Private meeting at Iowa lawmaker’s home helped lead to 70+ endorsements for Nikki Haley

“We have to do something,” legislator said of the thought of Trump becoming the nominee again
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley made a campaign stop in Council Bluffs on...
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley made a campaign stop in Council Bluffs on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.(Marlo Lundak / WOWT)
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 11:22 PM CST
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DES MOINES (KTIV) - An Iowa Republican legislator decided that it was “time to take our party back.” A former U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and historic Iowa Statehouse leader stepped back into public politics after 16 years away from it, saying, “It’s a time that we all need to act.”

They are two of the more than 70 influential Iowans that Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign announced are publicly supporting her about two months before the state’s Republican Caucuses. The announcement followed a private meeting of concerned Iowa Republicans (former Republicans in some cases) in early November who were alarmed at public polling that shows that Donald Trump could become their party’s nominee again in 2024.

And they come a week after Governor Kim Reynolds, arguably one of the state’s most popular Republicans, endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -- rather than Trump -- whom she had previously defended despite the 91 criminal indictments against him.

DeSantis has also previously announced the endorsements of more than three dozen Iowa GOP legislators.

State Representative Brian Lohse, a Bondurant Republican, said of Trump, “I have a hard time supporting someone who is so incredibly divisive, not just amongst the country but amongst the party.”

While Lohse liked the tax cuts that Republicans passed during Trump’s time in office, along with more attention to border security, he worries that a second Trump term will be more focused on grievance, retribution and vengeance against those who oppose Trump.

“I’m a Reagan Republican,” Lohse said of his quest for a conservative nominee with character.

Two weeks ago, Lohse hosted a private gathering with about three dozen people at his home. The discussion centered on the concerns of Trump winning the Caucuses, whether Haley can be a top alternative and if this group of Iowans was willing to get involved publicly in this presidential campaign on Haley’s behalf.

The conversations that day, along with several others that followed since, led to Tuesday’s campaign announcement of their endorsements.

“We have to do something,” Lohse explained. ”We have to take our party back. We all felt Nikki was that person.”

Iowa State Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, talks about the GOP, why he endorses presidential candidate Nikki Haley, and how he's working to get her elected.

The temperament, the background (former South Carolina legislator, governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) and the ability to attract conservatives, people loosely supporting Trump now, Democrats and Independents united nearly everyone who gathered at Lohse’s house.

It’s what nudged Mary Kramer to get involved. “I left politics in 2007,” Kramer chuckled.

In 2007, Kramer returned to the Des Moines metro after serving four years as President George W. Bush’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Barbados. Before that, she held a seat in the state senate for 23 years. That tenure included an Iowa first: she became the first woman elected president of that legislative body.

“Women can show the ability to listen,” Kramer said, “...and lead.”

Kramer continued to follow politics but chose not to get publicly involved in campaigning or endorsing candidates as they came through town. But after listening to the people around her at Lohse’s house, as well as the conversations that followed, Kramer decided that it was time to get involved again in whatever way she could be of most value.

Kramer said, “It’s a dangerous time. It is one where we are on the borderline of not functioning as a government, so the leadership challenge is going to be huge. The willingness to listen and negotiate has to be there.”

Kramer saw those listening and negotiating traits in Haley, her fellow former ambassador. So did Lohse but also a characteristic that he feels is rarer these days and much needed. “Winning matters,” Lohse said of his belief that Haley could give Republicans the best chance to win back the White House, “but so does disagreeing.”

He thinks that Haley is his party’s most skilled leader at communicating with others who differ on the issues. Lohse doesn’t believe Trump is willing to do that and the country needs someone like Haley instead. “We need a party that says, ‘O.K., we disagree. I’m not going to call you names. I’m going to continue to work with you.’”

Here is the list of Iowans, many of whom were at Lohse’s house, who are publicly endorsing Haley:

  • John Axtel, former Iowa GOP State Central Committee member
  • John Balmer, former mayor of Iowa City
  • Suzanne Barnes
  • Bob Bettendorf, President of Bettendorf Company
  • Lisa Bianco
  • Darlene Blake, former Polk County GOP Chair
  • Shane Blanchard, former Waukee City Councilman
  • State Representative Jane Bloomingdale
  • Carmine Boal, former state representative
  • Mary Boote
  • Bob Brunkhorst, former state senator and former mayor of Waverly
  • Dennis Campbell, agriculture leader
  • Robert Christensen
  • Scott Cirksena, former mayor of Clive
  • Brent Cobb, CEO of World Class Industries
  • Meg Courter, State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation
  • Jeff Courter
  • Mike Dee
  • Kris Dee
  • Amanda De Jong
  • Bob Dorner
  • Bob Downer, business leader, Iowa City
  • Jane Downer
  • Allison Fleming, former President of Greater Des Moines Foundation
  • Bill Friedman, former CEO of Younkers
  • Johnnie Friedman
  • Steve Gaer
  • Corrine Ganske, MD
  • Rachel Geilenfeld
  • Doug Gross, former chief of staff to Governor Branstad
  • Jean Hamilton
  • Mike Hamilton
  • Carrie Hansen, grassroots leaderg
  • Brenda Hart, former Iowa Federation of Republican Women President
  • Keith Heffernan
  • Christine Hensley, former Des Moines City Council member, longest serving ever
  • Steve Hensley
  • Susan Heun, grassroots leader
  • Rick Hickman
  • Paul Lekel, Associate Pastor at GracePoint Church
  • Libby Jacobs, former state representative
  • Linda Juckette
  • Jim Kimball
  • Mary Ellen Kimball
  • Kevin Koester, former state representative
  • Mary Kramer, former Ambassador to Barbados
  • Mayor of Pleasant Hill Sara Kurovski
  • Steve Lacy, former CEO of Meredith
  • Don Lamberti, founder of Casey’s
  • Liz Lee, grassroots leader
  • State Representative Brian Lohse
  • Dennis Murdock, former CEO of Central Iowa Power Cooperative
  • David Oman, former chief of staff to Governors Ray and Branstad
  • Nancy Palks, former Director of the Marshalltown Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Mary Jean Paschen, former Polk County GOP Chair
  • Madison Price, Students for Nikki, Central College
  • Martha Raecker
  • Mike Ralston, ABI President
  • Lynette Rasmussen, CEO of Rasmussen Group
  • Mike Richards, President of Iowa Board of Regents
  • John Rigler
  • Jim Sandager, former West Des Moines Councilmember
  • Louisa Sandager
  • Bill Scherle, former Polk County GOP Chair
  • Lyle Simpson, grassroots leader
  • Janet Pepper Simpson
  • Adam Siren
  • O. Jay Thompson
  • Pat Thompson
  • Maggie Tinsman, former state senator
  • Margo Underwood
  • Linda Wright, former Branstad Administration official