In a radio interview this morning with Simon Conway on WMT Radio, Republican Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett announced he will not seek reelection for mayor. Instead he is taking a very serious look at challenging Kim Reynolds for Iowa Governor in 2018.
Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey declined to primary eventual-Governor Kim Reynolds for the Republican nomination shortly after the announcement that Terry Branstad would be nominated as President-Elect Donald Trump’s ambassador to China. That would make Reynolds the incumbent running for reelection in 2018, rather than a Lt. Governor seeking the office on her own. That situation makes a potential primary challenge a lot more difficult. She’ll have the full backing of the Republican Party of Iowa, in addition to Branstad’s broad and influential political network.
As of right now, that doesn’t seem to faze Corbett very much.
“Reynolds was always going to have the front-runner status, whether [Branstad] made his decision sometime in early 2018 or late 2017, the Governor was always planning on campaigning for her and advocating for her as his successor. So she’s always been the front-runner status … That’s a pretty big challenge,” Corbett told Conway this morning. “When I first ran for the Iowa Legislature in 1986, I ran against a Democrat incumbent, she had been in office for four years, she was very popular. I ended up taking her on and defeated her. In 1994 after the big Republican wave, I took on the sitting incumbent Speaker of the House. That’s a rare thing to do, unheard of really … In 2009 I took on the mayor pro-temp here in Cedar Rapids. So taking on the establishment from an outsider position hasn’t been one that I’ve shied away from.”
Corbett’s continued interest could be seen as a no-confidence vote within the Republican Party against Reynolds before she even assumes the governor’s role. He promised to make a further announcement at a speech on February 22 in Cedar Rapids, with the promise of a special “surprise.”
Republicans in Iowa have long expected Corbett was interested in the governor’s office, with Corbett setting up a conservative think tank that gave him an excuse to travel the state and make connections in recent years. Corbett has served as Cedar Rapids’ mayor since 2009, and received praise for his handling of the 2016 flooding. He was the Speaker of the Iowa House from 1995 to 1999. Many Democrats are most concerned about a Corbett candidacy on the Republican side, as his popularity and high name ID in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa could give him the advantage among the large amount of swing voters there.
Corbett’s decision to not run for reelection to the mayor’s position opens up an extremely important seat for Democrats looking to retake major offices. Democrats would love to represent Iowa’s second-largest city once again. Many expect former legislator Tyler Olson to take a serious look at that campaign.
by Pat Rynard