The Conundrum

A combination of complicated election laws and less-than-firm resolve conspire to make it difficult to say, for sure, how many Republicans are officially running for governor as of 1:30 p.m. on July 21, 2009.

One could argue there are two who are "in it to win it" like Hillary Clinton was back in January of 2007.  Both Christian Fong of Cedar Rapids and Rod Roberts of Carroll say they are for sure, yes indeed, bona fide candidates.  No turning back, they say.  The campaign is on! "I want to serve the people of Iowa as their next governor," Roberts told about 150 of his friends and supporters late this morning.

There are a couple of others who are in that category, too, although they have yet to "officially declare" they are running for governor. If you're keeping a score card at home, write down the names of Christopher Rants and Bob Vander Plaats. If you're talking about this with a friend or family member, Vander Plaats pronounces the last half of his last name PLAHTZ – like cemetery plots he told me back in 2001.  Both men have filed the paperwork with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, creating "exploratory committees" which allow them to legally raise money for a race.  There are sure to be a couple of official "announcements" soon, though, so both of these men will be saying something akin to "I am in it to win it" in the next few months. 

So, if you're using one of your hands and counting, there are now four Republican candidates with exploratory committees, since Fong and Roberts have done that paperwork filing thing, too, and have exploratory committees up and running. (Fong's campaign sent out an email today saying he'd raised $100,000 so far.)

There are two other Iowa Republicans out there who are considering a run for governor and have been appearing as potential candidates.  Both are state senators. They are Jerry Behn of Boone and Paul McKinley of Chariton.  McKinley is the Senate Minority Leader. That means the 18 Republicans who serve in the state senate elected him as their floor leader.  He is not just considering a run, McKinley is "aggressively exploring" a run for governor.  He just hasn't pulled the trigger to make it quasi-official yet.  UPDATE: McKinley did file papers to form an exploratory committee on July 7, but one of his senate staff members this week cautioned that McKinley was not ready yet to declare himself a candidate for governor and, therefore, not ready to relinquish his leadership position:

Sen. McKinley has been clear that if he actually does to decide to run for governor (right now he is aggressively exploring), he will step aside. He is continuing to raise money and recruit candidates with the goal of greatly expanding on our ranks in the Senate.

McKinley's also a no show at tomorrow's forum featuring five Republican men who are considering a run for governor (alphabetically the roster is Behn, Fong, Rants, Roberts & Vander Plaats).

Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan is keeping his own tally.  Kiernan counts six potential, likely, probable GOP candidates out there.  Kiernan, representing the "Big Lug"* in a conference call with Iowa reporters, today was a tad bit dismissive of the GOP field.  "We're one short of the seven dwarts," Kiernan said. 

*"Big Lug" is the nickname Mari Culver, the wife of Iowa Governor Chet Culver, used to describe Culver in a 2006 campaign commercial.  Culver intends to run for reelection in 2010.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.