IA-01: Paul Pate ready to run, Renee Schulte to decide soon

The Republican field in Iowa’s open first Congressional district may soon expand to five candidates, matching the number of contenders on the Democratic side. Cedar Rapids-based Steve Rathje and Dubuque-based Rod Blum have been campaigning around the district for months. State Representative Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls just formed an exploratory committee, which usually leads to a full-blown campaign. During the past week, former State Senator, Cedar Rapids Mayor, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has indicated in interviews with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and The Iowa Republican blog that he is ready to run. I’ve posted some of his comments after the jump.

Former State Representative Renee Schulte, also of Cedar Rapids, has been encouraged to run by many fellow Republicans, including Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson. She served two terms in the Iowa House before losing her seat last November to Art Staed, the Democrat she had defeated in 2008. Speaking by telephone on September 18, Schulte told me she expects to decide on a Congressional campaign by the end of this month. She has been talking with people all over the district, not only in Linn County. She added that her decision will not rest on whether Rogers or Pate are running, but on whether she has the “bandwith” to go forward with a campaign.

On paper, Pate is the best Republican candidate by far, having the most experience as a legislator and the best electoral track record. The big question is whether he could be portrayed as too moderate in a GOP primary. For example, as a state senator from 1989 through 1994, Pate probably voted for some spending bills opponents might pick apart now, such as health and human services budgets including limited Medicaid funding for abortions. Rivals may criticize some city projects linked to Pate’s time as mayor of Cedar Rapids from 2002 through 2005.

Schulte strikes me as a potentially strong contender too. I’ve been thinking all year that Republicans would do well to nominate a woman with strong ties in Linn County, the largest of the 20 counties in IA-01. Clearly Schulte and Pate would have a better chance in the primary without the other one helping to split the Linn County vote. It will be interesting to see whether any of Rathje’s steering committee members jump ship in the coming months. Rogers, Pate and Schulte are all likely to raise substantially more money than Rathje and Blum have for their campaigns so far.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.

Excerpt from Pate’s comments to James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Pate, owner of Pate Asphalt Systems, frequently has been mentioned as a candidate for state and federal office since leaving the mayor’s office eight years ago. In each case, he declined to run citing family and business obligations.

However, friends and political allies encouraged – “pressured,” according to Pate – him into getting into the 1st District race despite the fact two candidates already were running.

“Bottom line,” he said Friday afternoon, “I’m a little frustrated in the lack of energy and momentum in the existing field. There’s not the excitement we should be having in an open-seat race.”

From Pate’s comments to The Iowa Republican blog:

“I’m the only one who has been elected to represent this district,” Pate said. “I carried this district when I was secretary of state, very comfortably, and I’ve won five general election ballots. I don’t think any of the others have. I’ve won statewide and twice successfully ran for mayor in the largest city in the district, winning over 50 percent. Those are all positive things, and I represented rural, urban, large and small towns. I think my credentials are pretty strong for it.”

Almost 1/6 of the votes in the 2012 First District primary came from Linn County, so that gives Pate a good base build upon. However, he will have to put in a lot of work to familiarize himself with Republicans around the district. Pate does not see that as an impediment.  He says doorknocked every house in his district, more than once, while running for the state senate.

“We’re very serious about it,” Pate said regarding the congressional race. “We’ve identified a very good financial base and some good people to help me raise the money and build the kind of energy out there that we’re going to need. And let’s face it, if you look at the field we have right now, we just don’t seem to have the people there who are raising the money or the people that have the electability, who have been elected and have a track record.”

Pate says there is a 90 percent chance he will enter the race and expects to make a final decision by October 1. He was considering jumping in the race in the spring, but when House Speaker Kraig Paulsen indicated he was strongly considering running, Pate held off. The two prominent Linn County Republicans would have cannibalized each other’s campaign as they fought for similar constituencies. With Paulsen opting to remain in the Iowa House, Pate felt a void remained in the field.

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