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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Expressing frustration and “overwhelming disappointment” with the process, Ras Smith on Wednesday announced he is ending his campaign for governor of Iowa.
Smith, a Democratic state legislator from Waterloo, in June of 2021 became the first person to announce his bid to become the party’s nominee to face Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds in this fall’s general election.
In his official campaign statement announcing the suspension of his campaign, Smith cited a “drastic disconnect between the current political system and the people.”
Smith elaborated on that sentiment in an interview later Wednesday.
“I think frustration (with the process) may be like a symptom of the overwhelming disappointment,” Smith said.
Smith expressed frustration with the need to raise, at bare minimum, tens of thousands of dollars to run a statewide campaign, and how that requires a candidate to have access to donors who can contribute large sums of money to a campaign. Smith said that creates a system where a small number of donors have play an outsized role in determining which statewide candidates are given an opportunity to be competitive in a campaign.
“Folks do not want the donor class making all the decisions as to who’s viable, who’s not, what race is worth investing in,” Smith said. “For me, what we’ve seen are things you can only see from the ground (in a campaign).”
Smith said the process especially frustrated him as a Democrat, since, he said, the party proclaims to have policies that support the working class and desires to produce working-class candidates for office.
“The people have to have a say, and it can’t be pay-to-play, otherwise we’ll find ourselves in circumstances where we’re not connecting with people,” he said. “It excludes so many people from not only the table, but from the story. … We can’t just have a few decision-makers at the table deciding who’s winnable and who’s not. It leaves no space at the table for new people or new ideas.”
Smith’s exit leaves Deidre DeJear, a Des Moines businessperson and former candidate for Iowa secretary of state, as the lone Democratic candidate with statewide name recognition. Other candidates include Kim West, an attorney and Democrat from Des Moines, and Robert Bond, an independent from Des Moines.
“While working with (Smith) over the past few years, I have seen his incredible commitment to public service & creating a better Iowa for all. Following in the footsteps of his parents, Ras has dedicated his life to public service and through his campaign he invited Iowans in and lifted up the voices of so many in our state,” DeJear said Wednesday in a series of social media posts. “As Ras heads back to the legislature next week, I am looking forward to the great work I know he will continue to do to move our state forward.”
Reynolds, the state’s first female governor, was promoted to the post in 2017 and won a full term in 2018 by just less than 3 percentage points. National political forecasters consider the race to start in her favor.
Smith said he will turn his immediate focus to the 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature, which begins Monday. He said he will decide his political future at a later date.
Through redistricting, Smith was drawn into the same statehouse district as fellow Democratic Iowa Rep. Timi Brown-Powers.
“The next thing is cooking dinner for my family tonight. I’ve got quite a bit of husband, dad and dad dog duty to catch up on,” Smith said. “I’ll spend some time with my family, have those conversations and figure out what’s next.”
Chris Hall, a Democratic state legislator from Sioux City, has been rumored to be considering a run for governor. When reached Wednesday, Hall praised Smith but declined to comment on his own political plans.
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