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Political Mercury

Kim Reynolds to pick transgender running mate in 2018


In what is widely regarded among insiders as something of a political man-made earthquake, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to select a transgender running mate for her gubernatorial bid, a bold stroke sure to sew discord in an increasingly fractured Republican Party, but a decision Reynolds insists is essential for positioning herself as a pioneering leader with national profile.

According to close Reynolds allies, the two-term lieutenant governor is “sick and tired” of Democrats racking up barrier-breaking “firsts.” Several of her closest supporters, while seeing the clear risk of adding a transgender candidate in the 2018 statewide campaign, support Reynolds’ reasoning and are on board with the strategy.

“First African-American this, first woman that, first Hispanic doing something else,” says one Republican operative with ties to Reynolds. “It never ends with the Democrats and all their politically correct openness. We are going to shatter that paradigm, bury it deep in the Iowa soil, just shell shock the state with this selection. Some western Iowa Republicans are going to need new heart valves after we roll this out.”

A key GOP consultant says the Reynolds move has one major benefit in terms of day-do-day campaigning: snaring the spotlight at every parade from Muscatine to Rock Rapids.

“When we have some chick who used to be a dude riding around in a convertible, in like a leather skirt, twirling a parasol into the summer sun, adjusting a blonde wig in the wind, it doesn’t matter how many World War II veterans or local football heroes are following the candidate in the parade,” says the Republican source. “All eyes will be on us. And that’s money in this business.”

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This GOP source says a transgender candidate also will bring advantages to social-media branding. Many transgender people are known by just one name — such as “Chris” or “Kelly.”

“When you only have 140 characters for messaging, every letter counts, and when Republicans have a candidate who transcends the need for a surname with his or her sheer ostentatiousness, we can get more quickly to the activating issues for voters,” says a Republican insider.

According to several well-placed Republicans, debate is raging in the party about whether Reynolds should select a man who used to be a woman, or go with the opposite gender-bender.

The prevailing thinking, says one GOP insider, is that many conservative Republican men are already “in the closet” where sexuality is concerned, and may be willing to risk political exile for the opportunity to wear dresses and feminine accessories they’ve coveted since adolescence.

“Getting a dude to dress like a chick will be no problem for the Republican Party,” says the GOP source. “We have a deep bench where this is concerned. If we even just crack that closet door, you’ll soon see the big reveal. We have a lot of men in the Iowa Republican Party who go to bed at night dreaming of hitting the campaign trail in high heels. The shoe section at Younkers may be the biggest winner with this choice.”

There’s another factor at play, campaign consultants say.

Reynolds is relatively untested as an independent voice in the state as she’s largely been tethered to Gov. Terry Branstad. Picking a transgender lieutenant candidate will distract voters from expected Reynolds gaffes during an exhausting year of campaign events, sources inside the capitol say.

What’s more, the Reynolds transgender-running-mate decision is seen by some political professionals as necessary to preserve contracts for highly paid consultants and media buyers in a multimillion-dollar contest.“In the last two election cycles, the Democrats fielded flawed candidates for governor,” says the Republican source. “Blowouts and landslides aren’t the stuff of job security for the Republican political talking class. We need to give the Democrats what you could call a point spread, something to make this governor’s race closer, because the Democrats aren’t going to do that themselves. Can you imagine what it will mean for Iowa Republicans when we win Terrace Hill with a guy on the ticket who doesn’t even have a penis? I mean, we won’t even have to talk about guns. Not that the two are connected, of course.” APRIL FOOLS

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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