DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad has little use for the ideological cleansing of the Republican Party and said he’ll keep himself — and his formidable campaign chest — out of the state’s primary contests in 2014.
“I’m a conservative, I’ve always been a conservative,” Branstad said during a telephone conversation Friday afternoon as he was traveling to Maquoketa to meet with Iowa’s newly named Teacher of the Year, Jane Schmidt. “When there were people who said the (former Gov.) Bob Ray moderates were not Republicans, I made sure they were welcome.
Branstad has not officially announced his intention to seek re-election to a sixth term, but he has continued to raise money, employs full-time campaign staff and recently held a ribbon-cutting on a campaign office in Urbandale.
He’s had some public spats with Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker, notably over Branstad’s comments on the usefulness of the Ames Straw Poll and Spiker’s attempt to move GOP nominating convention dates.
Asked about next week’s Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, which features Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the keynote speaker, Branstad would say only that there’s room in the party for all kinds.
“If evangelicals want to get involved, if Libertarians want to get involved, we should welcome them,” he said. “I don’t think we should be excluding people.”
Cruz is being criticized by some moderate Republicans who blame him for organizing the stalemate that shut down the federal government for more than two weeks and threatened to force the U.S. government into default on its debts.
The governor also said he was happy that state Rep. Julian Garrett won the Republican nomination to run to replace Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who resigned in the wake of ethics complaints.
Garrett, a retired attorney and farmer who has made a reputation as a moderate in the Republican-controlled House, won a four-way contest Thursday night.
“I think that was an important one,” Branstad said. “I think it will help us keep that seat.”