DALLAS CENTER – An outdoor potluck dinner at Mound Park in Dallas County was the place to be for Iowa politicos on Thursday. Three state senators, two state representatives, the secretary of agriculture, the state auditor, one declared U.S. Senate candidate and two potential senate candidates were on hand.
The two potential senate candidates drew the most attention at the low key event. They mingled with attendees, dined on pork loins, baked beans and deviled eggs, and played coy regarding their political aspirations. However, the fact that Joni Ernst and Rod Roberts were in attendance at the Dallas County GOP fundraiser is one small indicator that they are still very seriously considering joining the ever-increasing Republican field in the U.S. Senate field.
Rod Roberts, a former state representative who ran for governor in 2010 and is now the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, says people are lobbying him to enter the race.
“It just kind of keeps building,” Roberts told TheIowaRepublican.com. “There are former legislators, there are county activists, statewide activists, there are a host of people from different backgrounds who keep coming into this conversation. That’s important to me. The people component to this and what they think and what they perceive is going on and where I might have a place in this field, that’s helping me to make a good, clear, objective decision in the end and know that if they answer is yes, I’m going to have a plan, the people and the resources to do this.”
Roberts finished a distant third in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010. He says the lessons learned from that failed bid will play a key role in his decision making and would help him as a candidate. Roberts also believes presumptive Democrat nominee Bruce Braley is beatable.
“Having been in a statewide primary before and staying in it until Election Day, where I was in debates with Governor Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats, I can go on that stage. I can stand there toe-to-toe with him,” Roberts said. “You’re going to have to have that sense of confidence and poise when you get up there and you have to compete head-to-head with him.”
Roberts plans to visit Washington, D.C. soon to discuss a potential bid with Republican strategists. He would not put a timeline on when a decision might come, but it is clear the minister from Carroll is making the necessary preparations to build a formidable campaign, if he decides to run.
“We ought to have somebody become our next United States senator who is an Iowan, who comes from a background where they’ve demonstrated leadership and the ability to solve problems and take cares of things,” Roberts said. “It’s different from how Washington functions now. That’s where Congressman Braley has been all this time.”
As for Joni Ernst, the state senator from Red Oak is “very close” to making a decision on whether or not to enter the U.S. Senate race. She says people will know her plans within a couple of weeks, if not sooner.
Ernst has gone through a lot of deliberation, thought and prayer, as well as discussion with her family. Senator Ernst says they are ready to support her if she decides to run. Another factor is whether or not she sees a legitimate path to victory.
“I have to know that I will be a right fit, the right person to beat Bruce Braley,” Ernst told TheIowaRepublican.com. “So, as I look at the widening pool of primary candidates, I’ve been evaluating those that are coming into the race and what is unique about them, what do they bring to the average Iowan, and I think I connect with those voters.”
The Dallas County Republicans offered Roberts, Joni Ernst and Sam Clovis the opportunity to speak to the crowd of around 50 local activists. Roberts declined, mainly because he is still serving a non-partisan role in state government. Ernst spoke briefly. Clovis talked for about five minutes, pointing out that Bruce Braley criticized him in a campaign email today and noted that Braley’s attack shows that Clovis’ campaign is legitimate.
The potluck dinner replaced the Dallas County GOP’s regular monthly meeting for July. It was a great way for central committee members to get to know each other a little better, plus mingle with top Republican candidates and officials from around the state.
“Dallas County is the fastest growing county in the state of Iowa and I think that anytime you have that distinction, it’s going to draw interest from potential statewide candidates,” said county co-chair Tyler De Haan. “I think Dallas County has traditionally done a good job of electing Republicans to office, so we have a lot of great Republicans in this county. It’s just an honor to be viewed as a place where candidates want to be.”
Photo by Dave Davidson
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