Government

GOP secretary of agriculture hopefuls turn attention to delegates

Republicans will select party's nominee at June 16 convention

Republican candidates for Iowa secretary of agriculture meet for a May 23 forum in Des Moines. They are (from left) Craig Lang, Dan Zumbach, Mike Naig, Ray Gaesser and Chad Ingels. None of the five received the required 35 percent of the primary vote this week, so the party’s nominee will be picked by delegates to the Republican state convention June 16 in Des Moines. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Republican candidates for Iowa secretary of agriculture meet for a May 23 forum in Des Moines. They are (from left) Craig Lang, Dan Zumbach, Mike Naig, Ray Gaesser and Chad Ingels. None of the five received the required 35 percent of the primary vote this week, so the party’s nominee will be picked by delegates to the Republican state convention June 16 in Des Moines. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

The fact that the Republican nomination for secretary of agriculture wasn’t determined in Tuesday’s election didn’t surprise the five candidates.

“To us, it didn’t seem to be just a possibility of this going to convention, but a high probability,” Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, said Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say we were surprised even though we were working to win it outright,” said Tyler Campbell, campaign manager for Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Naig, who was appointed secretary this year when Ag Secretary Bill Northey left for a federal job, finished with 34.74 percent of the vote — 233 shy of the 35 percent required to win the nomination.

Naig was followed by Zumbach at 21.38 percent; Craig Lang of Brooklyn at 18.56 percent; Ray Gaesser of Corning at 16.21 percent; and Chad Ingels of Randalia at 8.89 percent.

Now the candidates are shifting gears to win the votes of 50 percent plus one of the 1,862 possible delegates to the Republican Party of Iowa state convention June 16 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Jacobson Center in Des Moines.

Gaesser has been planning on a convention from early on, according to his campaign consultant Brian Dumas.

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He estimates that over last three months, Gaesser has called more than 1,600 delegates “to introduce himself, make connections, answer questions. Now it’s a matter of circling back, locking people in, shoring up support.”

Lang took a similar approach because he, too, anticipated a nominating convention, said Eric Woolson, a campaign consultant to Lang. “I tell candidates to do the groundwork because if you do it and it’s not needed, it’s no loss. But if you don’t do it and it’s needed, you can’t go back and do it.”

Ingels wasn’t able to make it to all 99 counties before the primary because of farm fieldwork, so he’s reaching out to delegates on the phone and through the mail.

Ingels said he’s spent a fraction of what others did on advertising, “so I may have a better opportunity at the convention.”

In making his case, Naig is encouraging delegates to take a cue from primary voters, campaign manager Tyler Campbell said.

“We think voters sent a clear message in the primary that he’s the right candidate,” he said.

From experience, Ingels knows that delegates to the convention tend to be more conservative than the party in general, “so I have to speak to their priorities while remaining true to what I’ve been saying in the campaign.”

Dumas agreed that candidates might talk to delegates more about their positions on guns and life issues than they did during the campaign, “but for the most part, they concentrate on the work the title reflects.”

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According to party rules, all five candidates will be included in the first round of delegate voting.

If no one gets the votes of 50 percent plus one of the delegates present, there will be a second round. The lowest vote-getter in each round will be dropped until a candidates gets more than 50 percent.

The winner will face Democrat Tim Gannon, a Jasper County farmer, in the November general election.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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