116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds hit on consistent, familiar themes Tuesday while on a campaign bus tour making her closing pitch to voters a week out from the Nov. 8 election.
She touted Iowa’s fiscal health; her pledge to support law enforcement; three rounds of tax cuts enacted over the past five years; and giving parents more authority in their children’s education.
The latter, she said, includes enacting a ban on transgender girls playing high school girls sports, and signing legislation prohibiting mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates in schools.
Reynolds also touted signing a bill that targets the teaching of critical race theory. The law bans public schools and government agencies from promoting "divisive concepts" in their teaching or training, including that the United States and Iowa are systemically racist or sexist. Teachers and historians have said the law will stifle conversations about the country’s bitter legacy of slavery, segregation and racial exclusion.
“When the rest of world shut down, we kept Iowa open and our kids in the classroom,” Reynolds said to cheers from the crowd.
A pandemic decision, she argued, was validated in the latest findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the "nation's report card," which tested thousands of fourth and eighth-graders across the country.
Nationally, fourth and eighth grade reading and math scores declined, some to historic lows, since 2019. Iowa fared better than most states with no “significant difference” in fourth-grade math, fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade reading. Eighth-grade math scores declined in Iowa, as they did in 49 states.
Reynolds faces Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear, a small-business owner from Des Moines.
But listening to her speak Tuesday to a crowd of about 150 supporters in Cedar Rapids, one would have thought Reynolds was running against Democratic President Joe Biden.
Reynolds never once mentioned DeJear, instead setting her focus on Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom she blamed for “reckless spending” driving high inflation, rising crime and the reversal of former President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies she said now has caused a migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’ve seen families struggling to put food on the table and gas in the car, massive crime increasing in states outside of Iowa,” Reynolds said. “Well, aren’t you glad you live in the freedom loving state of Iowa?”
At roughly the same time Tuesday, DeJear cast an early ballot in the general election at the Polk County elections office in downtown Des Moines. After voting, DeJear told reporters she is committed to a campaign that represents all Iowans.
“While I cast my ballot for myself, I was voting for the father who wants to do more for his family. I was voting for the Iowa worker wants to be able to have their voice heard in the workforce,” DeJear said. “I was voting for the mama who wants to be able to send her daughter off to college and not have to worry about the fact that she has less reproductive rights than when she went to college.
“We’re fighting for Iowans right now. We’re fighting for freedom. And so that vote was for me; but that vote was for all of us.”
DeJear also responded to a question about Reynolds’ final campaign ad, in which Reynolds says, “Here in Iowa, we still know right from wrong, boys from girls, and liberty from tyranny” — a message she echoed during her campaign stop in Cedar Rapids.
The “boys and girls” part of that quote is a reference to a new state law that prohibits transgender girls from competing in girls sports at the youth and high school levels in Iowa. Reynolds has said the law “saved girls sports,” even though there have been no examples in Iowa — and very few nationally — of transgender girls dominating youth or high school girls athletics.
DeJear, who called the ad “unfortunate,” said that rather than Reynolds’ focusing on how to overcome challenges facing the state, “the last opportunity she gets, she’s pitting communities against one another when she really doesn’t have to.”
Reynolds was joined on her bus tour by fellow Iowa Republican candidates running for statewide and federal office, including U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson of Marion, state attorney general candidate Brenna Bird, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and state Sen. Roby Smith of Davenport, who is running for state treasurer.
Karla Underwood, 66, of Cedar Rapids, said she’s pleased with Reynolds leadership “with keeping taxes down” and is most concerned about persistent inflation and trillions of dollars in “unnecessary” new federal spending that aims to boost clean energy, reduce health care cost and increase revenues with new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement on wealthy individuals and entities.
Tom Thompson, a 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran and retiree from Marion, echoed Underwood. Thompson said he’s concerned about his retirement, paying the bills and high gas prices.
Geralyn Jones, of Marion, brought her 4- and 7-year-old children with her to Reynolds’ campaign stop. Jones ran for the Linn-Mar Community School Board last year on an anti-mask campaign, but lost.
“I love that she was putting parents and families first when it comes to school and education,“ she said of Reynolds.
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Erin Murphy of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed.