Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen will make a decision this summer whether to move to a bigger House – the U.S. House.
Paulsen, for the first time Tuesday, confirmed he is thinking about running for the U.S. House 1st District in 2014. It will be an open-seat race because Rep. Bruce Braley is running for the U.S. Senate.
There has been speculation around the Capitol and in political blogs for weeks that Paulsen was going to run for Congress. However, the Hiawatha Republican declined to comment until after the 2013 legislative session concluded.
“When Congressman Braley made his decision there were obviously a lot of people who asked me,” Paulsen told The Gazette Editorial Board Tuesday. “I said I needed to finish the session and do that work on behalf of Iowans.”
The House adjourned Thursday, he said, “”so, yes, I’m going to give it very serious consideration.”
He indicated, however, that this is not the first time he’s thought about seeking another office.
“I have never, ever felt challenged to do anything other than run for the Iowa House of Representatives until the last year and a half,” Paulsen said. “For whatever reason, I feel a bit of a challenge and now I’m going to go through the decision-making process.”
A fiscal conservative who has made tax relief and government efficiency his priorities, Paulsen said there are not specific issues motivating his exploration of a congressional race.
“You know, the answer to that is the answer to any elected office,” he said. “That is, you have to feel pulled or drawn or called or whatever word you want to insert there.
“It’s about what’s the best way to serve Iowans. What meets their needs?” Paulsen added.
Paulsen would be the third Republican to enter the race and the second speaker of the House. Dubuque Democrat Rep. Pat Murphy, who served in that role when Democrats held a majority from 2007-10, is seeking his party’s nomination.
Paulsen, 48, was elected to the Iowa House in 2002. He served as minority leader and was elected speaker when the GOP took control of the House in 2010.
Businessmen Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque also are seeking the GOP nomination.
In addition to Murphy, former Marion lawmaker Swati Dandekar may seek the Democratic nomination. There is speculation that others, like Paulsen, were waiting until the legislative session ended to make their decisions on entering the race.
Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, Iowa Democratic Party chairman and a potential candidate himself, expects at least three to four candidates in a June 2014 primary.
Braley is not seeking a fifth term because he’s running for the seat held by Sen. Tom Harkin, who announced he will retire at the end of his current term.
Paulsen said he is not eying the Senate race.
Paulsen, a corporate counsel for CRST, and his wife, Cathy, live in Hiawatha and have four children.