It’s been a long time coming. It being this congressional campaign launched by Bret Richards, who is a Republican challenging Congressman Steve King for the party’s nomination in 2020.
“My wife reminded me that I’ve been talking about this since I was 16, 17 years old, that maybe one day I would run for Congress,” Richards said. “It’s always been something in the back of my mind. I kind of felt a calling to do it.”
Richards cited King’s lack of effectiveness as the reason for his candidacy. He is the second Republican to officially announce a primary challenge against King. State Senator Randy Feenstra announced he would primary King last week.
“This last time when he just about lost to a Democrat, I thought it was my time to run against him because I do not think he will win his next congressional election,” Richards said. “We’ve just recently finished filing all the paperwork on the federal side of it to establish an official campaign. We are in the campaign — we’re not longer in the testing-the-waters phase.”
Richards is a businessman. He has served as a council member and as mayor of Irwin, Iowa. He served on the Board of Directors for the Petroleum Marketers Association of America. He’s chairman of the Board of Directors for Manning Regional Healthcare Center. From June of 1999 until December 2015 he was Chief Operations Officer of Richards Enterprises, Inc.
“We had a family business, a fairly large business,” Richards said. “We had a couple hundred employees. I think that actually probably qualifies me in a lot of ways that will be useful to the district.”
The political experience from serving as mayor was more like volunteer work, Richards said.
“We are in a very small town, a town of 400,” he said. “It’s not a political position. It’s a position that has to be done. People call you about their cats and their dogs.”
Richards and his family began considering the congressional campaign in the middle of November.
“It was definitely a family decision,” Richards said. “We wanted to talk it through before we moved to the next step, which was going out and talking to business leaders, friends and family. It’s a personal process deciding if you’re willing to commit to it. It’s going to be a learning experience every day.”
Leadership is the key according to Richards. And, he said, that is his greatest strength.
“I believe that I am effective leader,” he said. “In the business world I develop relationships that allow me to work with people to get things done. I know that’s one of my best strengths. That’s one of the things I think is an important distinction between Congressman King and me. When the voters get to know me, I think they’ll see that. I’m a true, authentic leader.”
Issues-wise he’s focused on addressing the rural American economy along with health care.
“I believe strongly in rural America,” Richards said. “I really think that in rural America, the values are so important. That’s why my wife and I moved back to Irwin after the Army to raise our family, because of the values. One of the things that has been upsetting to me is the decline in economic conditions in our rural Iowa towns. That is a big concern.”
Serving on the board of the health care center in Manning has given him an upfront perspective of that issue.
“It’s probably been eight or nine years now,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be exposed to a hospital, clinic, long term facility and drug and alcohol rehab facility. When ever you give, you get a lot back. I’ve been very blessed in that way.”
Richards is in the race for the long haul, up until at least Election Day of the Republican primary.
“I am committed to it,” he said. “Once my family and I made the decision, we became committed to this. I’m absolutely certain I’ll see it through to the end. I’m glad there are other quality candidates thinking about running. That can’t be bad for the Party.”