November election a 'defining moment,' GOP Senate leader says

Whitver warns conservative effort to reshape Iowa would end under Democrats

State Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, addresses members of the Westside Conservative Club on Wednesday at a meeting in Urbandale. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
State Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, addresses members of the Westside Conservative Club on Wednesday at a meeting in Urbandale. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The top state Senate Republican told Iowa conservatives Wednesday that Gov. Kim Reynolds and the GOP-led Legislature delivered on “big ideas” and “bold action” the last two years and now it’s time for like-minded voters to reward them at the ballot box.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Republicans delivered significant tax reform, regulatory relief, flexibility for schools, abortion restrictions, labor-law changes and expanded gun rights at unprecedented levels the past two sessions.

But those conservative efforts to reshape Iowa may be fleeting if Democrats are successful in breaking the GOP grip on the Statehouse in November’s midterm election, he told members of the Westside Conservative Club.

“We can’t continue to march forward like we plan without winning the election this fall. That’s the reality of the Capitol right now. The Democrats are promising to undo everything we’ve done,” Whitver said. “Immediately, the most important thing is for us to get out on the campaign trail and sell what we’ve done.”

The Senate GOP leader said Iowans are familiar — as the leadoff state in the presidential selection process — with candidates who claim the next election is the most important in a lifetime. Sometimes that’s true but most times it’s “just hyperbole,” he said.

“But I believe that at the local level, the state level here, this is one of the most important elections we’ll see. I believe we’re at a defining moment in our state to determine what kind of state we’re going to be and where we are going to go,” Whitver said.

Both major political parties head into a weekend where Republican and Democratic delegates from around Iowa will gather for their respective state conventions in Des Moines to nominate their 2018 statewide slates for governor and lieutenant governor, approve issue platforms and rally the rank-and-file for the general-election campaign that culminates Nov. 6.


Delegates to the Republican Party of Iowa’s convention also will nominate candidate for secretary of agriculture after none of the five hopefuls garnered the required 35 percent of last week’s primary vote.

Seeking the post are current Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig of Des Moines, the top vote-getter in the June 5 primary; Ray Gaesser of Corning, past president of the Iowa and American Soybean Associations; Chad Ingels of Randalia, a state Environmental Protection Commission member; Craig Lang of Brooklyn, a former Farm Bureau and Board of Regents president; and state Sen. Dan Zumbach of Ryan.

Gaesser and Naig also attended Wednesday’s meeting and made pitches to any GOP delegates in attendance.

“I do believe the next secretary should be a lifelong, full-time farmer,” said Gaesser, who is hosting an event Friday for GOP activists at the Stine Barn in West Des Moines to build support. “I don’t want another job. I don’t want the governor’s job. I don’t want to be a senator or congressman or anything else. I want to be the best secretary of agriculture that I can be and I promise you if you elect me I will be.”

Naig touted the fact he was endorsed by previous state ag secretary Bill Northey, who left in March to join the Trump administration. Northey plans to attend a breakfast reception with Naig before Saturday’s convention, he noted.

“We’re working very hard to connect directly with delegates and earn their support, so I feel good about the momentum that we carry into Saturday,” Naig said in an interview. “We’re in a strong position but we aren’t taking anything for granted.”

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