Campaigning has changed for candidates throughout Iowa due to the Coronavirus response in the Hawkeye State.
Bret Richards is one of five Republicans running for the GOP’s nomination in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District. He is one of four Republicans in the primary against Congressman Steve King.
Richards, who gladly gives out his cell phone number (which is 712-579-4753), called himself the most approachable and available candidate.
“We’ve done over 250 campaign events, and that was going out and actually shaking hands with people — whether it was county fairs or at local coffee shops — that’s how I was building our campaign,” Richards said. “Really, honestly, that’s what most Iowans expect is that their representatives go out and talk to them. So it has been a change with the Coronavirus.”
Richards, like most candidates, is turning to social media and phone calls. He said he gives out his phone number because he wants people to feel like they can talk to him and tell him what they think should be going on in the country.
Facebook Live events are likely on the docket for Richards. He’s hopeful that the setup includes the ability for Iowans to ask questions.
“I’m glad to keep talking to Iowans and hopefully the Coronavirus will get under control soon so we can go out and talk to people in their area,” he said.
There were debates scheduled for earlier this year, but not all candidates agreed to participate. Instead, it was expected debates would begin about six weeks out from the primary. Those plans are now in flux, and the absentee voting period was extended from 29 days before the primary to 40.
“I know our campaign was working with others, particularly Jeff King, to try to figure out when to do that because they had said they would start debates like six weeks before the first ballot got cast,” Richards said. “Well, things have been changed now. So, we really do have to circle back and see if we’re going to get some forums and debates, some virtual debates — I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I do think Iowans want to hear from the candidates in one way or the other. Competition sharpens everyone.”
When he was able to be on the trail, Richards said he heard a lot about core Republican issues like protecting life, preserving the Second Amendment and balancing the budget, along with securing the border.
“But people were also very, very excited to actually hear a Republican talk about reforming health care,” Richards said. “Now, that actually takes on a new meaning. I know we’re going to give the health care industry, I don’t know what exactly it’ll look like, but give them $150 billion. Hopefully, that money goes to help fix some systems and pay for the additional costs bought on by the pandemic, but we also need to talk about what real Republican ideals mean on reforming health care, it’s not just insurance reform. There are conservative solutions out there. Unfortunately, those things, if we don’t talk about them, what we’re going to get eventually is socialized medicine because that’s all the Democrats talk about. I don’t know that I expected to hear that people were really engaged about health care, but I’m glad they were.”
And, when things return to whatever normal will look like post-Coronavirus, there will have to be some discussions about lessons learned through the national crisis.
“I think we do need to support our governor and governors across the country and the President when they’re making these extraordinarily difficult decisions,” Richards said. “We should be asking these questions either as we go or when the time is appropriate. How much should we depend on the government? Should we not have a conversation about how we can have families saving more money? You know, 2-3 months is kind of the rule that my family has always tried to aspire to. If we would do that and not say we’re having a problem in our lives, can the government fix it, those are questions we’ve got to ask.”
Richards said while Congress plans to throw $2 trillion at it, and the fed is planning to introduce another $1 trillion, the national debt needs to be a priority moving forward.
“Maybe throwing money at it is the right solution in the short term,” he said. “But I think we’ve got to have at least a few people saying ‘Wait, is this what we’re doing? Is it the right thing?’ And, what lessons can we learn from it for the future?”
At the end of the day, Richards said Iowans all want similar things.
“We care about our family, we care about those around us, we want our kids to have the opportunity to come back to Iowa,” he said. “Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to, it means that they have the opportunity. And we just want to live our lives and be happy. It’s been reassuring when I’ve been out to hundreds of places now and that’s what I’ve heard. Basically, what I care about is important to them too.”