Chris Peters is not your average Republican


Chris Peters would really prefer you not call it Obamacare, least you remind him of the Affordable Care Act passed by the president he caucused and voted for in his adopted home of Iowa in 2008.

To Peters, a term like “Obamacare” is indicative of what he sees as the coarsening of political debate.

He is also in favor of same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Not to mention that he has switched political parties so many times that he can struggle to recall just what faction he was aligned with at a particular moment — although as late as last month he was still active in the Iowa Libertarian Party and ran under its umbrella once before.

But now Peters is running as a Republican and for now is the lone challenger to Loebsack, a five-term incumbent.

“I’m a weird Republican,” he told The Daily Iowan. “I’m just my own guy. I choose my own path, and I guess it is up to other people whether they are uncomfortable with the decisions I’ve made in the past.”

Suffice to say Peters, a father of three who works primarily at Corridor Surgery and Vein Center in Coralville, is different from anyone Loebsack has faced before.

A former political-science professor at Cornell College, Loebsack has dispatched Marionette Miller-Meeks, a U.S. Army veteran and ophthalmologist, three times, in 2008, 2010, and 2014 and John Archer, senior legal counsel for John Deere, in 2012.

Peters was not even supposed to run originally. Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, was the lone candidate for Loebsack up until March 11 when he dropped out. A first-term senator, Chelgren drew national attention for his comments about executing undocumented immigrants and banning research between the University of Iowa and Stanford in retaliation for a half-time show.

Chris Peters
Chris Peters

With Loebsack then running unopposed, Peters considered running as an independent but ultimately decided on the GOP — a party he has not minced words with, to say the least.

“I have purposely placed the phrase ‘two-party’ in parentheses, as I believe that in reality we have only a one-party system of government, with different branding for different consumers,” Peters wrote on his website when he ran as a Libertarian candidate for the state Legislature in 2010. “If one were to consider carbonated sodas, Coke and Pepsi are as much different as are Republican and Democrat.”

But when it comes to his views on a whole host of issues, Peters is unlike any recent candidate who has run in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

Miller-Meeks and Archer were against same-sex marriage, and Archer went so far as to argue for a federal marriage amendment. It should be noted that these races occurred before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide last summer, but Peters indicated he was for it as far back as his 2010 run against longtime incumbent Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville.

“I’ve always thought it made no sense that we needed to define marriage one way or another, so I’m a little different than some Republicans on that issue but not all,” Peters said.

But when it comes to how some in his party have use religious freedom to deny services to LGBT Americans, Peters said societal forces will force changes over time that do not necessarily require legislation.

“Say there is a business that denies baking cake or providing a floral arrangement, I think generally people in society are going to take a dim view of that, and through market forces alone, that type of discrimination will go away with time,” Peters said. “Assuming there are other bakers or florists in a community I don’t know why, if I was a gay couple, and I was refused one place, why I would force someone to bake me a cake if they didn’t want to.”

In that same 2010 survey conducted by the nonprofit Project Vote Smart, Peters said it was time for nullification — a constitutional view that states can overrule the federal government — to come back. He maintains that position and pointed to Colorado legalizing marijuana despite federal law as an example.

“If you’re talking about a law that had passed by Congress that was supposed to apply to all states and that a given state did not want to abide by, I think they have a right to challenge the law,” Peters said.

Looking abroad, Peters said he questioned the reasons to go to war in Iraq, and he wishes that he is on record against a war he characterized as a mistake. Overall, he wants American involvement in the world, but wants to avoid military interventions.

“I think thoroughly and richly engaged in the world, but as much as we can that should be peaceful mechanisms. If we have to involved militarily the threat must be cleared and defined, the goals and end points clear and defined and congressional authorization to engage in another country except in the case of an emergency,” he said.

Put simply, the Republican hopeful says Americans govern themselves, and he pointed to the 16-day federal government shutdown of 2013 as an example.