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Bertrand veers to re-enter Iowa Senate race in Sioux City

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SIOUX CITY -- Rick Bertrand is returning as a statehouse candidate.

After another Republican dropped out,  the incumbent Sioux City state senator has veered from his prior decision to not seek re-election to the District 7 seat. Woodbury County Republican Party Central Committee members in a Tuesday special meeting made Bertrand the nominee for the position that will be decided Nov. 6.

"I am in it to win it," Bertrand said at the meeting.

Steve Stokes, who on the final day of filing in March became the Republican standard bearer, dropped out of the Iowa Senate District 7 contest last week. Stokes cited the need to devote more time to his business.

So, in an infrequently used step, county Republicans on Tuesday evening held a special convention in Sioux City to nominate Bertrand. The period to hold such special nominating conventions in Iowa ends Aug. 25, so Republicans came close to the end of the process to get a candidate on the ballot.

Bertrand was the only Republican who sought the senate opening Tuesday. Republicans made a motion to make him the nominee by acclamation, and that passed with only one dissenting vote. About 30 people participated.

Bertrand will face Sioux City Democrat Jackie Smith, a former Woodbury County supervisor, in the race for Senate District 7, which includes the city's north and west sides.

Bertrand won Senate terms in 2010 and 2014, and in March said he wouldn't run again. He lost a challenge in 2016 to oust fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King for the Iowa 4th congressional district seat, and a few months ago said he was mulling a run for the Sioux City mayor position in 2019 or a Woodbury County Board of Supervisors seat.

Bertrand in March told the Journal he has always believed people should not rack up long tenures in legislative chambers, and had said he would probably only serve two four-year terms.

Bertrand on Tuesday acknowledged he had "unplugged" and grew a beard after the legislative session ended some weeks ago. He said calls of support to run for the seat again by people such as Gov. Kim Reynolds made an impression.

"You feel good when you are asked...when your governor calls you personally," he said.

Smith has set a 10 a.m. Wednesday press conference at the downtown Woodbury County Democratic Party headquarters to talk about her opponent's decision. In a Facebook post within the last week, she said working class Woodbury County residents are interested in having the Legislature focus more energy on improving K-12 schools for Iowa children and grandchildren and ensuring access to affordable health for more Iowans.

Bertrand said he'd heard some of Smith's campaign "rhetoric." He prefers the legislation that passed the last two years when Republicans controlled both Statehouse chambers and the governor position.

"We want to continue that conservative agenda," he said, which included a requirement for photo identification in order to vote and commercial property tax reform.

Copyright 2018 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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