Dr. Christopher Peters may soon have a Republican primary rival in Iowa’s second Congressional district. Multiple sources tell Bleeding Heartland that Ginny Caligiuri has been laying the groundwork to seek the GOP nomination and plans to have petitions out for activists to sign at the Republican Party of Iowa’s precinct caucuses on February 5. At this writing, the Federal Election Commission’s website has not published any statement of organization for a Caligiuri campaign. The would-be candidate has not replied to requests for comment.
Caligiuri is well-known in Iowa Christian conservative circles, having served as state director for the United States National Prayer Council, the Iowa Prayer Caucus, and National Governors’ Prayer Team. She’s on the committee planning this year’s Iowa Prayer Breakfast in March.
In 2014, Caligiuri conceived of Christians gathering in front of every Iowa county courthouse to read from Scripture. She was inspired to put together a 99 County Bible Reading Marathon in 2016. The photographs posted above show her watching Governor Terry Branstad sign a proclamation encouraging Iowans to take part. Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa charged that Branstad was unconstitutionally promoting Christianity. Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register at the time,
Ginny Caligiuri, an organizer of the Iowa event and a board member and a state director of the Iowa Prayer Caucus, called the concept of separation of church and state “a fallacy.” The roots of that doctrine were to protect religions, not government, she said.
In a story about the Bible reading event, NwestIowa.com quoted Caligiuri as saying, “Our nation is in kind of a disarray, as most people know. When we had prayer removed from public schools in the ’60s, divorce rates went up, abortions went up. The whole complexity of our nation changed drastically right after that happened.”
Caligiuri was a founder of Kingdom Builder Enterprises. That company’s mission statement was a head-scratcher: “An entrepreneurial enterprise that solves problems and improves pre-existing solutions to problems through innovative ideas that have an impact on society.” The vision statement made the purpose more clear: “A multi-faceted organization that brings change to society by applying biblical principles. Partnering with apostolic, prophetic, intercessory prayer that invades the 7 mountain structure and opens up people groups, businesses, cities, states, and nations to reach their potential and their destiny.” Kingdom Builder’s website no longer works, but an archived copy on the Wayback Machine includes contact information for Caligiuri as part of a press release about the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon.
When I heard Caligiuri lives in Osceola, I wondered whether Governor Kim Reynolds (also a Clarke County Republican) might have encouraged her to run for Congress. The Reynolds/Gregg campaign has not responded to my inquiry about whether the governor plans to remain neutral in competitive GOP primaries. Caligiuri and her husband have donated to Reynolds but are not major contributors. During the 2010 gubernatorial race, they initially supported Republican candidate Bob Vander Plaats, as did most prominent Iowa social conservatives. Ginny Caligiuri later gave $500 to Branstad’s campaign shortly before the 2010 general election. Here’s the record of her family’s donations since 2003 to Iowa candidates and committees:
The Open Secrets database did not turn up any contributions by Ginny Caligiuri to federal candidates. Her husband A.J. Caligiuri donated to Mike Huckabee during the 2008 presidential campaign and gave multiple times to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Representative Leonard Boswell.
The winner of the IA-02 primary will face six-term Representative Dave Loebsack. Peters gained 46.2 percent of the vote as Loebsack’s 2016 challenger and was one of the few GOP Congressional candidates in the country to come out as “Never Trump.” He launched his second campaign last summer. Peters is rooted in the GOP’s libertarian faction–in fact, he was a Libertarian Party candidate for the state Senate in 2010. A race against Caligiuri would indicate how powerful social conservatives are in southeast Iowa Republican circles.
The 24 counties in the second Congressional district contain 164,607 active registered Democrats, 145,117 Republicans, and 184,811 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The Cook Political Report views this district as a “likely Democratic” hold, and I am inclined to agree.
To qualify for the Republican primary ballot in IA-02, candidates need to collect at least 1,864 signatures on nominating petitions, with minimum numbers from at least twelve counties. The filing period for major-party candidates begins on February 28 and ends on March 16.
UPDATE: Caligiuri still has not responded to my inquiries, but Peters provided the following statement.
Our campaign heard about this potential primary challenge last week. I actually met Mrs. Caligiuri at an event in Clarke county early this week. She seemed very nice, and we wished each other well in our campaigns, but didn’t discuss any issues.
I don’t know if she has a good feeling for how much work is involved. Perhaps she does, but I’ve been actively campaigning for nearly a year, having visited all 24 counties in the district at least twice, and most multiple times. Connecting with voters is key in Iowa, and I’m continuing to build on my experience in 2016.
Voters seem to care most about economic issues, healthcare reform, mental healthcare, and federal spending. They are looking for candidates they feel they can trust and who offer something more substantive than simple partisan rhetoric.
That’s the type of person I am, and the type of candidate I try to be. We had a diverse coalition of supporters last cycle, from my fellow Republicans to Democratic voters who were upset with Loebsack’s decision to endorse Clinton. I expect we will continue to build that diverse base.
I still wish Ms. Caligiuri well in her race, and look forward to debating the issues with her in the near future. But, I believe our team already has been spending the time and driving the miles to be successful, and we will continue to work hard through the primary and on to November.
SECOND UPDATE: Excerpts from an e-mail Caligiuri sent to Republican county committee chairs last weekend, advising them of her plans.
My name is Ginny Caligiuri. I have lived in Osceola and loved raising my family here for the past 20 years.
As a former small business owner, I was thrilled to see our district vote for Donald Trump. I’m not a politician and had never planned to run for office, but after seeing the resistance toward our President for doing what he promised, I have given it much prayer and consideration and feel compelled to run for Congress. I want to serve you, my fellow Iowans in District 2, and help our President carry through the agenda we voted for in 2016. Our window of opportunity may be limited and the time is now.
You will be receiving a packet from the RPI with a brief bio and signature petitions for my candidacy. I hope you will distribute those to your precinct captains with their caucus materials.
Top images: Ginny Caligiuri watching then Governor Terry Branstad sign a proclamation in April 2016 encouraging Iowans to participate in the 99 County Bible Reading Marathon.