By Emily Wangen
DES MOINES — Republican leaders took the stage and engaged supporters at the fourth-annual Roast & Ride on June 9, and their speeches had a common thread: electing Republicans in the midterm elections.
Speakers at the event, put on by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, included Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
While Ernst’s term does not end until January 2021, she said she plans on being involved in Reynolds’ campaign. Reynolds will run for a full term — her first time campaigning for governor — after stepping up to fill the role following former Gov. Terry Branstad’s exit from office in 2017 to become U.S. ambassador to China.
“This election is critical, and it’s going to decide who we are as a people and what kind of Iowa we’re going to pass on to our children,” Reynolds said.
In the general election, Reynolds will face Libertarian candidate Jake Porter and Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell, who both clinched the nominations for their respective parties in the June 5 primary.
“Prince Frederick, which I like to call him, has nothing to do about Fred Hubbell’s wealth and how he’s a trust-fund guy that didn’t earn it. It has everything to do with attitude,” Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said. “We want somebody that knows in their heart of hearts that Iowa is No. 1 and not changing it just for the sake of political points like Sir Frederick Hubbell.”
Ernst said she believed the blue wave of Democrats being elected into office will not happen in Iowa this year, predicting the Republican Party will do well on both the congressional level and in the gubernatorial race.
“People are happy, and if they’re happy, they want to keep those folks in office or get more of like-minded people into place,” Ernst told reporters before the ride began.
Gowdy told the crowd that while the Republican Party has had recent victories such as the election of President Donald Trump and many nominations to district courts, there is still room to grow.
“I want us to build something that will last more than an election cycle,” he said.
Representing South Carolina’s 4th District, Gowdy serves on the House Committee on Intelligence, Ethics, Oversight & Government Reform, and Judiciary, where he is the chairman of the crime, terrorism, homeland security, and investigations subcommittee.
Gowdy said it was not presidential aspirations but his friendship with Ernst that brought him to Iowa for the event.
The ride began in Des Moines at the Big Barn Harley Davidson, where 450 motorcyclists led by Ernst set off on a 49-mile ride to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone. Once there, riders were met with with food, speakers, and live music.
Each year, all proceeds of the ride go to a veterans’ charity. This year, the proceeds went to the Travis Mills Foundation, an organization that provides veterans who have been injured in active duty or as a result of their service, as well as their families, with an opportunity to attend a retreat in Maine to take part in adaptive activities such as cycling, kayaking, and horseback riding.
Mills started the foundation following a 2012 roadside bombing during his third deployment in Afghanistan for the Army.
Last year, the foundation provided an all-expenses-paid retreat to 84 families and hopes to reach 128 families this year.
“This camp was supposed to be simple,” Mills said. “And then it grew, and it grew.”