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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — In a maneuver rarely seen in Iowa politics, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday endorsed the opponent of a sitting state legislator and fellow Republican.
On the first day Iowans can vote in the June 7 primary elections, Reynolds endorsed Barb Kniff McCulla, a Republican who is running for the Iowa House in the new 37th District, which includes portions of Mahaska, Marion and Jasper counties.
Reynolds endorsed McCulla even though Iowa Rep. Jon Thorup, a state trooper from Knoxville who is serving his second term in the House, also is running in the district.
Thorup last month publicly stated his opposition to Reynolds’ proposed legislation that would create taxpayer-funded scholarships for private school tuition assistance.
“This election gives us an incredible opportunity to elect a strong, conservative leader like Barb Kniff McCulla to the Iowa state legislature,” Reynolds said in a news release issued by her campaign.
“Barb knows how to grow a business, create jobs, and will help our rural communities thrive. I am proud to endorse her and encourage Iowans in the district to get out and vote for her in the Republican primary on June 7.”
It is the first time in recent memory that an Iowa governor has publicly endorsed an opponent to a sitting legislator from the governor’s same political party.
An informal survey of a half-dozen current and former statehouse journalists with, collectively, decades of experience covering the Iowa Capitol revealed no examples similar to Reynolds’ endorsement of Thorup’s opponent.
Reynolds earlier this month was asked if she planned to put any political pressure on House Republicans who are opposed to her private school tuition assistance bill.
“I’m going to, of course, look for candidates that support some of the priorities that I do, and I don’t think that that’s unreasonable,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds’ proposal for taxpayer-funded private school tuition assistance has been met with resistance in the Republican-majority Iowa House for a second consecutive year. She and Senate Republicans have delayed the end of the current legislative session in hopes that they can negotiate with House Republicans and eventually pass the bill before finishing their work for the year.
The Republican-majority Senate passed the proposal in late March, with only one Republican, Sen. Annette Sweeney, of Alden, voting against it.
But the bill, Senate File 2369, has not been considered in the House, because not enough of the 60 Republicans there support its passage. Myriad sources have said as many as roughly 15 House Republicans are opposed to the bill.
All statehouse Democrats have voted against or expressed opposition to the proposal.
Thorup is among roughly a handful of House Republicans who have publicly expressed their opposition to the bill. In April, Thorup told The Gazette he would not vote for it because of uncertainty in Iowa and around the world, and the new state law that will significantly reduce state income taxes, and thus also significantly reduce state revenue in future years.
“(Former Iowa Republican Gov.) Bob Ray is a hero of mine and I ask myself, ‘What would his advice be?’ I think he’d say, ‘Jon, be conservative. We are in a storm. Don’t make any more big decisions until the storm is over,’” Thorup said in a statement in April.
“The conservative choice here is to wait out the storm. Let’s re-evaluate in a few years.”
Reynolds on Wednesday also endorsed another Republican candidate in a competitive Republican primary, but in a race without a Republican incumbent.
Reynolds endorsed Heather Hora, a Republican from Washington, Iowa, who is running in House District 92 against fellow Republican Jaron Rosien, also of Washington.
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