No candidate has grown more over the course of the 2010 primary than State Representative Rod Roberts. During his tenure in the Iowa House, Roberts has proven himself to be a thoughtful, respected statesman who was elected by his peers to be a leader in the chamber.
Even with his role in leadership, the spotlight never shined on Roberts. It’s not that he didn’t deserve it, it’s because the mild-mannered Roberts never sought attention like some of his colleagues did. That all changed when Robert’s announced that he was retiring from the House and would run for Governor.
Like his tenure in the House, the spotlight always seems to shine on the other candidates in the gubernatorial race. Last summer it looked like the Republican primary could come down to Chris Rants and Bob Vander Plaats. Then Christian Fong stole a lot of attention. Roberts never lost his focus, and one by one, candidates like Paul McKinley, Jerry Behn, Christian Fong, and Chris Rants all dropped out because of financial constraints.
Roberts, was able to stay in the race because of his own fiscal discipline. On the campaign trail, Roberts likes to tell people that he will be as cautious with the people’s money as he is with his own. He was equally careful with the money he raised for his campaign. While he could only afford part-time staffers, he conserved his campaign funds and used them to buy radio and TV ads to build his name ID across the state.
While the back and forth between Branstad and Vander Plaats has been heated at times, Roberts made a point to stay above the fray. His respectfulness and demeanor on the campaign trail has been refreshing and could open doors for him in the future even if he is not successful in capturing the nomination.
While it is doubtful that Roberts will win the nomination on Tuesday night, he will likely be on the nominee’s short list for Lt. Governor. Many believe this has been Roberts’ angle all along, but Roberts deserves serious consideration.
His understanding of policy, the legislative process, and the existing relationships he has with other legislators would be very attractive to the nominee. Placing Roberts on the ticket would also help unite Republicans after what has been a very heated primary. Roberts would also be a good running-mate because he wouldn’t steal the limelight from the nominee.
Still, Roberts is focused on winning the nomination. Win or lose, he has emerged from this primary as a winner. In addition to being on the short list for Lt. Governor, Roberts could also be considered to lead a department if Republicans win this fall, or he could run for another office when the opportunity arises in the future.
While his legislative career might be over, Roberts still has a bright political career ahead. Seeing someone like Roberts emerge is one of the reasons why contested primaries are a good exercise for our party.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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