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Mike Pence group to run ads in Iowa against school trans policies

Mike Pence group to run ads in Iowa against school trans policies
Former Vice President Mike Pence walks Aug. 19, 2022, through the Varied Industries Building during a visit to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Pence is stepping up his outreach in Iowa ahead of a possible 2024 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES — Former Vice President Mike Pence is stepping up his outreach in Iowa ahead of a possible 2024 presidential campaign by rallying conservatives against transgender-affirming policies in schools, like one adopted last year in the Linn-Mar Community School District.

The effort by Advancing American Freedom, a group formed by Pence in 2021 and financed by his supporters, will include digital ads, rallies, canvassing and perhaps radio and television spots. It comes as a federal court in Minnesota is scheduled next week to hear a case brought by a group representing parents of students in the Linn-Mar district opposing the policy — one that’s similar to policies in place in other districts as well and based on guidance from the state Education Department.

“The strength of our nation is tied to the strength of our families, and we cannot stand idly by as the radical left attempts to indoctrinate our children behind parents’ backs,” Pence said in a statement. “Advancing American Freedom will not rest until parental rights are restored in Iowa and across the nation."

The Linn-Mar board last year adopted a policy allowing students to request a gender support plan to begin socially transitioning at school and without the permission of their parents. The group representing the parents is suing to overturn the policy.

A judge last fall denied a motion for an injunction sought by the group against the district, saying it would block students from any protection from harassment and bullying on the basis of gender identity and would prevent the school from disciplining such harassment and bullying under federal and state law, as it is required to do.

The planned budget for the outreach effort is more than $1 million, and the push is expected to last several months, said a Pence aide.

The moves by the outside group — separate from any potential Pence candidacy — comes as school policy, notably involving gender identification and sexual orientation, has become an early focus of 2024 Republican presidential prospects.

The issue is particularly relevant in Iowa, given both the court case and the Republican-controlled Legislature advancing legislation barring schools from supporting a student’s social change in gender identity.

Pence's outreach comes before a trip to the early-voting state to headline an event next Wednesday in Cedar Rapids. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, is planning to campaign across Iowa after announcing her 2024 campaign, while South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson are expected to visit Iowa later in the month.

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