Jul 5, 2023 - Politics

Gov. Kim Reynolds bucks trend in dominating Iowa politics

Kim Reynolds at podium for Ron DeSantis event

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a campaign kickoff event for GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis in Clive on May 30. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' agenda-setting power in Iowa is only growing more influential — and there are no signs of it slowing down, according to Governing, a media outlet focused on local governments.

Why it matters: Reynolds has pushed more conservative policies than even her longtime predecessor, Terry Branstad, Governing reports.

State of play: Reynolds' reign has been buoyed by Iowa's shift from purple to red, starting when former President Trump was elected into office in 2016.

The intrigue: Governors historically struggle to exert executive power among lawmakers the longer they're in power, Governing reports.

  • But in contrast to her first term, Reynolds' power over lawmakers has only grown.
  • Last year, she endorsed Republican challengers during the primaries who supported her priorities and successfully ousted incumbents who didn't agree with her school choice priority, Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, previously told Axios.

What they're saying: "There's no doubt that she is stronger today than she has ever been," Jack Whitver, the Iowa Senate majority leader, told Governing.

Yes, but: Even if she's able to dominate the state Legislature, voter opinions have shown that her ambitions may be polarizing.

  • Reynolds' overall approval rating dropped to 50% in March 2023 — a 3-percentage point drop from October 2022, according to the Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll, which surveyed 805 Iowans between March 5-8 via phone.
  • The majority of Iowans, including Republicans, also opposed her school choice bill, according to the same Iowa Poll.
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