The campaign manager for Iowa Gov Kim Reynolds apologized Wednesday for behavior that prompted his arrest for public intoxication, saying he let down his boss but would continue running her political operation. Phil Valenziano, considered a top operative in Iowa Republican politics, was arrested late June 23 after an officer observed him urinating outside the West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines, a criminal complaint shows. The shopping center houses several bars and nightclubs.
Valenziano, 32, attempted to walk away when officer Cody Jacobsen confronted him but became cooperative after Jacobsen grabbed him, according to the complaint. Valenziano had “very slurred speech, very poor balance, smelled heavily of ingested alcohol” and admitted to being intoxicated, the complaint says. Valenziano consented to a preliminary breath test but “would not provide an adequate sample of breath,” Jacobsen wrote.
The arrest came eight days after Reynolds and acting Lt Gov Adam Gregg announced that Valenziano would manage their campaign for the 2018 election. Republicans say Valenziano, who previously worked as a senior adviser to Reynolds and helped organize former Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2014 re-election campaign, is among the leading political organizers in Iowa.
Valenziano was booked at the Polk County Jail and pleaded guilty to the simple misdemeanor the next morning. Court records show he received a deferred judgment and was ordered to pay a $65 fine. He also agreed to pay a $300 supervision fee and be on probation for one year.
Reynolds, who became governor in May after Branstad left to become US ambassador to China, has been public about her struggle with alcohol addiction and says she has been sober since her second arrest for drunken driving in 2000.
The campaign didn’t publicly acknowledge Valenziano’s arrest until after receiving an inquiry Wednesday from The Associated Press. Reynolds’ office referred questions to Valenziano, calling it a “campaign matter.”
Valenziano said in a statement that he had informed Reynolds about the situation and will be “remaining in my current role as her campaign manager.”
“I made a mistake, and I am sorry. I am disappointed in myself for letting down the governor and her team,” he said. “I have pled guilty and paid my fine, and I will ensure this never happens again.”
Valenziano has been focused on staving off a primary challenge to Reynolds by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, who announced his candidacy for governor on June 20. Valenziano said that day the campaign was in a strong financial position and would “build the strongest grassroots campaign in Iowa history.”
Known as aggressive and gregarious, the New Jersey native has risen steadily in Iowa Republican politics.
After working as a top eastern Iowa organizer for the 2010 statewide Republican campaign, Valenziano was a state director on Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa presidential caucus campaign before working in New Hampshire as Romney’s campaign director. He was senior political director for Branstad’s successful 2014 re-election campaign, and worked with Reynolds as a senior adviser in the lieutenant governor’s office after the election. He then helped run New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 Iowa caucus campaign.