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DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was the perfect choice to tell Iowa’s story to the nation because she can talk about tax cuts and moving faster than most to reopen businesses and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Or she was the wrong choice because she has overseen a national, political agenda that is unfriendly to Iowans.
It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Reynolds was to give the Republican Party’s response to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Shortly after Biden was to finish his remarks to a joint session of Congress, Reynolds was to offer the Republican perspective in a message broadcast from Des Moines.
Reynolds is the second Iowa Republican to be chosen for the annual response by the party that is out of power in the White House. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst delivered the response to President Barack Obama’s address in 2015.
“Gov. Kim Reynolds is the perfect choice for the Republican response to (Tuesday) night’s State of the Union address, and her record of success in Iowa is the ideal contrast to life in Joe Biden’s America,” Ernst said Tuesday during remarks on the U.S. Senate floor.
Democrats were not as keen to the idea of Reynolds representing Iowa on the national stage.
Jennifer Konfrst, the Democrats’ leader in the Iowa House, said Reynolds was chosen for Tuesday night’s address because she has enacted policies that follow the wishes of national leaders in the Republican Party.
“It’s not because she’s done amazing things for the state of Iowa. It’s because she’s done amazing things for the Republican Party. And that’s who she’s answering to, and that’s who she leads for,” Konfrst said Tuesday during a news conference.
Reynolds was likely during Tuesday night’s response to talk about the $1.9 billion in state income tax cuts that she signed into law earlier Tuesday, and how she worked during the pandemic to ensure that Iowa schools and businesses were among the first to reopen and return to pre-pandemic operations.
“She has led with Iowa common sense and compassion since Day 1,” Ernst said of Reynolds.
Democrats have been critical of Reynolds’ management of the state’s pandemic response. On Tuesday, Zach Wahls, the Democrats’ leader in the Iowa Senate, asserted that Reynolds’ pandemic response initially followed public health advice, but eventually turned political.
“Rather than following the science and trying to keep things open (and) safe, she unfortunately decided to play politics with the pandemic. And her response failed,” Wahls said.
Just more than 9,000 Iowans have died of COVID-19, according to federal data. Over the course of the pandemic, Iowa’s rate of COVID-19 related deaths per capita is the nation’s 21st-lowest.
Earlier this week, Republican Party state chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he believes that it is a good thing that, regardless of political affiliation, that Iowa’s governor has been chosen for remarks that will be seen by millions across the country.
“Doggone it, this is good for Iowa … This puts our state of a little over 3 million, this puts us on the map,” Kaufmann said.
Konfrst, again, had a different take.
“Certainly, the important work that’s being done in this state should have a national stage,” she said. “I just don’t trust that tonight the national stage will be used to honestly and accurately reflect what’s happening in this state, and will instead be used for partisan political gain.”
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