The Scott County GOP held its first annual Ronald Reagan dinner in Bettendorf last night. More than 300 people were in attendance for the inaugural event, which featured former New York governor George Pataki and four Republican gubernatorial hopefuls who were looking for support in advance of next June’s gubernatorial primary.
Christian Fong, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts, and Bob Vander Plaats were all in attendance. Jerry Behn was unable to attend because he is busy with the harvest. Behn farms in rural Boone County, and former Governor Terry Branstad had a scheduling conflict. Branstad had already committed to headline a fundraiser for State Senator Larry Noble before he received his invitation to the Scott County event. Sen. Noble was part of Branstad’s Iowa State Patrol security detail during his administration, and the two remain good friends.
With no gubernatorial candidate having a geographical advantage in Scott County or the other river counties on the eastern side of the state, it is likely that the Republican primary could be determined by who is able to garner the most support in those counties. In TheIowaRepublican.com poll, the only candidate who was able to beat Governor Culver in a head-to-head matchup statewide was the candidate who was able to beat him in eastern Iowa.
The one gubernatorial candidate who stood out above the rest last night was State Representative Chris Rants. While the other three gubernatorial candidates delivered remarks similar to those they have shared at other events across the state, Rants adapted his remarks to talk about what Governor Culver’s fiscal mismanagement will cost the local community.
Rants began his remarks by sharing the story about Lt. Governor Patty Judge coming to Sergeant Bluff, a town that Rants represents, to give them an I-Jobs grant to refurbish the city hall. Rants then told the audience, “What Patty Judge giveth, Chet Culver taketh away.” Rants then told the crowd that Culver’s fiscal mismanagement will force the Sergeant Bluff school district to increase property taxes by over $400,000.
Rants then asked if anyone in the room knew what Governor Culver’s budget cuts were going to cost the property tax payers in the Davenport School district. Rants informed them that the cost will be $7.6 million. He also drove home the point that, while Sergeant Bluff received $250,000 I-Jobs grant to remodel their city hall, the city of Davenport has not received any I-Jobs money for its big sewer project. Rants’ ability to talk about local issues played well with the audience. Of all the candidate speeches, Rants was the one candidate who grabbed everyone’s attention.
Both Rants and Vander Plaats also took some not so subtle shots at former governor Terry Branstad’s absence. Rants said, “I want to be your next governor. I can’t imagine wanting to be your governor and not being here tonight.” Rants then talked about the importance of winning Scott County if Republicans want to win statewide elections.
Bob Vander Plaats began his speech by acknowledging what he calls “The Faithful Four.” Vander Plaats explained that the faithful four are the four candidates who have traveled to countless meetings like this. The “Faithful Four” includes Christian Fong, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts, and Vander Plaats himself.
The comradery that seems to be developing between these four candidates seems to have extended beyond just attending the same event. Before the event began, Bob Vander Plaats approached Christian Fong and said, “I see you have had the same idea I had.” Vander Plaats was referring to Fong’s new hair cut. Vander Plaats also admitted to getting one, too. After the event, Rod Roberts mentioned Vander Plaats’ “Faithful Four” comment and said that he will offer to buy Vander Plaats a root beer.
The main attraction at the event was former New York Governor George Pataki. Pataki didn’t disappoint. While Pataki was very funny at times, he viciously attacked President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Governor Pataki said, “Democrats are wrong on healthcare, wrong on the economy, and wrong on foreign policy.”
The former New York governor ended his speech by focusing on foreign policy. “It’s not America’s strength that causes problems in the world, it’s America’s weakness. I understand the consequences of America being weak. I was in New York on September 11th,” Pataki added.
He also called out President Obama for being weak on terrorism. Pataki said, “Mr. President, don’t use your Justice Department to investigate our CIA agents. Use them to investigate Islamic terrorists.”
Pataki concluded his remarks by saying, “It’s not just about our party, it’s about our country, and it’s about our future.”
The Scott County Republican Ronald Reagan Dinner symbolizes a new direction the Scott County GOP has taken in terms of its focus on major donor fundraising. Last night’s event was as nice, or nicer, than many of the statewide fundraisers put on by the Republican Party of Iowa. The widely successful event will most likely mean larger crowds and better known speakers for future events.
Scott County GOP finance chairman Brian Kennedy and county chairwoman Judy Davidson should be commended for their vision and hard work in putting together an event of this magnitude.
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