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Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand says he is praying for guidance while “trying to keep an open mind” about the 2022 gubernatorial race.
He hasn’t set a deadline for deciding whether to seek reelection as auditor or challenge Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds next year, although he’s suggested he’ll make a decision by the traditional Labor Day campaign kickoff.
While trying to make up his mind, the first-term state auditor and former assistant state attorney general has been aggressively criticizing Reynolds, who became governor after former Gov. Terry Branstad’s resignation in May 2017 and was elected to a full term the following year.
“A lot of this, to be honest, really doesn't have to do with partisanship,” Sand recently told the 1st District Democratic Central Committee. “It has to do with accountability and insiders versus outsiders.”
Sand, 38, recently ruled out running for the U.S. Senate regardless of whether Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley seeks reelection. As he weighs the gubernatorial race, he’s considering his family — he and his wife, Christine, have two young children — “and also just sort of my life and what role it is I might be here to play in the world.”
And he is “praying more about this decision than I typically do for things in my own life.”
“I do a lot of prayers of gratitude, but not typically things for helping me figure out my life,” he said before launching into a disapproving critique of Reynolds and the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature, especially their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the Reynolds administration to distribute federal COVID-19 relief funds, but not use the $1.2 billion he said the state already has in the bank to help Iowans and small businesses “I think is morally irresponsible.”
“If you want to be coldblooded about it, it's fiscally irresponsible (because) that is our tax base,” he said about the approximately 750 Iowa restaurants that have closed for pandemic-related reasons. “The people who run those small businesses, they're Iowans, but they're also taxpayers, and they've created a few jobs in their local communities. They would be paying taxes for the next five, 10, 15, 20, 25 years. But instead of getting a small investment now, in a time of incredible, immense need that came about through no fault of their own, they got nothing.
“We can't grow our economy. We're letting small businesses die as we sit on the money that they’ve paid in,” he said.
Getting help from the Reynolds administration, he asserted, is “just about whether or not you have the right connections, instead of whether or not you are an Iowan, who is in a position that most ordinary people would agree, is one that deserves assistance.”
The governor, however, doesn’t have unlimited authority to spend those taxpayer funds. The Legislature would have to agree, which would likely require lawmakers to have confidence the funds could be restored.
Republican Party of Iowa Communications Director Kollin Crompton said Sand seems oblivious that Reynolds’ balanced approach to the pandemic has resulted in the “fastest recovering economy in the nation.”
“She kept businesses open, got kids back in the classroom, and has shown she's one of the best governors in the country,” Crompton said. “Sand has been a vocal advocate for lockdowns and he is, again, showing how he uses his office for political gain. Instead of lecturing Iowans about how their morality doesn't match his, maybe he should take a long look in the mirror."
If he runs, Sand said, “It’s not just going to be another campaign between your standard Republican and your standard Democrat.”
“Politics needs to change,” he said. “We're in a bad place in this country. We need to find ways to get beyond political labels … beyond just party affiliations.”
President George Washington warned about the danger of political parties that the beat up each other “and forget to serve the public,” Sand said.
“I'm interested in being a public servant,” Sand said. “I belong to the party that I believe is most public focused for everyone. I want to focus on doing the right thing.”
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