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March 8th, 2012

Pastor vs. State Senator Creates Intriguing Primary Race

One of the most interesting battles in the 2012 primaries will take place in Senate District 22, where Republican State Senator Pat Ward faces Waukee pastor Jeff Mullen. Ward is an assistant leader for the Senate Republicans and is widely viewed as a moderate. Mullen is an outspoken opponent of same sex marriage.

Following redistricting, Ward faced a matchup with openly gay Democrat Senator Matt McCoy. The Democrats hold a voter registration advantage of 4,207 in the new Senate District 21. Instead of running against McCoy, Ward decided to move into the new Senate District 22.

The winner of this Republican primary should have an easy time winning in November. Republicans hold a 4,677 voter registration edge in the district, which includes parts of Clive, Waukee, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. It also crosses into Polk and Dallas counties. Both candidates have already filed the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office.

“I’m not underestimating her. I respect her as a sitting senator in the state and I respect her leadership,” Mullen said, but added criticism of Ward’s decision not to run where her primary residence is located. “She chose to give Matt McCoy a free pass. She could have beaten him. I personally have lived in the district for 17 years. Senator Ward has not. She’s pretending to. She’s rented a condo. I doubt she’s going to give up her million dollar home.”

Ward states that SD 22 contains 60 percent of her old district. She also wants Republican primary voters to consider electability. “We have so much work yet to do and as I listen carefully to citizens of my district, they share my passions for responsible budgeting, less government regulations, lower taxes, more job creation and world-class schools,” Ward said in a press release. “I am the electable conservative to represent the citizens of Waukee, Windsor Heights, West Des Moines and Clive and they can count on me to fight for them every day.”

Jeff Mullen intends to maintain his position as Lead Pastor at Point of Grace Church even if he wins the senate seat. He notes that in our country’s early history “pastors were leading the way from the very beginning.” Mullen made the decision to run for office when he looked at the newly redistricted maps and noticed Senate District 22, with no incumbent, running through his neighborhood. Political activism is also relatively new for Jeff Mullen.

“For me, it’s been probably a three year journey,” Mullen said. “When the Iowa Supreme Court made their decision on Varnum, what this triggered in me was one of two things. Either they understood the constitution and the separation of power and they willfully neglected the constitution, or they don’t understand the constitution at all. Either way, they should no longer be justices.”

Mullen launched in 2010 to help in the effort to oust three of the justices in the retention election. The website encourages pastors to become part of the political process.

Pat Ward joined the Iowa Senate in 2004, winning a special election to fill the seat vacated by Ambassador Mary Kramer. Ward’s stances on gay rights issues are mixed. Although she favors bringing a vote to the floor on a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, Ward was one of the few Republican Senators that supported adding sexual orientation to the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

“I look forward to bringing my optimistic message and hardworking grassroots campaign to every voter as we all join together with the goal of bringing about a better direction for Iowa and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” Ward said in a press release.

Senator Ward seems to have the backing of the Senate Republican Caucus, while at least one prominent conservative activist group backs Pastor Mullen. Ward’s press release included high praise from Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn. “Pat is a great leader for Iowa because of her work ethic, knowledge and understanding of what it takes to develop careers, create jobs, cut taxes and balance a budget,” Behn said. The Iowa Senate Republicans’ website does not include Jeff Mullen among its list of 2012 candidates. There is a link for Pat Ward.

Jeff Mullen received an endorsement on Wednesday from the Citizens United PAC, along with a $2,500 donation. “Pastor Jeff Mullen is the conservative candidate in this primary election and I’m proud to support him,” said David Bossie, President of Citizens United.

This weekend’s Polk and Dallas County GOP conventions will provide ample opportunities for Mullen and Ward to rally supporters to their side. The primary takes place on June 5. The winner faces Democrat Desmund Adams in November.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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