DES MOINES, IA — It is not usual for a sitting governor to endorse several newcomer candidates. But Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed four candidates in the House who are for public tax dollars for private school funding; and every single one of them won Tuesday night.
Zachary Dieken won the Republican primary for District 5, beating incumbent Rep. Dennis Bush. Barb Kniff-McCulla beat Rep. Jon Throup in District 37, and Helena Hayes beat Rep. Dustin Hite in District 88. The fourth endorsement was in a race between two incumbents in District 53, where Rep. Dean Fisher, who supported the Governor’s bill, beat Rep. David Maxwell.
Governor Reynolds promised in April that if a parent’s choice bill with private school vouchers did not pass the statehouse this year, it would be back.
“I am never going to give up on that until they sine die and if we don’t do that I am going to come back next year,” said Reynolds told reporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in early April.
With the Iowa House not having enough votes to pass $55 million every year for private school vouchers; Governor Reynolds went to work, endorsing several candidates who were running against incumbent House Republicans opposed to the bill.
“I am disappointed she did that, it seems like we got thrown under the bus after we backed all of her priorities except this one,” said State Representative Dennis Bush, (R) from Cherokee over a phone call.
He reacted to his primary loss Tuesday night and worried about the future of Republican statehouse primaries.
“I think It will have a chilling effect for House races in the future, where candidates would need to choose between the Governor’s priorities versus their district,” said Bush.
Another outgoing Republican State Representative shared his thoughts about Reynolds supporting his opponent.
“Almost every school choice issue I think I have supported except for the school vouchers,” said State Representative Jon Thorup, (R) from Knoxville. “And the reason that the vouchers that I have a problem with that is that I don’t think it is fiscally responsible.”
Thorup’s biggest hold up for voting for the private school scholarships comes down to the estimated $55 million dollar cost for 10,000 scholarships. He said that the program would most likely expand as well, worrying that it would cost even more after the huge tax cuts passed by Iowa Republicans.
“To me a governor shouldn’t pick winners or losers in their own party,” said Thorup.
A member of the Iowa Coalition for School Choice was excited about the results of the primary results, saying that the people of Iowa made it clear what they wanted.
“We just feel so strongly that last night’s primary results in the Republican primary really confirm what Governor Reynolds has been working on and thinking was the case, as so do we, that the people of Iowa really want school choice,” said Trish Wilger, the Executive Director at the Iowa Alliance of Choice.
State Representative Dustin Hite, who was the House Education committee chair, said he did not want to comment on the Governor’s endorsement as he wants to focus on the future.
Come November there will be four new, Governor-backed House candidates running for the seat.