Cedar Rapids casino proponent hosting Branstad fundraiser

Governor says fundraiser doesn't mean he intends to seek another term

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The leader of an effort to get a downtown casino in Cedar Rapids is hosting a campaign fundraiser for Gov. Terry Branstad Tuesday night.

Businessman Steve Gray, who is leading Cedar Rapids Development LLC, the group that has announced plans to seek a gambling license for an $80 million casino development, is hosting the fundraiser at his Indian Hills Road home. The casino plans hinge on winning approval of Linn County voters as well as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor.

In addition to Gray, who Branstad described as “a longtime friend,” the host committee for the fundraiser includes Gary Kirke, the driving force behind the Wild Rose casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton.

However, Branstad, who appears to be raising money for a 2014 re-election campaign, doubts there will be any discussion of gaming during the fundraiser at the home of Steve and Sallie Gray.

“First of all, this is really an opportunity for us to spend some time with a great friend, (Gov.) Scott Walker, who has shown great courage in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

Branstad went on to say that it’s been his practice not to take a position on gambling license applications.

“I believe that is an issue to be resolved by the Racing and Gaming Commission,” he said at his Monday morning news conference in Des Moines. “I think the most important thing is to look at for protecting the integrity of the state, and everybody that I’ve appointed to the Racing and Gaming Commission I’ve said you’re responsibility is not to promote gambling but to look at what is going to be best for protecting the integrity of the state and making sure that is paramount.”

Prior to the fundraiser, Walker will visit the Republican campaign headquarters in Cedar Rapids at 6 p.m. to speak to volunteers.

His appearance at the Branstad fundraiser is to reciprocate for one the Iowa governor headlined for Walker ahead of the Wisconsin recall election.

The fact that he’s raising money doesn’t mean he and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds are running for a sixth term in 2014, Branstad said.

“We’re keeping our options open,” Branstad said, but noted the money raised will go to his campaign committee.

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