NEWS

It's time for action, new Iowa GOP chair telling party

Jeff Kaufmann surpasses fundraising goal

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s go time for Iowa Republicans, according to the state party’s new chairman, Jeff Kaufmann, who seems to be taking his own advice to heart.

He’s put on more than 5,000 miles since becoming chairman in late June. Tuesday, before delivering an update to the Linn County GOP in Cedar Rapids, he had been in Iowa City, Davenport and Des Moines — in that order.

“I don’t know if I’m delivering the right message, but by golly, people are going to hear it,” Kaufmann told about 100 people at the Linn County Central Committee meeting.

Right or not, Kaufmann’s message to his fellow Republicans is to get busy, focus on the future and forget about past intraparty differences.

“It’s action time,” he said. “It’s not time for debating, it’s not time for philosophizing. It’s go time.”

The state party, Kaufmann said, is “ready to go — we’re not recovering anymore.”

As proof, he reported surpassing his goal of raising $300,000 by Sept. 1 by $15,000 “and we’re not going to let up.”

The “wind is definitely at our backs,” according to Kaufmann, who had a 10-year career in the Iowa House before leaving to get elected to the Cedar County Board of Supervisors. “It is realistic, absolutely realistic” that Iowa Republican could win all four congressional races, the governor’s race and control of the Legislature.

And he’s bullish on Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst’s chances for winning the first open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa in four decades.

“Did anyone ever dream we would be here?” he said. “I’ll have to admit I thought Bruce Braley had it wrapped up.”

Ernst is tied or leading Braley in most polls and Kaufmann believes she has the momentum.

Then he cautioned, “It’s only August” and said Republicans should “go like we’re behind.”

One area where there’s no question the GOP is behind, Kaufmann said, is in early voting.

“We have to get better at it because our candidates are at a huge disadvantage,” he said and indicated the state party will make a “historic” early voting effort this year.

Republicans need to grow the party — without “purifications tests,” Kaufmann said, alluding to his predecessor’s preference for candidates and party officials from the “liberty” wing of the GOP.

“When I set the Republican Party of Iowa table for 2014, there’s a seat for liberty folks, there’s a seat for Christian evangelicals, there’s a place for business Republicans, for moderates, independents who are wavering and, by golly, I’ll even have a seat for Democrats who have figured out Bruce Braley.”

Although he excoriated Braley during his remarks, Kaufmann also issued a statement welcoming potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to Iowa. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will headline Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry.

“I’m not being soft on her,” he said, but it was part of his effort to set a new tone for Republicans and, maybe, Iowa politics. “The office is bigger than any one person. We have got to separate the person’s opinions from a basic respect for the offices they hold. I hope Democrats do the same.

“There’s got to be that degree of civility,” he said. “I welcome her because I believe a former secretary of state and former first lady should be welcome. It’s a matter of respect for her and the office.”

He was one of very few Republicans who met Clinton at the Iowa Capitol when she visited the Democratic caucus ahead of the 2008 precinct caucuses.

“I’m a history guy,” the community college history professor added. “So I shook her hand.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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