DES MOINES-Construction magnate Robert Cramer entered the Third Congressional District race on Wednesday with a pledge to unite the Republican Party. Cramer is close to both Governor Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats, the de facto leaders of business-wing and social conservative wings of the Iowa GOP, respectively.
Branstad and Vander Plaats faced off in a bitterly fought gubernatorial primary in 2010 and although tensions have eased somewhat, there remains disenchantment between the two sides.
“I think the goal number one is bringing our party together and agreeing on a good plan of how to go forward,” Cramer said. “The Congress has taken a shift left over the last 6-8 years and I think that’s where the partisanship has come from. I don’t think you can make the accusation that Republicans have moved farther right. I think you can say the Congress has shifted left.”
Cramer is a bridge builder, in the literal sense. He would like to be one in the figurative sense as well, and believes he has the background to accomplish that.
“It seems like a lot of times in Republican politics we have to choose between someone coming from the business community and someone who shares our values, it’s really going to fight, has the courage to fight for our values,” Cramer said, adding that he is the candidate that can represent both factions.
A crowd of 110 supporters gathered at EFCO, a concrete construction company, to support Cramer on his official campaign launch. The Iowa native is the co-president of Cramer and Associates, a family business started by his father, which has grown into a $50 million a year construction company.
Robert Cramer said he will use some of his own funds for the congressional campaign, but also believes he will be able to attract a significant donor base. Cramer has taken leave of absence from The Family Leader, the organization where Bob Vander Plaats serves as CEO. Cramer was the chairman of the board of directors for the group until deciding to run for Congress.
“I do think I hit the ground running a little better by just having a lot of connections in a lot of different areas, especially within the Republican Party,” Cramer said. “There are just a lot of facets to the party and I don’t look at them as individual facets. I just look at it as trying to represent all Republicans.”
During his speech, Cramer railed against government waste, overspending and burdensome regulations. He said repealing Obamacare is one of his key goals and the president’s signature healthcare law symbolizes everything the federal government should not be doing.
“It’s taxing too much, it’s spending too much, it’s mandating too much, so we need to get that thing under control,” Cramer told the media after his speech.
Cramer also said he had no specific plans to introduce legislation on social issues “It seems on that case, we’ve been on the defensive a lot and just trying to defend where we are now,” he added.
While uniting the Republican Party behind his candidacy is something Cramer wants to do, that task became more difficult when he decided to make perhaps the most divisive person in Iowa politics a key part of his campaign launch. Former WHO radio host Steve Deace addressed the crowd prior to Cramer and endorsed his candidacy.
Deace served as the Vander Plaats campaign’s attack dog in 2010, using his radio program to bash Terry Branstad and prop up Vander Plaats on a daily basis. Due to that, and many other reasons, Deace is reviled by many Iowa Republicans, although he also maintains a base of support and close alliance with Vander Plaats and The Family Leader.
By attaching Steve Deace to his campaign from the beginning, Robert Cramer broke the first rule of political endorsements: Do no harm.
During his speech, Deace could not resist the temptation to take thinly veiled shots at Governor Branstad, and an unveiled shot at current Third District Congressman, and respected Republican, Tom Latham.
Deace said the current field includes candidates who “would be upgrades for the people of the Third District over the representation we have had before.”
Steve Deace is now a syndicated radio host. He recently lost his late night spot on WHO. The station replaced him with Sean Hannity’s program.
For his part, Robert Cramer praised Congressman Latham, saying he has respect in all Republican circles and has served the district very well.
Cramer entry into the race stretches the Republican field to six announced candidates. Former state senator and noted liberal Staci Appel is the lone Democrat in the race.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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