Story By MIKE GLOVER
A year out from the 2010 election, five Republican candidates for governor are crisscrossing Iowa while a sixth hires well-known staffers but still hasn’t committed to seeking the nomination.
Former Gov. Terry Branstad announced Monday he’d hired Tim Albrecht as communications director. Albrecht is well-known in state politics and worked on the presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Steve Forbes.
Jeff Boeyink earlier quit has job as executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa to lead an exploratory committee studying Branstad’s expected run for office.
Without declaring that Branstad, who was governor for 16 years beginning in 1983, was seeking the Republican nomination, Albrecht made clear that staffers weren’t just exploring a campaign.
“I think there’s a little meat on the exploration effort,” said Albrecht, who had been spokesman for the Iowa-based American Future Fund, a conservative advocacy group. “That’s part of the process.”
Branstad’s not alone in delaying a declaration of his campaign.
Democratic Gov. Chet Culver never shut down his campaign effort after his 2006 election and now has five staffers running fundraising and field operations. Two more people are expected to join the staff by the end of the week.
All that’s left is for him to announce he’s seeking re-election.
“We’re getting ready even though we don’t have an actual race until after June,” said Pete d’Alessandro, who heads Culver’s effort.
Although Branstad has delayed a decision most believe is inevitable, other Republicans long ago made their intentions clear.
Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats has been campaigning for months with help from five paid staffers and chief consultant Eric Woolson, who ran former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 Iowa presidential caucus campaign. Vander Plaats and Woolson have tapped into the network of social conservatives that lifted Huckabee to that surprising win, and they argue it could overcome Branstad’s advantage in name recognition after four terms as governor.
“These are folks with caucus experience, with primary experience,” said Woolson. “Name recognition alone does not get you where you need to be.”
The other Republicans seeking the nomination – state Reps. Christopher Rants and Rod Roberts, state Sen. Jerry Behn and businessman Christian Fong – also have been traveling the state but have limited their campaign staff hires.
“Right now, it’s me on the ground,” said Rants. “We’re trying to recruit volunteers and supporters. I am not pouring money into hiring staff. I’m trying to hoard my resources.”