As the political world waits for Congressman Steve King to decide whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate, much of the media focus has been on Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Those are two of the most high profile Republicans who have expressed interest in facing Democrat Bruce Braley for the soon-to-be open seat. However, there are indications that King, Northey and Reynolds will all choose not to run.
If that is the case, it does not mean Republicans will be without a strong candidate. In fact, there are other candidates interested in the job whose prospects in a general election might actually be stronger than those three.
Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker has openly talked of getting in the race. Now in private practice, Whitaker also has executive experience. While he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Whitaker managed a staff of 60 and oversaw offices in Des Moines, Davenport and Council Bluffs. He also has experience as a statewide candidate. Whitaker made an unsuccessful bid for state treasurer in 2002.
Matt Whitaker’s resume also includes a different type of experience that will be appreciated by voters across the state. He is a former tight end on the Iowa Hawkeye football team and was named Academic All-American in 1992. The Ankeny native’s 1991 Rose Bowl ring is likely to earn him at least a few extra votes in a close election.
Several months ago, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz told reporters that he would not challenge Tom Harkin for the U.S. Senate seat in 2014. When Harkin announced he would retire, Schultz’ name was immediately bantered about by political prognosticators. However, that talk quickly receded when Schultz said he was happy in the secretary of state’s office and was focused on that job.
However, reliable sources close to Schultz tell TheIowaRepublican.com that he is indeed considering running for the U.S. Senate. Schultz is popular with all factions of the Republican Party throughout the state and could mount a formidable campaign. He is an excellent stump speaker, capable of firing up a crowd or striking an emotional chord with them.
Schultz shocked a lot of political observers when defeated incumbent Michael Mauro in 2010. He is a tireless campaigner and has shown the ability to win a statewide election. Schultz is also reviled by liberals, primarily because of his strong support of Voter ID. He was already going to be one of their top targets in 2014. Whether it’s for the U.S. Senate or the secretary of state’s office, Democrats will have a tough time defeating him next year.
There have been whispers that an unknown political commodity from the business community might be the GOP’s ticket to finally claiming this seat. Two sources indicated to TheIowaRepublican.com that the potential candidate is former Reliant Energy CEO Mark M. Jacobs.
Jacobs, a graduate of Des Moines Roosevelt High School, was 45 years old when he ascended to the top spot at Reliant Energy in 2007. That made him one of the youngest CEOs of any Fortune 500 company. Jacobs recently retired from the energy sector and returned to Iowa.
Now living in West Des Moines, Mark Jacobs teaches a business strategy class to Iowa State University graduating seniors. He also founded Reaching Higher Iowa, an organization devoted to improving Iowa’s public education system. Jacobs was a board member for KIPP Houston Public Schools, an organization that helps more than 9,500 disadvantaged students. He has also served on the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Jacobs has been travelling the state the past few months, speaking to rotary and Lions clubs, advocating for education reform and writing op-eds in local newspapers. Jacobs is also capable of self-funding an expensive campaign. That would be a very useful asset because this U.S. Senate race is likely to be the most expensive one in Iowa history.
Of course, all of this is contingent on whether or not Congressman Steve King decides to run. He would be practically unbeatable in a Republican primary, so no viable candidates will make a decision until King does.
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