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Davenport Republican state lawmaker launches bid for statewide office
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Davenport Republican state lawmaker launches bid for statewide office

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A Davenport Republican state lawmaker says he will run for statewide office in 2022 rather than seek re-election to the Iowa Senate.

Roby Smith, R-Davenport, announced Thursday he is running for Iowa State Treasurer, challenging 39-year incumbent Michael Fitzgerald.

"Iowa needs a Treasurer who understands the challenges of the 21st Century and is willing to protect Iowans from a Biden administration that is determined to invade our financial privacy," Smith said of an administration proposal to widen the authority to root out tax evasion by allowing the IRS to get annual, aggregated reports of flows from bank accounts with a minimum of $600.

Smith worked for nearly a decade as a local banker before running for the Iowa legislature and has a business administration degree. He is a member of the ownership group of the Quad Cities River Bandits and serves as an unpaid member of the local U.S. Bank Board.

Fitzgerald is one of only three Democrats to hold statewide office in Iowa and is the nation's longest-serving state treasurer. He was first elected in 1982 and re-elected in 2018 to his 10th term.

He serves as the state’s banker, managing taxes that are paid to the state of Iowa and investing the state's money. His office coordinates the College Savings Iowa program and manages the purchase and repayment of state bonds.

Fitzgerald, in a statement, touted his accomplishments launching programs including the 529 college savings plan, the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt of unclaimed property program and Iowa’s ABLE plan, which helps Iowans with disabilities and their families save for the future and not risk losing benefits.

"In times like today, there is no question that experience counts," Fitzgerald said. "Through my leadership, I will continue to promote fair government and safe financial strategies."

Smith was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 and re-elected to a third term in 2018. His current term ends on Jan. 8, 2023.

Redistricting placed Smith into a newly-drawn senate district alongside incumbent Davenport Democrat Jim Lykam. Lykam could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. He has not publicly declared his 2022 plans but has previously indicated he plans to seek re-election.

Smith, who represents part of Davenport and Bettendorf, Riverdale and Panorama Park, was drawn into a more rural and less urban district that stretches from northwest Davenport to West Branch and the Linn County border and includes rural Cedar County.

Smith, too, could have chosen to move a few blocks east across Jersey Ridge Road to run in an open Senate seat "that's pretty Republican," Lykam noted in October when asked if he planned to run against Smith. The new senate district includes much of Smith's current district, as well as Eldridge and part of LeClaire.

"Republicans know that (Republican Iowa Gov.) Kim Reynolds' workforce crisis will be an anchor around their necks in competitive Senate districts next year, so they're jumping ship as fast as possible," Andy Suchorski, executive director of the Iowa Senate Democrats' Majority Fund, said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver announced last month he will move from Ankeny and seek reelection in a more rural, conservative district. 

Smith said redistricting did not factor into his decision to run for state treasurer.

"I will have served 12 years in the Senate," Smith said. "You've served that long, and I've done a lot of good work for the people of Scott County and now it's time to do good work for the people of the state of Iowa."

Lykam in October said Smith would be a top target for Senate Democrats in 2022. Smith, who chairs the State Government Committee and serves on the Commerce, Rules and Administration, and Ways and Means committees, spearheaded sweeping changes to Iowa election laws Democrats and voting rights advocates argue amount to voter suppression. Smith and Republicans contend Iowa's new election laws safeguard voting and promote voter confidence. 

Smith noted his support in the Iowa Senate to make it easier for families to invest in Iowa’s college savings program by extending the time period families could contribute to their children's account, while still receiving the tax benefit.

Smith also noted his support of tax reforms, "helping pass the largest income tax cut for working Iowans in our state’s history," and efforts to promote and improve financial literacy among high school students.

"My passion has always been about helping Iowa families achieve their dreams, overcome challenges, and secure their future," Smith said in a statement. "That’s exactly where my focus will be as Iowa’s next Treasurer."

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