Would-be Iowa 1st District GOP candidate branded ‘compromiser,' ‘opportunist'

Blum: “I would be in this race even if it wasn't an open seat"

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The gloves are coming off in what is likely to become a three-way race for the GOP nomination in Iowa’s 1st District.

While Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen is exploring the race succeed Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, Dubuque businessman Rod Blum is launching pre-emptive strikes against the Hiawatha Republican,

“He’s an opportunist,” Blum said, claiming Paulsen would not be thinking about running if it wasn’t an open-seat race.

Braley is not seeking re-election because he’s running for the U.S. Senate Seat held by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin who will retire at the end of his current term.

“I would be in this race even if it wasn’t an open seat, regardless of whether Bruce Braley was running or not,” said Blum, who won 46 percent of the vote in the 2012 GOP primary. “I believe I could beat him.”

Blum’s comments are “regrettable coming from a Republican,” Paulsen said Tuesday after speaking to about 50 people at the Linn County Republican Central Committee meeting.

“I was considering running when it wasn’t an open seat,” said Paulsen, whose report on the Legislature enacting the largest tax cut in Iowa history was well-received by the Republican activists.

A spokesman for Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, demurred when asked about the impact if Paulsen gets into the race.

Blum, however, is taking a hard line against Paulsen, calling the six-term state representative “another career politician.” He’s no different than Braley, who is serving his fourth term, or Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque, the favorite to win the 1st District Democratic nomination, who has served 24 years in the Iowa Legislature, Blum said.

Paulsen is a “career politician and a lawyer who hasn’t created a single job,” Blum said. “If a lawyer and a career politician is the answer …”

Paulsen, who served 10 years in the Air Force before returning to Cedar Rapids to work in a local factory while attending law school, said he’s proud of his service in the military and the Legislature.

“I’m proud of my service to the country and to Iowa and I hope to continue to serve,” said Paulsen, now corporate counsel for CRST, a Cedar Rapids-based trucking firm.

His experience as minority leader before Republicans won control of the Iowa House and as speaker since 2011, Paulsen continued, has helped him win passage of Republican priorities.

“Under my leadership,” he aid, “House Republicans stood up and fought for what they believed in and I think we’ve had profound success.”

In addition to that largest tax cut in state history, which included relief for both property and income taxpayers, House Republicans insisted on a balanced budget that did not use one-time revenues to fund ongoing expenses.

“Over the past three years, House Republicans have done an outstanding job of taking the Legislature from asking ‘How much do I have?’ and then spending that to asking, ‘How much do I need to operate government?’ and building a budget based on that,” Paulsen said.

But those accomplishments have required Paulsen to be a “compromiser,” Blum charged.

“He wears it like a badge of honor,” he said. “That’s what we have in Congress now. How’s that working for us?”

Blum describes himself as willing to compromise “if it moves the ball toward our goal line.”

Paulsen doesn’t deny there was compromise in winning approval of “significant, significant” tax relief, in passing an education reform plan to improve student achievement, hold students and teachers accountable and expand parental choice, especially for those who home school, and expanding health care access for low-income Iowans without accepting what he referred to as the ObamaCare version of Medicaid expansion.

“There were some pretty significant things we got done this year,” he said.

Paulsen plans to decide this summer whether to enter the race. Republicans will choose a candidate in the June 2014 primary. If no candidate gets 35 percent of the vote, the nomination will be determined by a convention.

Comments: (319 398-8375; james.lynch@sourcemedia.net

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