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Planes and Primaries: A Tough Week for Governor Reynolds

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DGA Video: Iowa Governor Caught Using a Wealthy Donor’s Jet, Now Faces a Tough Primary

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ first two weeks as governor have not gone as smoothly as she hoped. The newly minted governor hit several serious roadblocks last week, complicating what was supposed to be an easy transition.

First, an Associated Press report published on Friday exposed that Reynolds used a private jet owned by a casino tycoon for her kickoff tour around the state. The wealthy businessman in question, Gary Kirke, is currently competing with a rival developer for state approval to build a new casino in Cedar Rapids.

“For her first trip across Iowa as governor, Republican Kim Reynolds sought and accepted the free use of a jet owned by a wealthy businessman who is lobbying for state approval to build a lucrative casino.”


“The company is in a high-stakes competition against a rival group for a state license to build the first casino in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will decide later this year whether to grant a license.” 

It’s not her first involvement with the casino developer. Kirke also donated a total of $125,000 to the Branstad and Reynolds campaign funds in previous years.

Local media jumped all over the story. A roundup of the negative coverage can be seen here: 

Reynolds even felt the heat from fellow Republicans. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said it was “unwise” and “raises the question about objectivity.” As the story was breaking on Friday afternoon, Corbett indicated he would challenge Reynolds for the Republican nomination:

“After the session, Corbett said he’s fundraising in his hometown of Cedar Rapids and also Iowa City, and he plans to announce a run for the state’s top office late in the month. If he runs, it likely would set up a primary challenge to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has not yet announced her candidacy for the 2018 campaign.” 

“It’s hard to imagine having a worse week than Kim Reynolds did,” said DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold. “She hasn’t made it two full weeks as governor and she’s already facing pay-to-play questions and a political challenge from within her own party. With this rough start, Governor Reynolds must not be looking forward to facing Iowa voters next year.”