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No More Mr. ‘Iowa Nice’ Guy: Former GOP Giant Jim Leach On Siding Against Chuck Grassley

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Jim Leach is offended. And for those who know Jim Leach, you already know that takes some doing.

In his 30-year tenure on Capitol Hill ― when, amongst other things, he headed the House Financial Services Committee and helped shape the banking deregulation bill referred to as Gramm-Leach-Bliley ― the genteel Iowan was referred to as probably the most professorial and polite members of Congress.

Nowadays, though, Leach is less the moderate Republican he was until he lost reelection in 2006, and more someone determined to warn others in regards to the current Republican Party. And that mission includes endorsing the Democratic challenger to a person whom he worked alongside for those 30 years: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“Chuck has been a high-quality friend of mine. We’ve never had the very same records. We were different sorts of Republicans,” Leach told HuffPost in an interview recently.

“But the issue to me is a quite simple one,” he said. “This state of Iowa and far of the Midwest is basically an integrity-related variety of people. And what has happened is the breakdown of integrity in public life.”

Leach made waves in late July with his declaration of support for Grassley’s opponent, retired Navy Adm. Mike Franken, and with the news that he’d switched his registration from GOP to Democratic ― despite having been a Republican, by his count, for the reason that early Sixties.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who’s searching for his eighth Senate term, says he still considers Leach a friend, despite Leach’s endorsement of Grassley’s Democratic opponent this fall.

Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

An Emerson College poll conducted in early October showed Grassley with an 11-point lead, after Franken had closed the gap to only eight points in a July Des Moines Register newspaper poll.

David Yepsen, a veteran Iowa reporter who covered the state’s politics for 34 years for the Register, said Leach’s endorsement of Franken could assistance on the margins.

“Jim Leach might be the primary to let you know endorsements don’t mean rather a lot in Iowa politics. But they’re price some media attention and buzz, and this endorsement helps Franken underscore the argument that Grassley’s been there long enough,” Yepsen said.

“Leach is a respected figure in Iowa and his point could also be enough to persuade moderate GOP voters to make the switch,” he added. “Franken’s got to peel off some Republican votes, and far of Franken’s media is designed to do this.”

Befitting the thought of “Iowa nice,” Leach said he won’t run down Grassley, only talk up Franken, who he said has needed military knowledge and skills.

“I might be speaking respectfully of Chuck, but I might be advocating [for] Michael Franken. Every other approach is sort of not consistent and doesn’t express adequate sincerity,” he said.

That reluctance to attack was not exactly shared by Grassley when he was asked about Leach’s endorsement before the Senate went into recess at the tip of September.

“Well, that shouldn’t surprise you. He modified to the Democrat Party. You’d expect him to do this,” Grassley told HuffPost.

But when asked if he still considered Leach a friend, Grassley replied “Oh, sure,” though he said he and Leach haven’t spoken nose to nose since 2016.

“It happens that I actually have great respect for Jim Leach, although he has modified parties,” Grassley said.

Leach knows his former party colleagues are upset with him, but argues that he had no selection. Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 attempted revolt were his breaking point, Leach said.

“Leach is a respected figure in Iowa and his point could also be enough to persuade moderate GOP voters to make the switch.”

– David Yepsen, former politics reporter for The Des Moines Register

“I actually have dissatisfied them and so they comprehend it, but that doesn’t mean I can change my mind and say I haven’t any right to have a look at one other political party when the political party I actually have turn out to be a part of has turn out to be dishonest and criminal,” Leach said.

“Those are very strong words,” he said. “But I haven’t any selection but to be appalled with what I actually have been seeing in Washington, D.C. And you possibly can’t pass it up. And for those who do, you give America away to the worst.”

It’s unclear if Leach’s name still carries the load it once did. (Sen. Joni Enst, the opposite Iowa Republican senator, had not initially heard about Leach’s endorsement, saying she didn’t follow him.)

But Leach, who turned 80 on Saturday, said he’ll stick with his guns, regardless of what.

“I feel the purpose of the difficulty is that I actually have to do what matches my convictions, and if I don’t see with my convictions, I haven’t any basis of living,” he said.

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