The 2022 U.S. Senate election in Iowa now has its first official candidate. On Monday, Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin announced he is running for the seat that Chuck Grassley has held since 1981.
Carlin has served in the Iowa State Senate, representing part of Woodbury County, since winning a special election in 2017. He has attracted some attention this legislative session by sponsoring bills including one that would reintroduce the death penalty, which Iowa abolished in 1965. Another bill sponsored by Carlin would divert money from public schools to private schools, something Gov. Reynolds called for in her Condition of the State speech.
This session Carlin also introduced a so-called “bathroom bill” that mandates schools only allow students to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate. And he is the author of a bill that would require the Board of Regents to report on the political party affiliation of everyone employed by Iowa’s three public universities.
Carlin began the speech announcing his candidacy at the American Legion Post in Sergeant Bluff by quoting Ronald Reagan, but Donald Trump was the president who figured most prominently in Carlin’s announcement.
Carlin listed Trump’s priorities as president as his own. He also complained that the 2020 election was not fair.
That Carlin would suggest Joe Biden’s victory in November was not legitimate isn’t a surprise. As Pat Rynard pointed out in Iowa Starting Line, Carlin has been claiming the election was stolen from Trump for months.
Shortly after the election in November, Carlin was a featured speaker at a Stand With President Trump Rally in Orange City, where he made the fact-free allegation that there was a massive conspiracy to deprive Trump of a second term.
“This whole thing was planned and orchestrated for months before it ever took place. We have to deal with that reality,” Carlin said. “We’re dealing with dishonest people who want to control and manipulate, define and shame us into silence and submission at the cost of our constitutional freedom and self-determination.”
In January, Carlin took to the floor of the Iowa Senate to again promote his baseless claims about “widespread fraud” in the election, warning that “Tyranny’s not at the door, it’s in the house. It would seek to redefine America as a nation no longer free. To make freedom appear evil, to make slavery a virtue.”
On Monday, Carlin used his unsupported belief that the last election was riddled with fraud to call for changes in how voting is conducted, because “American democracy will crumble if voters lose faith in the integrity of elections and those who count the ballots.”
Carlin praised Trump not only for his actions as president, but also for the enemies he had.
“Sometimes you can know who a person is by their enemies,” he said. “No one knows this better than President Trump. The same people who threaten our freedoms and seek to control what we see, read and hear from one another hated him. You have to ask yourself why? … I commend and am grateful for all his efforts to keep America a free and prosperous nation. He stood up. We can do no less.”
Carlin followed that by assuring listeners, “I am not running as a purveyor of grievances,” before immediately going on to say he will always fight “those who belittle our culture, undermine our way of life, or relegate the patriotic and the God-loving to second-class citizens in a country we love.”
“Our freedom is really what they are after,” he said.
At no point in his speech did Carlin mention Chuck Grassley, even though Grassley has been in the office he is seeking as long as Carlin has lived in Iowa. Carlin, who grew up in Massachusetts, moved to Sioux City, where works as an attorney, in 1992. Grassley was first elected to the Senate in 1980, and has been in elective office at either the state or federal level since 1959.
The 87-year-old senior senator has not yet announced if he will run for reelection next year. Earlier this month, he told reporters he would likely make his decision in “several weeks.”
Speaking to the Cedar Falls Rotary Club last year, Grassley said his health would be an important factor in determining whether he would run again.
“Now the one thing I want to make sure of is, that I don’t become a Senator [Robert] Byrd, where, the last two years on office, I have to have a nurse with me,” he said. “Or when [Strom] Thurmond left office at 100 years and three months, but the last couple of years, he needed a lot of help.”
If reelected in 2022, Grassley would be 95 at end of that term.
Carlin told the Des Moines Register it doesn’t matter to him if Grassley chooses to run again.
“I appreciate [Grassley’s] service, as anybody does,” he said. “But I didn’t get in the race to drop out.”