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A retiring Republican state lawmaker said he expects some criticism from within his party for endorsing an incumbent Democrat’s re-election over that of a fellow GOP legislator.
“There might be some blowback, but I’m prepared for that,” state Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, told The Gazette.
Iowa Sen. Kevin Kinney, a Democrat from Oxford, on Monday announced Klein’s endorsement of his re-election campaign for Senate District 46, which includes rural Johnson County as well as Iowa and Washington counties.
Because of redistricting, Kinney faces fellow Sen. Dawn Driscoll, a Republican from Williamsburg.
Klein currently represents House District 78, which includes Washington County, part of Kinney’s new district. He has been in the Iowa Legislature since 2011. He announced in January that he will not seek re-election in the new House District 92.
Kinney has been in the Legislature since 2015 and currently represents Senate District 39.
Klein, in a statement and an interview with The Gazette, said he endorsed Kinney because of his willingness to work across the aisle with Republicans. Klein, a farmer, mentioned working together with Kinney on agriculture and public safety bills. Klein has served as chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. Kinney, a former Johnson County sheriff’s deputy who owns and operates his family’s century farm, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture and judiciary committees.
“Sen. Kinney does not care about partisan politics, and is committed to doing what is best for his constituents,” Klein said in a statement. “I’ve worked with Kevin to bring down costs for farmers, keep Iowans safe in their homes and communities, and enhance justice for crime victims. I hope Republicans join me in voting for Sen. Kevin Kinney in this election.”
Klein said his endorsement is in no way a reflection of his views of Driscoll or Republican leadership in the Legislature. Klein is a former member of the Iowa Republican Party’s state central committee.
“Somebody may view it that way, but that’s not what I am doing,“ Klein said. ”The message I am trying to convey, though, is we elect good people to do the job,“ calling Kinney ”one of the last Democrats that many of us (Republican lawmakers) could work with.“
Klein said the Legislature is in need of a “diversity of thought,” and lawmakers on both sides willing to compromise and not stake out “extreme” positions.
“He’s an effective legislator in Des Moines, regardless of the party he belongs to, and those are the kind of folks we need involved in government,” he said. “We need a diversity of people in elected position to be effective representatives for our districts.”
Klein said he did not “have anything to say one way or the other” about Driscoll, who declined to comment on the endorsement.
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, in a statement, pushed back on the assertion that Kinney represents a moderate Democratic voice within the Iowa Legislature.
“Kevin Kinney acts one way at home, but when he goes to Des Moines he votes in lock step with the liberal progressives of his party,” Kaufmann said. "As a sixth-generation farmer, mother and community leader, Sen. Dawn Driscoll has always had her constituents' backs.“
Klein, too, said his endorsement was in no way a reaction to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of GOP primary candidates who ousted three sitting Iowa House Republicans in the June 7 primary.
Several key issues were at play in those races, according to the campaign materials that advocacy groups produced: taxpayer funding for private school tuition, a ban on transgender girls in girls athletics, and limits on requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines.
Klein said he decided to endorse Kinney “a while ago,” and that he did not oppose the governor’s private school voucher proposal.
Asked what sway he thinks Klein’s endorsement will have with voters, Kinney said: “I think it’s going to assure them that I am working across party lines and have been willing to work with the Republicans.”
Kinney, though, said he was somewhat surprised by the endorsement.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “I think people on both sides of the aisle want to see their representatives working together. It’s just showing we still can work together, and do.”
Gazette Des Moines Bureau Chief Erin Murphy contributed to this report.
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