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Iowa’s GOP governor announces bid for second full term

Reynolds’ announcement comes a week after Iowa's governor gave the Republicans’ response to President Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress.

(CN) — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds Wednesday evening announced she will run for re-election for a second full term this fall, pledging to carry on the conservative agenda that marked her five years in office to the cheers of fellow Republicans and dismay of Democrats who are outnumbered by the GOP in the legislature.

Reynolds spoke to a crowd of several hundred supporters in Des Moines Wednesday to make an announcement that came as no surprise:

“I’m fired up,” she told the crowd, many wearing red campaign T-shirts and waving red placards, “and I am so excited to finally announce tonight my candidacy for governor of the great state of Iowa!”

While she focused on her achievements in office and her aspirations for another term, Reynolds included some red-meat lines aimed at showing which side of the political and cultural divide she represents:

“In Iowa, we said ‘No’ to a world of cancel culture where an elite few try to tell us what we can and cannot say and what we can and cannot believe,” she said. “Because despite what you hear from President Biden and liberal elites, the threats against this nation aren’t from Canadian truckers, Joe Rogan’s podcast or parents who care about their child’s education. The threats come from politicians who tell parents they should sit down and be silent and let government control their kids’ future, from government officials who restrict your freedom with Covid mandates that they don’t even follow, from a United States president who refuses to do his job and secure our border.”

Reynolds has demonstrated her conservative Republican bona fides since following in the footsteps of longtime Governor Terry Branstad. She allied herself with former President Donald Trump, appearing with him at a 2020 rally in Des Moines, where she tossed out MAGA hats to the crowd.

She has consistently supported the hard-right agenda of the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature on everything from loosening restrictions on gun ownership, banning vaccine and mask mandates, and restricting access to abortion. This session, Reynolds signed a bill that cuts Iowa’s income-tax rate to a flat 3.9% and days later stood before a group of Iowa schoolgirls in the state Capitol to sign a bill that bars transgendered females from competing in high school and college athletics.

Wednesday Reynolds celebrated those achievements and promised more.

“We are protecting the unborn, and standing up for our law enforcement. We’re preserving girls sports for girls,” she said, prompting thunderous applause, whistles and cheers. “We’re protecting the integrity of our elections, we’re promoting energy independence and our home grown biofuels. And, unlike D.C., we’re not overspending. We’re balancing our budget and we’re cutting taxes.”

Reynolds, 62, has deep roots in Iowa Republican politics and state and local government.

She began her political career as the elected county treasurer in Clarke County in south-central Iowa. She served two years in the Iowa State Senate before joining Branstad as his running mate for lieutenant governor. She succeeded Branstad after he was appointed by President Donald Trump as the U.S. ambassador to China. Reynolds was elected to a full four-year term in 2018.

Although many Iowa Democrats may consider Reynolds too divisive and eager to please a hard-right-wing base, national Republicans who picked her to deliver the party’s response to the State of the Union reportedly see her as offering a more tempered message about the party’s themes heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

According to the New York Times, “Ms. Reynolds, who was chosen by Republican Senate leadership to deliver the party’s official response, portrayed the populist revolt against mask mandates and remote learning as a ‘pro-parent, pro-family revolution,’ hoping to harness the backlash ahead of this year’s midterm elections."

She did not disappoint: “We are tired of politicians who tell parents they should sit down, be silent and let government control their kids’ education and future,” she said in her March 1 speech.

While all of this gives the Reynolds re-election campaign confidence heading into the fall election season with a $4.8 million war chest as of Jan. 1, it shows few signs of overconfidence. For good reason: She narrowly won the 2018 election against Democrat Fred Hubbell, a wealthy Iowa businessman (50.3% to 47.5%), and the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows her ahead of announced Democratic rival Deidre DeJear by only 8 points. DeJear, a Des Moines Democrat who is the leading candidate in her party, had raised a fraction of the amount raised by Reynolds and had only $8,500 on hand as of Jan. 1.

If Wednesday night’s rally was a preview of what to expect between now and next fall, it was best captured by her closing line: “With a victory in November we can assure that Iowa remains a beacon of freedom, liberty and unlimited prosperity, a state that’s known for opportunity.”

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