Bob Vander Plaats
Personal details
Robert Lee Vander Plaats

(1963-04-12) April 12, 1963 (age 58)
Sheldon, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Alma materNorthwestern College (BA)
Drake University (M.Ed)

Robert Lee Vander Plaats (born April 12, 1963) is an American politician and political activist. He is currently the president and CEO of The Family Leader, a social conservative organization. In 2016, he was the National Co-Chair for Ted Cruz for President.

Early life and education

Vander Plaats was born in Sheldon, Iowa. He graduated from Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa. He later attended Northwestern College in Orange City on a basketball scholarship, earning a degree in education. He earned a master's degree in the area of Educational Leadership from Drake University.[1]



After earning his undergraduate degree, Vander Plaats became a high school teacher and basketball coach. He was principal at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School and later Sheldon High School.[2] Vander Plaats served as president of Opportunities Unlimited before moving on in the same role with MVP Leadership, Inc.[3]


In 2002, Vander Plaats unsuccessfully ran for the Iowa GOP gubernatorial nomination, losing to Doug Gross.[4][5]

Vander Plaats was a candidate for the 2006 Iowa Republican gubernatorial nomination, competing against Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle. As the race progressed, he withdrew his candidacy for governor in favor of being Nussle's running mate in the general election.[6][7] Calls by GOP party higher-ups for Vander Plaats to get out of the race were reportedly due to Vander Plaats reporting only $459,000 cash on hand compared to Nussle's $2,500,000.[8][9] The Republican ticket of Nussle–Vander Plaats lost the election to the Democratic ticket of Culver/Judge.

On January 26, 2009, Vander Plaats announced the formation of a 2010 gubernatorial campaign committee[10] with state Representative Jodi Tymeson as chair and former state Auditor Dick Johnson as co-chair of the committee.[11]

In the Iowa gubernatorial election of 2010, incumbent Democratic Governor Chet Culver ran for re-election. The Republican candidates were Vander Plaats, state representative Rod Roberts, and former governor Terry Branstad.[12] In the Republican primary on June 8, 2010, Vander Plaats lost to Branstad, receiving 40 percent of the vote compared to 50 percent for Branstad. Roberts was third with 9 percent of the vote.[13]

Political activism

In February 2007 Vander Plaats released his first book, Light from Lucas. This story of his third son was published by Tyndale House Publishers.[14]

Vander Plaats served as the Iowa state chair of Republican Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's 2008 failed presidential campaign.[15] On many occasions, Huckabee called Vander Plaats the "next Governor of Iowa,"[16] suggesting that Vander Plaats would run for Governor again in 2010.

In 2010, Vander Plaats successfully led the campaign against the retention of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court who had voted to overturn Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act in Varnum v. Brien.[17]

In November 2010, Vander Platts became president and chief executive officer of an umbrella group called The Family Leader, a group that includes the Iowa Family Policy Center, Marriage Matters, and a political action committee. Through the new group, the socially conservative organizations planned to play a more influential role in the 2012 Iowa caucus campaigns than in 2007 and 2008, including offering an endorsement for the first time.[18]

In December 2011, Vander Plaats endorsed Rick Santorum for president.[19] ABC News reported that Vander Plaats had solicited up to a million dollars from Santorum and other candidates in exchange for his endorsement, that he and Santorum had discussed the subject of money when negotiating the endorsement, and that he had tried to get Michele Bachmann of Minnesota to drop out of the race. The Family Leader denied the report.[20]

In 2015, Vander Plaats endorsed Ted Cruz for President, saying Cruz was the "most consistent and principled conservative who has the ability to not only win Iowa but I believe to win the (Republican) nomination."[21]

In 2018, he published an opinion piece in the New York Times titled "Cruelty at the Border Is Not Justice" in which he characterized the Trump administration family separation policy as "unconscionable. Inexcusable."[22]

Personal life

He and his wife Darla have four sons: Hans, Lucas, Josh, and Logan.[23]


  1. ^ Morris, Sue (January 27, 2005). "Locals back Vander Plaats' candidacy". Le Mars Daily Sentinel. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  2. ^ Tidemann, Michael (January 24, 2005). "Vander Plaats insists Vilsack will run again - and says he'll beat him". Storm Lake Pilot Tribune. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  3. ^ Wolf, Gordon (October 21, 2005). "Gubernatorial candidate Vander Plaats wants to increase private investment in state's economy". Denison Bulletin Review. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  4. ^ Eby, Charlotte (May 19, 2002). "Primaries 2002: Doug Gross emphasizes experience, knowledge". Globe Gazette. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Mehta, Seema (November 19, 2011). "Conservative leader is a force in Iowa caucuses". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Hayworth, Bret (February 23, 2006). "Vander Plaats quits governor bid to join Nussle". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  7. ^ Dorman, Todd (February 23, 2006). "Nussle, Vander Plaats join forces". Quad City Times. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  8. ^ "GOP sources: Vander Plaats to drop out, endorse Nussle" Des Moines Register, February 20, 2006 Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Nussle plans launch of election-year's first TV ad". Des Moines Register. April 22, 2006. Archived from the original on April 22, 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  10. ^ "Vander Plaats explores run for governor". Spencer Daily Reporter. Associated Press. January 26, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  11. ^ Vander Plaats 2010 campaign site
  12. ^ "Three GOP Candidates for Governor Speak", Radio Iowa, March 9, 2010
  13. ^ Boshart, Rod (June 8, 2010). "GOP picks Branstad to face Culver for Iowa governor's seat". Quad City Times. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  14. ^ Vander Plaats, Bob (2007). Light from Lucas: Lessons in Faith from a Fragile Life. Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 9781589973985. Light from Lucas.
  15. ^ Vander Plaats 2010 campaign biography
  16. ^[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Samuels, Robert (July 4, 2015). "He saw her marriage as 'unnatural.' She called him 'bigoted.' Now, they hug". Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Tom Beaumont (November 15, 2010). "Vander Plaats to lead Iowa group with 2012 endorsement plans". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012.
  19. ^ "Vander Plaats Endorses Santorum". New York Times. December 20, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  20. ^ Walshe, Shushannah; Falcone, Michael (December 23, 2011). "Iowa Conservative Leader Mired in Controversy After Rick Santorum Endorsement". ABC.
  21. ^ "Why Bob Vander Plaats chose Cruz over Trump, Rubio, Carson". Des Moines Register. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  22. ^ "Opinion | Cruelty at the Border Is Not Justice". Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  23. ^ Hayworth, Bret (August 22, 2012). "Politically Speaking: Vander Plaats moves from Sioux City to Iowa's Golden Circle". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
Party political offices Preceded byDebi Durham Republican Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa2006 Succeeded byKim Reynolds