Thursday, May 28, 2009

Behn, former senator for Carroll, considers gov run

BOONE - Republican State Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone, who represented Carroll County for most of two terms before redistricting after the 2000 elections, says he's "seriously considering" running for governor in 2010.

Behn said he's talking with supporters and others about a possible bid. He joins what is a growing list of potential candidates that includes State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll.

Behn said he had no firm timetable in mind at this point for making an announcement.

A social conservative with strong credentials in the pro-life community, Behn spent much of the interview hammering Democratic Gov. Chet Culver on fiscal and economic matters. Culver is borrowing too much money and spending the state's future away, Behn contends.

"I really want to leave an Iowa to my children and grandchildren that is every bit as good as the Iowa left to me by my parents," Behn said.

He said Iowans instinctively know the state is heading in the wrong direction and are looking for a turnaround.

"If you look at the Titanic, if it was aiming the other way, it wouldn't have hit the iceberg," Behn said.

Specifically, Behn hammered Culver's $830-million bonding plan, which is aimed at creating jobs and improving infrastructure. The borrowed money will be paid back through certain gambling revenues over 20 years.

Behn was first elected in 1996 in a Senate District that included Carroll and Greene counties. Four years later he defeated Democratic challenger Joan Phillips, then of Manning, and represented Carroll until being redistricted into a more central Iowa region, District 24, that includes Boone, Waukee, Perry and Adel.

"Carroll County has a special place in my heart," Behn said. "You essentially put me in the Senate."

Conservative voters only have to look to Behn's voting record on social issues, the Boone Republican said.

Behn thinks he can hold the GOP base while reaching out to independents on the economy.

"I think the economy moves voters," Behn said. "The independents are worried about money - pure and simple."

This doesn't mean Behn won't use the issue of recently legalized gay marriage in Iowa in a potential campaign.

Behn makes the case that the three branches of government shouldn't be equal, that the courts should take a lesser role to the legislative and executive branches, the latter two of which he says are closer to the people.

"Absolutely," he said, when asked if that's the power structure he favors in Des Moines.

"The judiciary was supposed to be the weakest of the three," Behn said.

In April the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Republicans need to return to the "ABC's," said Behn who said that should stand for "anyone but Culver."

"You have to have someone who fundamentally disagrees with the direction we're headed," Behn said.

Behn, 55, is a longtime grain farmer who lives just south of U.S. 30 in Boone. He and his wife have four children, three grown and living in Iowa and the other 13 years old.

Besides Behn and Roberts a GOP gubernatorial field is emerging that includes some well-known politicians and candidates with big-time business credentials and bases. As it stands that list would include: Sioux City business consultant Bob Vander Plaats (who ran in 2006 before joining forces with the eventual nominee, Congressman Jim Nussle) U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, State Rep. Christopher Rants of Sioux City, Bettendorf businessman Mike Whalen, former State Sen. Jeff Lamberti, an Ankeny lawyer and board member of Casey's General Stores and Vermeer Corp. president Mary Andringa of Mitchellville.

Behn said that no "big name" - such as King - has announced. The Boone senator said that his decision isn't necessarily connected to the moves of other Republicans.

He worked closely with Carroll's Roberts, and Behn says he holds him in high regard.

"He's a quality candidate," Behn said. "I like Rod personally. I like Rod professionally."


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