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July 8th, 2010

Reynolds Says She’s Open to Civil Unions – Campaign Says She’s Not

From the moment that Terry Branstad selected Kim Reynolds to be his running mate, political commentators and members of the media have made comparisons between Reynolds and Sarah Palin.  The comparisons should have been expected.  Both are brunettes, both are attractive, and both have an authentic way with people that aides them on the campaign trail.

Unfortunately, Reynolds has another similarity to Palin in that she seemed unprepared during an interview with a reporter recently.  At a recent campaign stop in Carroll, Reynolds sat down for an interview with Douglas Burns, and the subject matter of the interview caught her off guard.

Burns is a reporter/columnist for Carroll Daily Times Herald and occasionally contributes articles to Des Moines City View and the Iowa Independent, a liberal online news website that is funded in part by Tim Gill, a homosexual rights advocate.  Burns has also written a book called, King Kong Crazy, which criticizes Iowa Congressman Steve King for his, “outrageous comments and approach to public service.”

Burns first asked Reynolds, who is pro-life, what the punishment should be for doctors or women who chose to have an abortion should abortions become illegal. Reynolds said, “Well, I think it would be equivalent to murder.”  She then indicated that she would want to research that before commenting any further.

Burns followed up by asking whether a doctor or a woman who has chosen to have an abortion should be punished just like someone who stabbed another person outside of Pizza Hut.  Reynolds said no, but then added , “I think that we would take a look and make sure that the punishment met the crime.  It would depend on the level of crime that was served. I would want to be sure to take a look at that before I gave an off-handed comment to that issue.”

It was obvious that Burns’ line of questioning caught Reynolds off guard, and his relentless questioning of her on the matter made it clear that he was trying to make her uncomfortable in hopes that she would make a mistake.  While Reynolds’ answers to his questions on abortion were not stellar, she managed to navigate his questions on the subject.  It was when he asked her about gay marriage that she got in some trouble.

Reynolds clearly stated that she believes that marriage in Iowa should be between one man and one woman.  She also said that Iowans should be allowed to weigh in on that matter.  Yet, when Burns pressed her, Reynolds indicated that she would be open to “other alternatives like civil unions.”

When asked for further comment about Reynolds’ statement, the Branstad campaign told, “Sen. Reynolds’ position on civil unions mirrors that of Gov. Branstad’s. They do not favor state-sanctioned civil unions, but would not have the government step in to prevent private companies and entities from extending same-sex benefits if they so choose.”

The clarification offered by the Branstad campaign does little to clean up the situation.  The question that Reynolds was asked had nothing to do with private companies that provide benefits to same sex couples. The question that she was asked was about the impact that gay marriages have had on Iowa, and her position on the matter.  She is the one who brought up the term “civil unions.”

When reminded the Branstad campaign about Reynolds’ exact statement, a spokesman responded by saying, “Kim used the reporter’s phrase to describe what she was referring to, which is the ability of private entities to offer partnership benefits.  She does not support state-sanctioned civil unions.”

Reynolds’ answer and the Branstad campaign’s attempt to clarify the matter raise a number of questions about their understanding of the marriage issue in Iowa and the campaign’s ability to properly prepare Reynolds for the number of questions that she will face while on the campaign trail.

This is the second time since the June 8th primary that the Branstad campaign has stubbed its toe on social issues.  The first came when Planned Parenthood endorsed Governor Culver and the Branstad campaign failed to offer any comment to KCCI, central Iowa’s highest rated TV news station.

The situation with civil unions is a concern because the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien warned that the civil unions were not a viable alternative to gay marriages in the Court’s opinion.  So, not only did Reynolds say that she was open to something that most Iowa Republicans probably oppose, but it’s not even something that is a possibility in the current judicial climate.

While the Branstad campaign successfully navigated the Republican primary, they must realize that, just because they won, doesn’t mean that they don’t have to address issues that the Republican base is the most passionate about.

The Branstad campaign made a wise move in using Reynolds to reach out to Vander Plaats supporters, but they obviously didn’t prepare her to deal with the issues that those people care the most about.  If they had, she wouldn’t have looked and sounded so unprepared.

While the primary is over and Branstad wants to continue to focus on fiscal issues, he can’t ignore issues like abortion and gay marriage.   He and Reynolds need to continue to show the Republican base that he will be a strong advocate on those issues.  Failure to do so will only fuel those who want Bob Vander Plaats to run as an independent, which is the one sure fire way for Culver to be reelected this fall.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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