gonna sit here and castigate or explode at Trump, because everybody knows I supported him,” Johnson said. “My major complaint that I ever had was that he spent too much money, but he won’t even argue that … I think he called himself, what, ‘the king of debt?’ But he has been very successful, he’s done a lot of great things. I think he’s got a lot of trouble right now.”

Johnson criticized the federal justice system, calling for “dismantling the FBI.” He said President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden should be under more investigation for alleged corruption than Trump, who the federal law enforcement has “picked on for years for no reason.”

“Now who is really corrupt here?” Johnson said.”… They own the Department of Justice, they seem to own the FBI, and we can’t have it. So yes, we have to get rid of that.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.