An Iowa businessman considering a run for the United States Senate was in Fort Dodge Wednesday as part of a statewide tour to find out what Iowans are concerned about.
Mark Jacobs, the former chief executive officer of Reliant Energy, has formed an exploratory committee as part of a potential bid to become a candidate for the upcoming U.S. Senate race in 2014.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has announced he will not seek another term.
Jacobs, who would run as a Republican if he decides to become a candidate, said his concern about the state of the country led him to consider the bid.
"I'm very concerned about the direction of this country and the fact the opportunity to live the American dream is not working for a lot of families," Jacobs said. "I'm also incredibly put off by all the dysfunction in Washington. I believe someone with Iowa core values and common-sense business experience is the type of person who can have a positive impact on Washington."
As someone who has never held public office before, Jacobs said he believes that could help him if he decides to run. He also said that he wants to give back to the people of Iowa.
"When I retired out of the electric power business I decided I wanted to take the experiences I had and use those to give back to others," he said. "I've taught at Iowa State and I started a non-profit for improving public education. If I make the decision to become a candidate, it's really going to be an extension of what I've already been doing."
Reaching Higher Iowa, the nonprofit Jacobs founded, works to raise awareness about the need for improvements in the state's education system.
"I think education is fundamental to creating opportunities for other people and fundamental to us having a strong economy," Jacobs said. "It's important to make sure that people are trained so they can have good jobs."
Jacobs said the most important issue to him is the economy. He described the economic recovery as "tepid."
"We have a fiscal situation in this country that is very concerning to me," he said. "We have large budget deficits and a national debt growing larger every day. The way we can make progress on that is to figure out how to get our economy working again."
If he does seek the Republican nomination, Jacobs said his professional experience would help bring new ideas to Washington.
"I have made my business career out of going into very difficult and challenging situations with a wide range of constituent groups and figuring out how to get things done," he said.
Jacobs added that he believes politicians in Washington have been involved for too long.
"What's happened is that people have gone to Washington and stayed there to become professional politicians," he said. "It's a high bar for somebody who goes down that path to stay attuned to the challenges that each of us face in our everyday lives."
Whether he decides to become a candidate or not, Jacobs said he's been impressed with meeting the people of Iowa.
"It has been an absolute privilege for me to go around this state and meet people I never would have met had I not been considering something like this," he said. "It has been energizing, and I've had a tremendous time doing it."
He added that he believes the country isn't in danger of what he described as "falling over the cliff."
"You get out and you meet people across this state and their spirit and enthusiasm and passion for making America all it can be," he said. "I don't buy the story that America is past its prime."