DES MOINES, Iowa — Thirteen Republican presidential candidates got coveted speaking slots at the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln dinner Friday evening. The list includes most of the GOP presidential field and some of the party’s most recognizable names — and then there’s Ryan Binkley.
Binkley, a pastor and entrepreneur from Texas, joined the GOP primary fray in April with a unique resume, a different message from the others in the race, and millions of his own dollars to invest in the presidential campaign. Even some of the most long-shot Republican candidates in the 2024 field, like Larry Elder and Perry Johnson, have at least run for governor in their states before. But Binkley is starting his political career from scratch with a run for president.
Binkley says the mission of his campaign is to unite the country with the love of God.
When asked if a “uniter” is what the Republican Party wants in the age of Donald Trump, Binkley said, “I know God wants a uniter, I know that to be true.”
Binkley was born in Georgia and moved to Texas, developing a passion for business while studying finance and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. At 24, he had a “God encounter,” he said, driving him to leave corporate America and move to Atlanta, where he joined the ministry with his wife.
When Binkley’s brother was killed by a drunk driver, “God called me to go back and help my family in business,” Binkley said. The trauma drove him to move back to Texas and re-enter the business world to support his family. Binkley founded Generational Group, an advisory company for the mergers and acquisitions industry.
The company’s success led to vast wealth for Binkley, and he says he’s already invested $1.7 million of his personal fortune into his campaign, though he’s not really registering in the handful of polls that have included his name.
He also continued his ministry for spiritual enrichment. Binkley founded Create Church in Richardson, Texas, with his wife, Ellie Binkley, juggling his business venture with the ministry while raising five children. Now, he’s added running for president to his list of responsibilities.
Binkley’s campaign focuses on four policy issues: reducing the national debt, taking on big pharmaceutical companies, immigration reform, and uplifting urban centers through education. He also wants to focus on urban America with his religious message, even though the nation’s big cities lean heavily Democratic.
“If it [my message] doesn’t connect to downtown L.A. and San Francisco, then maybe I’m not reflecting the message of God correctly,” says Binkley.
He is proposing “a Peace Corps-type movement” organizing volunteers to help promote reading, writing and math education. And on immigration, Binkley endorses The Dignity Act, a bipartisan bill that would fine undocumented immigrants thousands of dollars for crossing the border but provide them a pathway for citizenship within the United States.
“It’s not amnesty for anybody,” said Binkley. The Dignity Act “taxes [undocumented immigrants] for committing the crime of crossing the border but actually provides a legal work registration,” he continued.
Binkley is facing an uphill battle to make the GOP’s primary debates, let alone secure his party’s nomination or win the presidency — though he says he will “keep plowing ahead” to the Iowa caucuses regardless.
The Republican National Committee requires candidates to gather contributions from at least 40,000 individual donors. Binkley says he has about 4,000 so far. The RNC also requires at least 200 donors from at least 20 different states, another requirement Binkley says he’s failed to reach with the debate less than a month away.
The polling requirement is another impediment for Binkley. The RNC requires candidates to either hit 1% in three qualifying national polls or two national polls and two qualifying early-state polls. So far, Binkley isn’t even being listed as an option on many of the polls.
“Our name hasn’t been on all the polls,” said Binkley. “I don’t know how much that helps, but I would imagine it would help a lot to have your name listed as an option.”