116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
OTTUMWA — Kelley Koch loves Iowa’s direction, for which she credits Gov. Kim Reynolds and her fellow Republicans who are pulling all the levers in state government.
“We are living in a snow globe. We are enjoying what a conservative government feels like: low crime, low taxes, safe schools,” Koch, who is chair of the Dallas County Republicans, said recently at a campaign event featuring Reynolds and other Iowa Republican candidates.
Koch is far from alone.
Reynolds has a commanding lead in polling on Iowa’s 2022 gubernatorial campaign. In the most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, Reynolds leads Deidre DeJear, the Democratic candidate and small business owner from Des Moines, by 17 percentage points. Rick Stewart, the Libertarian Party candidate for Iowa governor, polled at 4 percent.
The themes of Reynolds’ campaign have been consistent: She has touted Iowa’s fiscal health, three rounds of tax cuts enacted over the past five years, a COVID-19 pandemic response that reopened schools and businesses earlier than many other states and her pledged support for law enforcement.
Reynolds frequently indicates that, with a state budget surplus of nearly $2 billion, she plans more state tax reductions. And she often talks about giving parents more authority in their children’s education, including her proposal for a program that would shift taxpayer funding for public schools to private school tuition assistance.
Reynolds’ campaign did not accommodate multiple requests from The Gazette for an interview for this article. Her comments in this story are compiled from various public speaking events and her debate with DeJear on Iowa PBS this past Monday.
“We are pro-parent, we are pro-family, we are pro-taxpayer and we are pro-freedom,” Reynolds said during the Iowa PBS debate. “I am proud of what we have been able to do over the last four years.”
Town of residence: Des Moines
Occupation: Governor of Iowa, former state legislator and county treasurer
Political experience: Reynolds was Clarke County Treasurer for four terms before being elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008. In 2010, she was Terry Branstad’s running mate in Iowa’s gubernatorial campaign and upon Branstad’s election became lieutenant governor. In 2017, Reynolds became governor when Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Reynolds won a full four-year term in 2018, beating Democrat Fred Hubbell by just less than 3 percentage points.
Campaign website: reynoldsgregg.com
If one were to attend a random campaign event at which Reynolds speaks, one might assume she is running against not DeJear but Democratic President Joe Biden.
Perhaps emboldened by her large lead in the polls, it was only recently that Reynolds began addressing DeJear by name in public remarks. In fact, during her remarks at a state Republican Party fundraiser in early August, Reynolds did not even mention that she was up for re-election.
When she targets Biden, Reynolds typically talks primarily about inflation, crime and immigration.
“When you’re watching the news and you see what’s happening, you have to wonder: Has the rest of the country lost its mind? Aren’t you glad you live in Iowa,” Reynolds said earlier this month at her annual Harvest Festival fall fundraiser at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The message was a near carbon copy of the message produced in her first campaign ad of the cycle.
Fundraising has been fruitful for the Republican incumbent. Reynolds has raised nearly $11 million this cycle and spent more than $8.5 million, according to state campaign finance records. DeJear has raised only just more than $2 million.
That has enabled Reynolds to take her case to the airwaves. Just in the most recent state fundraising report period — from mid-July to mid-October — Reynolds’ campaign spent more than $3.8 million on advertising, according to state records.
Reynolds also was able to take her message to the national airwaves — for free — when she was selected by the national Republican Party to deliver its response to Biden’s State of the Union address.
During her remarks from Des Moines, with the Iowa Capitol in the background, Reynolds blamed Biden for inflation, crime and Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, and leaned heavily into pro-law enforcement, tough-on-crime rhetoric.
“It seems like everything is backwards,” Reynolds said. “The American people are left to feel like they’re the enemy.”
Reynolds is embroiled in one of the top issues of the 2022 election: abortion access. After rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and Iowa Supreme Court changed the legal landscape on abortion, Reynolds asked the state courts to reinstate a blocked 2018 state law that would ban abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected.
While public polling for decades has showed that a majority of Americans favor legal abortion in most cases, Reynolds, like other Republicans nationwide, has attempted to portray Democrats’ position on abortion as extreme. During the Iowa PBS debate, she claimed DeJear wants abortions up until birth, or late-term abortions. That is not a position DeJear has claimed — DeJear said she supports the legal framework that existed for decades before the recent Supreme Court decisions. And so-called late-term abortions are exceptionally rare — just 1 percent of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation — and typically involve exceptional circumstances like a threat to the mother’s health, according to medical experts.
Reynolds also governed through unprecedented times over the past four years. On her watch, Iowans experienced historic flooding in southwestern Iowa, the global pandemic, social unrest and a derecho that tore through the state, devastating Cedar Rapids especially.
Iowans were starkly divided on Reynolds’ direction of the state’s pandemic response. While she, like most other governors, ordered the closure of schools, businesses, churches and other mass gatherings early in pandemic, in March and April of 2020, Reynolds also moved faster than many other governors to reopen all those things. Many Iowans wholeheartedly supported those moves to reopen; but many levied heavy criticism.
Over the full course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa has fared slightly better than average in deaths from the infection, with the 27th-highest deaths per capita among states, according to federal data.
One particular point of pride that Reynolds expresses frequently on the campaign trail is her claim that Iowa was the first state to reopen its schools.
“I’m really proud of what we have been able to do together (during the pandemic). And the state is in a better place because of it,” Reynolds said during the Iowa PBS debate. “We were able to come out of it, we were recognized as the fastest recovery in the country (by the consulting firm KPMG). And that had to do with the fact that we trusted Iowans to do the right thing and they did. We rejected lockdowns and we kept our businesses open and our kids in school.”
Early voting is underway in Iowa. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Comments: (515) 355-1300, firstname.lastname@example.org