Iowa Republicans rally behind Trump at a state convention

CLIVE — Iowa Republicans laid out their policy agenda and criticized President Joe Biden at their state convention on Saturday, vowing to work to elect Donald Trump in November.

The convention, held at the Horizon Events Center in Clive, is the latest stop in the biennial process of state party building, in which party members chose delegates to the national convention, established a state platform and elected members of the Republican National Committee.

Republican officials called on voters to unite around Trump and elect Republicans to Congress to install a Republican trifecta at the federal level.

“Every action I take from now until November, I’m going to ask myself one question,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told the more than 1,000 delegates gathered in the Assembly Hall. “How does this help put Donald Trump back in the White House? That’s all that matters.”

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the Republican-led state Legislature’s conservative policy agenda, including recent tax cuts, a school choice program and stricter oversight of foreign farmland owners.

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Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds speaks at the Iowa Republican Party state convention on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

Caleb McCullough

She said the Biden administration has created a crisis at the southern border, saying the record number of unlawful border crossings “can only be described as intentional.”

Reynolds signed a bill this year that gives state officials the authority to arrest people who are in the country illegally if they have previously been denied entry. A Justice Department official has said the federal government will file a lawsuit if state officials try to enforce the law.

“The Biden administration and the Department of Justice are threatening to sue me and sue the state of Iowa for — get this — punishing people who break the law,” Reynolds said. “You can’t make it up… if he did his job, we wouldn’t have to deal with it.”

Iowa was the site of the nation’s first caucuses, kicking off the national Republican presidential primaries. Trump won the caucuses handily and emerged victorious in the later primaries, becoming the party’s presumptive nominee.

Kaufmann said Republicans must support Trump now to prevent a second term for Biden, regardless of whether or not they supported him in the caucus process.

Reynolds, who endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the caucus, endorsed the former president at Saturday’s convention. She supported Trump in March, when it became clear he would be the party’s nominee.

“While we may have been on different sides, I can tell you without a doubt and without hesitation that we share a common goal, and that is to end Joe Biden’s political career,” Reynolds said. “That’s why I’m proud to support President Trump. He is a warrior, he is a leader.”

Trump won Iowa in the 2016 and 2020 general elections, and he maintains a solid lead over Biden in a possible 2024 contest, according to a March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Trump faces numerous civil and criminal lawsuits, including one that began last month in New York over hush money payments.

During Saturday’s convention, Republicans chose their delegates for the national convention, which will take place in Milwaukee in July. They also reelected Steve Scheffler and Tamara Scott as members of the Republican National Committee.

Iowa Democrats held their district conventions on Saturday and their state convention on June 15. In a statement, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Hart said Republicans would pursue an unpopular political agenda.

“Their platform will certainly further chip away at women’s rights and reallocate public dollars that belong to public schools to affluent families enrolled in private schools,” Hart said. “These policies are dangerous for women, bad for our children’s educational futures, unpopular among likely voters and will demonstrate how desperately a change in leadership is needed here in Iowa.”

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Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann speaks at the Iowa Republican Party state convention on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

Caleb McCullough

GOP primary candidates are challenging incumbents

During their speech at the convention, candidates posing a primary challenge to Republican members of Congress challenged the incumbent’s conservative bona fides and argued that they would be a better representative for their districts.

Kevin Virgil, a Republican running in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, argued that incumbent Republican Randy Feenstra was not conservative enough for the deep-red district and that his votes supported “major donors.”

“You need legislators who respect the Constitution, and I’m sorry to say the 4th District doesn’t have that right now,” Virgil said.

Virgil said Feenstra voted to expand tax credits for carbon capture pipelines, including the proposed Summit pipeline through Iowa. The pipelines and the potential use of eminent domain to seize land for their construction are opposed by a large majority of Republicans.

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People hold up signs protesting carbon capture pipelines during the Iowa Republican Party state convention on Saturday, May 4, 2024.


Feenstra was not at the convention, but in a letter he submitted for reading, he said he had worked to boost agriculture in Iowa and prevent China from buying farmland. Feenstra underwent surgery on Thursday and was told to limit his travel. said a post on social media.

Although Feenstra’s written comments did not appeal to Virgil, he placed a newspaper-style advertisement in the congressional guide criticizing Virgil for spending much of his life in New York before running for Congress in Iowa.

“It’s time to send Kevin Virgil back to where he belongs,” the ad read. “We don’t need any more woke outsiders telling Iowans what to do.”

David Pautsch, a Republican running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s southeastern 1st District, said Iowa’s Republican representatives were not conservative enough and that he would be an independent conservative voice.

“There comes a time when you have to decide that the majority is less important than the message,” he said. “That principle is more important than power.”

Without addressing Pautsch directly, Miller-Meeks argued that she was the only Republican who could win in the 1st District. She noted that voters have a slight preference for a Democrat in that district on an overall vote based on March polls.

“I have dedicated more than a decade of my wealth, my talent and my time to turning this district around,” Miller-Meeks said. “…I’m not going to let this district go back to (the Democrats), no matter what I do, I’m going to defend it and keep it in Republican hands.”

Added gay marriage plank to the platform

The party platform initially presented at the state convention did not include a plank in the party’s 2022 platform calling for the repeal of laws legalizing same-sex marriage.

District conventions had proposed that plank, delegates said, but the plank was removed by the platform committee before the state convention. Convention delegates proposed a platform change to restore the plank against same-sex marriage. The amendment was approved and added to the platform.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iowa since a 2009 decision by the state Supreme Court, and has been federally legal since 2015.

The Respect for Marriage Act of 2022 enshrined these protections under federal law. That law was supported by some Iowa Republicans in Congress, while others opposed it.