DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence is stepping up his outreach in Iowa ahead of a possible 2024 presidential campaign by rallying conservatives against transgender-affirming policies in schools, like one adopted in an eastern Iowa district last year.
The effort by Advancing American Freedom, a group formed by Pence in 2021 and financed by his supporters, will include digital ads, rallies, canvassing and perhaps radio and television spots. It comes as a federal court in Minnesota is scheduled next week to hear a case brought by a group representing parents of students in Linn-Mar Community School District outside Cedar Rapids.
“The strength of our nation is tied to the strength of our families, and we cannot stand idly by as the radical left attempts to indoctrinate our children behind parents’ backs,” Pence said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Advancing American Freedom will not rest until parental rights are restored in Iowa and across the nation.”
The Linn-Mar board last year adopted a policy allowing students to request a gender support plan to begin socially transitioning at school and without the permission of their parents. The group representing the parents is suing to overturn the policy.
The planned budget for the effort is more than $1 million, and the push is expected to last several months, said a Pence aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement later Thursday.
The moves by the outside group — separate from any potential Pence candidacy — comes as school policy, notably involving gender identification and sexual orientation, has become an early focus of 2024 Republican presidential prospects.
The issue is particularly relevant in Iowa, given both the court case and the Republican-controlled Legislature advancing legislation barring schools from supporting a student’s social change in gender identity.
Pence’s outreach comes before a trip to the early-voting state to headline an event next Wednesday in Cedar Rapids. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, is planning to campaign across Iowa after announcing her 2024 campaign, while South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson are expected to visit Iowa later in the month.