DES MOINES — Former energy executive Mark Jacobs officially entered the race for U.S. Senate on Tuesday pushing an agenda of tax and regulatory reform and expanding domestic energy production.
“The core issue is a lack of good jobs,” said Jacobs, 51, a married father of three who moved to West Des Moines about a year ago after retiring as CEO of Reliant Energy.
“And you can’t spell ‘Jacobs’ without ‘jobs.’”
The Des Moines announcement was held in the warehouse of Infomax, an office systems company once run by Jacobs’ father and now by his brother. Jacobs attended Merrill Junior High School, now Merrill Middle School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines where he was a member of the swim team.
The Infomax announcement in front of more than 100 people was the first of several scheduled stops that would take Jacobs to Cedar Rapids, Bettendorf and Sioux City on Tuesday as part of a six-day, 26-city announcement tour.
Jacobs enters an already-crowded field of Republicans who want to take on presumptive Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin.
Ankeny attorney Matt Whitaker, state Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak, former U.S. Senate staffer David Young, college professor Sam Clovis, attorney and author Paul Lunde and salesman Scott Schaben, both of Ames, already have spent months on the campaign trail.
Jacobs, too, has traveled the state over the past four months on an exploratory trip. Asked how much of his personal wealth he was willing to spend on a campaign, Jacobs demurred.
“You know, I’m committed to running an absolute first-rate campaign, and I’m going to be working my tail off to raise funds from the four corners in Iowa to make sure we have the right resources to get our message out on jobs and opportunity,” he said.
His stump speech was aimed squarely at the business crowd with talk of closing the skills gap for job seekers through community college and vocational schools, more domestic energy production, tax reform, regulatory rollback and “market-driven” health care reform.
In the Quad-Cities, he delivered remarks at Bowe Machine Co., Bettendorf, where he criticized the Affordable Care Act and said rising health care costs are a major problem.
Afterward, he told reporters that he thinks all Americans ought to have access to affordable health insurance, including those with pre-existing conditions, but that consumer choice and price transparency are needed to pull down provider costs.
"If we're able to tackle that, then covering people with pre-existing conditions gets a lot easier," he said.
Jacobs also criticized the “dysfunction” in Washington, D.C., giving voters “the false choice of health care reform or shutting down the government,” and he told the crowd there was no wisdom in “electing another politician and expecting different results.”
The latter criticism could be aimed at either Braley, who was first elected to Congress in 2006, or Ernst, who is in her first term as a state senator but was previously a county auditor.
Ernst’s campaign sent out a statement Monday taking a jab at Jacobs’ relatively recent move to the Hawkeye state.
"We welcome Mark Jacobs to the Republican Party, to Iowa and now the race for United States Senate,” she said. "While his announcement may cause a bit of noise, it changes very little about the race."
Asked about the potential carpet-bagger criticism from other candidates and voters, Jacobs said his formative years were spent in the state.
“I’ve had the great benefit of growing up in the state, and it’s a great privilege for me to be back in Iowa, giving back to the state that I love so much,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on what other campaigns are doing. Our message is about growth and opportunity. It’s a very positive message.”
(Reporter Ed Tibbetts contributed to this article.)