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Iowa Politics Roundup: Culver Goes on the Offensive in Second Debate PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 08 October 2010 12:39

Trailing in the polls and with time running out before Election Day, Governor Chet Culver on Thursday came out gunning for rival Terry Branstad in their second debate, repeatedly stating that Branstad raised taxes on multiple occasions during his previous tenure as governor and broke promises to Iowans when it came to job-creation and other policy initiatives.

“Terry Branstad has broken his promises to Iowans since he was governor back in 1983,” Culver said. “Branstad has been a serial promise-maker and a habitual promise-breaker when it comes to jobs.”

Branstad has promised to add 200,000 jobs to the state over the next five years if he is elected. Culver argued this was an empty promise, much like earlier job-creation promises that weren’t fulfilled during Branstad’s tenure as governor. Meanwhile, Branstad claimed the 200,000 figure to be an “ambitious goal” that could be accomplished.

For his part, Republican Branstad criticized Democrat Culver multiple times on spending and his handling of the state budget, noting the one-year anniversary of Culver’s decision to cut the state budget 10 percent to account for a budget shortfall. Branstad said the cuts were the result of Culver signing a too-large budget in the midst of a recession.

“Watching Governor Culver’s budgeting, you almost get whiplash,” Branstad said. “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day he totally changed directions.”

Still, Branstad tried to take advantage of Culver’s aggressiveness. “I’m not going to spend my time calling him names or berating him. I’m going to focus on what Iowa needs as a state,” Branstad said.

Branstad used that strategy midway through the debate, when Culver used the majority of his time during an unrelated question to criticize a Branstad proposal that the incumbent governor said would add $2 billion in spending to the state budget. When asked by the moderator if he wanted a rebuttal, Branstad smiled and said, “No rebuttal needed,” causing his supporters in the audience to laugh.

The two continued to circle each other on jobs and job-creation all evening. Culver criticized Branstad for having an unemployment rate above 8 percent for the majority of the his first term. Meanwhile Branstad countered that unemployment had only gotten worse under Culver, with 114,000 Iowans now out of work and a 6.8-percent unemployment rate, higher than when Branstad and former Governor Tom Vilsack left office.

“We created jobs every term I was governor,” Branstad said. “Under Governor Culver, it’s gone the other way.”

Culver countered that although jobs have been lost during his first term, that was a function of a nationwide recession. He said that despite this, Iowa’s unemployment rate ranks in the top 10 in the nation, and he trumpeted the fact that the state has been able to attract IBM, Microsoft, Google, and alternative-energy providers to Iowa. “Iowa is leading this nation out of the recession,” Culver said.

Northey, Thicke See Need for Investing in Rural Infrastructure

Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Democratic secretary-of-agriculture nominee Francis Thicke agreed during a Thursday debate that the state should consider raising the gas tax to repair rural roads and bridges and improve farmers’ ability to get their products to market.

Northey said he’s had conversations about putting a group together to look at rural infrastructure. “I think we have to look seriously at what it takes, potentially gas-tax dollars, because they aren’t keeping up with infrastructure needs,” he said.

Thicke said definitively that gas taxes should pay for roads, and also said he thinks taxes should be raised on confined animal feeding operations that he believes aren’t paying their fair share for the damage they do to roads.

“It’s plain and simple,” Thicke said. “People that drive on the road have to pay for the road. People don’t like to talk about it, but we have to be honest about it.”

The two had plenty of disagreements during the debate, including a dispute on whether the department should have inspected a feed mill belonging to the DeCoster family, whose eggs were recalled and have allegedly resulted in about 2,000 people becoming sick from salmonella.

Thicke said it appears the salmonella contamination came from the feed mill, and the department has the authority and responsibility to inspect commercial feed mills. “They should have been inspected, so I think that’s an oversight right there,” Thicke said.

Northey said the department does inspect commercial feed mills, but in the case of the DeCosters they were grinding the feed for their own birds, and thus it was not considered a commercial operation. Northey said the attorney general’s office has backed the department up in that claim.

Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake who is finishing his first term in office, also said he’s not convinced that the salmonella contamination was from the feed mill.

“We do not know that it came from feed unless Francis has some other information that I’d love to be able to see,” Northey said. “FDA is still doing the research, and they really believe and some of the numbers I’ve seen suggest that it came from rodents and birds that got into the laying buildings themselves.”