Iowa GOP House candidate attends Libertarian rally as 'engaged Iowan'
Chris Peters not endorsing Gary Johnson for president
James Q. Lynch
Labor Day weekend can be a busy time for a political candidate, but U.S. House 2nd District GOP hopeful Chris Peters made time to attend a campaign rally for a candidate from another party.
It may seem unusual, but Peters’ attendance at a Saturday rally for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson in Des Moines was just part of being an “engaged Iowan,” according to his campaign spokesman Adam Sullivan.
After a picture of Peters at the rally was posted by a television reporter, Peters, a Coralville Republican challenging five-term Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, issued a statement making clear that he was not there to endorse Johnson.
“One of the many benefits of being an Iowan is seeing a wide range of presidential candidates, and I take full advantage of that,” Peters said.
Sullivan said that Peters has attended events for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Although Peters is “sympathetic to the Libertarian message, he has no plans to endorse Gary Johnson,” Sullivan added.
It’s not whether he will endorse Johnson that is of interest to 2nd District voters, according to Loebsack campaign spokesman Joe O’Hern. Peters “is trying to sidestep the Iowa Republican Party’s full- throttled support of (Donald) Trump.”
“Peters is running on the Republican ticket, and it’s time for him to either stand up against a campaign that attacks Gold Star military families or join his fellow Iowa Republicans in embracing Mr. Trump,” O’Hern said.
That’s the kind of “rigid partisanship” that frustrates voters, Peters responded.
“I’m an American first and foremost, not just a member of a political party,” he said. “My team and I are grateful for the passionate support of Republican leaders and the grass roots alike, but I’ve been clear that I’ll be an independent-minded leader in Congress. I won’t blindly follow the party line like our current congressman does.”
Like Johnson, Peters switched parties this year. In 2010, the Army veteran and surgeon ran for the Iowa Legislature as a Libertarian.
Also, Peters is not seeking the endorsement of the Libertarian Party of Iowa, which doesn’t have a candidate in the 24-county southeast Iowa district that includes Johnson and Scott counties.
“We have a lot of friends who are Libertarians, Democrats and independents,” Sullivan said. “A lot of those people will end up supporting us.”