Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Phone Call from Paul

State Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R Chariton) called this morning. Paul is Senator for District 36, which includes Marion County. I was working in our Pella studio, and when my cell phone rang and I saw the name “Paul McKinley” flash on the screen, I knew why he was calling. He called to announce that he is “aggressively exploring a run for Governor.” I have heard rumors that Paul might be thinking about running for months, and when he stopped by our Knoxville studios a couple of weeks ago for an interview I asked him about the possibility of a run, and he told me (and eventually our listeners) that he was undecided, but “keeping all options open.” As Paul was leaving the studio that day, I requested that if he hadn’t made any promises to other media outlets to please call KNIA KRLS first if he decided to run. He smiled and nodded at the time, and I’m pleased to report that the Senator remembered that promise when he called this morning—and that he reminded me of it.

Regular listeners know that both Paul and Representative Jim Van Engelenhoven (R-Pella) join our Knoxville and Pella News Directors in weekly Let’s Talk Pella and Let’s Talk Knoxville news programs when the legislature is in session.

So it’s official. Paul McKinley has taken the official first step in a run for Governor. Based upon our conversation, it’s clear that he has put much thought in his decision, and he brings lots to the table entering the race—his background in manufacturing, business, knowledge of agriculture and education, among other issues. He also knows Marion County and Iowa well.

Of course his likely opponents in the Republican primary also have much to offer to many potential constituents—both those candidates who have declared, and likely some who have not. Today Paul joined Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City, state Rep. Christopher Rants also of Sioux City and Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong in announcing that they will be or have filed papers. And then there is the likely Democratic nominee, Governor Chet Culver. As all Iowans know, it is difficult to defeat a sitting Governor. Regardless, it should be an exciting primary and subsequent general election.

Party politics aside, I believe that the election is going to be particularly interesting for everyone in Marion County simply because we have a local “horse” in the race. Of course, we at KNIA KRLS will not favor one candidate or party over another. I have already extended interview invitations to two of the other three likely Republican candidates (the last invitation will be extended as soon as I finish writing this), as well as Governor Culver. I hope for the news staff at KNIA KRLS to be able to interview all candidates on our Let’s Talk and In Depth programs—hopefully more than once—so we can help our listeners have the information they need to cast a responsible vote for the candidate that they feel will best represent the people of the state of Iowa.

The power of small market radio will likely make a big difference in this race, and I hope that all of the candidates recognize this. If I remember correctly, I interviewed a total of nine presidential candidates during last year’s election. Only the campaigns of two candidates declined the interview opportunity I offered them—now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Senator John McCain. A staffer on McCain’s campaign told me that Senator McClain “didn’t do small market radio.”

I interviewed President Barack Obama twice.

Dr. Bob Leonard

Photo: Paul McKinley at the Bussey Fourth of July Parade, 2009

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