By Emily Wangen
The Iowa gubernatorial race is underway with 10 candidates in the fray, including Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who will run for a full term.
Reynolds will head her first gubernatorial campaign in the 2018 midterm election with the advantage of being the incumbent. She has the advantage because she took office after serving as the lieutenant governor since 2011.
She stepped into to her role as Iowa’s 43rd governor in May 2017 after Gov. Terry Branstad became the U.S. ambassador to China.
Michael Ritter, a University of Iowa visiting assistant professor of political science, said incumbents generally have an advantage in elections for a variety of reasons, including name recognition, and a fundraising edge. This means incumbents typically have more money to spend on their campaigns than do challengers.
For Reynolds specifically, Ritter said, he believes being Iowa’s first female governor and being associated with a major political party gives her campaign an advantage.
However, he said, he believes Reynolds may not completely have the incumbency advantage in this election, noting that some voters may not see Reynolds as a legitimate governor because she did not win the position in an election.
While Reynolds has not officially launched her campaign, and while the election is 11 months away, Pat Garrett, her campaign’s communications director, said things are going well, noting he believes Iowans are just starting to get to know who Reynolds is as a person.
“This is the first opportunity she’s had to tell her own story,” Garrett said. “To explain to Iowans how her experience in life makes her a governor for them.”
Reynolds delivered her first Condition of the State address in the State Capitol Jan. 9 in which she laid out her vision for Iowa.
She highlighted what she called the progress the Legislature has made for the state and talked about the state’s future.
“My vision for the future is an Iowa overflowing with opportunity — opportunity for our working families, young people, and our communities, both rural and urban,” she said.
Some accomplishments she claimed included balancing the state budget, strengthening Second Amendment rights, and committing $735 million more for education since 2011.
Reynolds also highlighted the Future Ready Iowa Initiative, a plan to prepare Iowans for the jobs available both in the present and in the future. Garrett said the initiative is a big priority for the governor.
While the gubernatorial race may be of large importance to many, Ritter said, he believes people should be aware of the other elections this year, specifically, the midterm elections for members of Congress.
“There are a lot of predictions being made right now that the Republican Party could lose majority status in the [U.S.] House of Representatives and Senate come November. Whether Iowa becomes part of that is partly related to Reynolds’ election,” Ritter said. “She’s not in Congress, but governors are huge in American politics.”