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Erin Murphy

From the sound of it, I missed a chance to cover a true statesman in former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray.

Ray died this past Sunday. He was 89.

Ray served five terms as governor of Iowa, from 1969 through 1983. He laid in state Thursday at the Iowa Capitol and was laid to rest Friday at the Des Moines church where he met his wife Billie.

I was still in elementary school when Ray last served as governor; obviously our career paths did not cross. That was my loss, it would seem, based on the reaction to Ray’s passing from all corners of the state.

The outpouring of appreciation and respect for Ray from both sides of the political aisle was remarkable. Ray was a Republican, but Democrats were just as effusive in their praise of the former governor.

That, no doubt, is a testament to Ray’s governance, but also, sadly, probably hearkens to a time in politics long gone. It’s difficult to imagine any current politician receiving such effusive admiration, even in their passing.

So powerful were the emotional testimonies from members of the Tai Dam community, many of whom said they feel they owe their very lives to the governor who led the effort to help them settle in Iowa after the Vietnam war.

Though I did not cover Robert Ray as Iowa’s governor, I do see his name every time I attend one of the governor’s weekly press conferences in the lowest level of the Iowa Capitol: the conference room in which those press conferences are held is named in Ray’s honor.

Now, thanks to the outpouring from Iowans this week, I have a more complete understanding of why.

Ernst scores former Pruitt aides

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, soon will have on her communications staff a pair of aides who worked under former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

Liz Bowman, Ernst’s communications director, is a former Pruitt staffer.

She will be joined on Ernst’s communications team by Kelsi Daniels, an EPA spokeswoman under Pruitt, The Washington Post reported this week.

Pruitt resigned recently amid myriad allegations of his misuse of taxpayer money.

Also among staffers departing the EPA is spokesman Jahan Wilcox, who worked on Ernst’s 2014 campaign in Iowa, the Post reported.

Ernst talks tariffs

Ernst discussed the budding trade war and foreign policy during an interview on CBS’ Sunday morning news show “Face the Nation” this past week.

As she and other Republican leaders have said many times in recent months, Ernst acknowledged retaliation to new tariffs employed by President Donald Trump’s administration are impacting Iowa farmers, and implored the administration to resolve the trade disputes as soon as possible.

Ernst also expressed reservation with drawing down U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula and in Syria.

Ernst said if denuclearization negotiations with North Korea do not continue, the U.S. should continue with military exercises there. And she said she would be concerned if any proposed partnership with Russia to oust Iran forces from Syria would include the stipulation that the U.S. reduce its forces in Syria.

“We need stability in that region. And I would just caution the president as we move forward with any discussions with Russia, obviously Russia is not our friend. We oppose many of the actions that they’ve taken going back to the invasion of Crimea and so forth,” Ernst said. “So I would be very cautious in those moves. But if there is a way that we can partner and put a lid on Iran, I would support that.”

Hubbell is back on the air

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell’s first ads of the general election campaign are hitting televisions and the internet.

The first ad highlights public education funding, Medicaid management, mental health care and financial incentives for businesses. The second ad talks about Hubbell’s experience as one of more than 100 passengers aboard a hijacked plane in Pakistan in 1981.

Both ads are part of a statewide TV and internet buy, the Hubbell campaign said.

Hubbell faces Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Libertarian Jake Porter in the Nov. 6 general election.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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