Iowa Republicans far from settled on U.S. Senate candidate

Steve King's decision could be pivotal, observers say

Before she ran for the Iowa Senate, Kim Reynolds talked it over with her family.

They were against it.

“So I got up the next morning and I said, ‘I’m going to do it,’” she told the Conservative Breakfast Club in Des Moines Tuesday morning, adding quickly, “Now this doesn’t mean anything about this race.”

“This race” is the 2014 race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Tom Harkin, who has announced his retirement. Democrats seem to have settled on 1st District U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, 55, a Waterloo Democrat.

Reynolds, 53, who served two years in the Iowa Senate before being elected lieutenant governor in 2010, will continue to consider the race, she said, because “it’s an important opportunity for Iowa.”

“I’m flattered to even be considered,” she said.

However, if she chooses to run, Reynolds will have to do more than convince her family. Few in the crowd of 60 or so conservative Republicans were willing to cede the GOP nomination to the former Clarke County treasurer.

They were more inclined to cede the nomination to 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King.

“I think King is the 800-poung gorilla in the race,” said longtime Republican activist Darrell Kearney. “Until he makes a decision, nobody else is going to make a move.”

If King, 63, doesn’t run, Kearney foresees a three- to four-way primary that could include Reynolds and Secretary of Ag Bill Northey, 53, among others.

And there are others. Matt Whitaker, 43, a former U.S. attorney during the George W. Bush administration, said April 16 he will run if King doesn’t.

Former state Republican Chairman David Oman has been in conversation with at least three people whose names, he said, aren’t being bandied about in the speculation about who will run.

“There are good people across the state who are seriously thinking about this, each of whom who would be a true public servant. People who have not necessarily had a career in public life,” Oman said. “I am heartened by that kind of interest.”

Whoever wants to run, Oman added, they need to come forward. Soon.

“The next two to three weeks are crucial,” Oman said. “If people are going to get into a campaign, they’ve got to make that personal decision, get a team together, go around and introduce themselves and then start going to the county fairs and parades and all the events we have in Iowa through a colorful summer. You don’t do that overnight.”

Whoever runs, will have the support of the party, according to Oman and Kearney.

“Republicans have shaken off the losses of last November,” Oman said. “They see a country that needs change. They’re eager to see some people jump and get the campaign underway.”

Kearney believes Republicans understand the nation is at a point that “conservatives of all ilk have to focus on the things they agree upon and quit looking for things to divide them. Come together on the things we all agree on and we’ll debate the rest of it at some point.”

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