Iowa Politics Roundup: Culver Goes on the Offensive in Second Debate Print
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.”

New Jersey Governor Christie Keeps Focus on Branstad, Not 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie firmly rejected any potential run for president in 2012 after his speech to about 800 attendees at a fundraiser for Branstad on Monday night.

Christie explained that being president of the United States requires a deep desire and complete confidence about readiness for the job.

“If you get the chance to walk into the Oval Office and you’re not absolutely ready, you are doing a disservice to your country. And I don’t think I’m ready,” Christie said.

Christie said he was in Iowa for the sole purpose of endorsing Branstad.

“This is not about me, this is about Governor Branstad,” Christie said, adding that he looked forward to seeing Branstad win so the two could work together in the Republican Governors Association and the National Governors Association.

Christie has been invited to more than 30 states to speak and to endorse candidates; he said he has chosen 13 candidates to support. He said he chose to help Branstad because he believes in the policies he pursued when he was previously governor, from 1983 to 1999.

Pence Reaches Out to Conservatives but Gives Few Clues About 2012

House Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence (R-Indiana), the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, used a weekend visit to tease Iowans about his potential bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

“There’s an old saying that you never come to Iowa by accident,” Pence said. “I’ll just say for the media in the room: I did come to Iowa on purpose. And my purpose is to ask Iowa to send Brad Zaun, Ben Lange, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks to Congress and end the Pelosi-led Congress once and for all.”

Pence spoke to a crowd of about 600 at Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Friends of the Family” awards banquet at the Iowa State Fairgrounds but declined to give any indication whether he was planting seeds for a run in 2012, despite recently winning the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit straw poll concerning potential Republican presidential candidates.

Instead, Pence, who recently helped to introduce the Republican Party’s Pledge to America, focused his talk Saturday primarily on fiscal- and social-conservative values. He hammered Democrats for spending during the first 20 months of the Obama administration.

“I get asked all the time, ‘Have Republicans in Congress learned their lesson?’” Pence said. “That’s a fair question. And I’ll answer it this way: After two years that saw every single House Republican vote against that phony stimulus bill, every single House Republican vote against their runaway budget, and every single House Republican vote against their government takeover of health care, I’m here to tell you that Republicans in Congress are back in the fight, and we’re back in the fight on the right. I promise you that.”

Pence denounced Democratic leadership for adjourning Congress without addressing extension of the Bush tax cuts. He said he supported “across the board” tax relief and criticized Democrats for not lowering taxes on businesses.

The Indiana congressman played to the predominantly Christian audience, calling America’s present crisis not merely economic and fiscal but moral in nature. “The truth is we will not restore this nation with public policy alone,” he said. “It will take public virtue. And that means from the traditional institutions of family and organized religion.”

And Pence warned Republicans against putting too much trust in polls that show Republicans winning by wide margins nationally. He said he believes the general election on November 2 will come down to just a few seats across the country and encouraged attendees to help get out the vote.

“I submit to you that if we do not succeed on that first Tuesday of November, all that was once good and great about this country could someday be gone,” he said. “We will win this Congress back in 2010 and we will win this country back in 2012 so help us God.”

Findley Gets Campaign Help as Miller Questions Her Experience

Iowa incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller this week questioned the experience of his opponent, Republican Brenna Findley, saying she’s only practiced law for 18 months and never in Iowa.

“I think the kind of decisions that you make here, that you have to make, you have to be able to draw on more than 18 months doing sort of routine work in a big law firm,” Miller said. “You have to have some practice in the state of Iowa to know the courts here and make those decisions.”

Findley was joined this week on the campaign trail by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli, who said he would like Findley to join him in suing the federal government over the federal health-care-reform law, and Findley once again said she would do just that if elected.

Findley has released her first television ad, “Choice,” which will run on statewide network TV.

The 30-second ad says Findley will “stop the Washington-style spending and start enforcing Iowa’s balanced-budget rule.” It also says she’ll protect children by catching sexual predators and keeping them locked up, and will fight to stop Washington from forcing Iowans to buy heath insurance.

Miller said his campaign will “be doing some things” in terms of running ads or sending mailings before the election, although he also said it would be a challenge to cut through the political noise from bigger races for governor and the U.S. Senate.

Lieutenant Governor Debate Looks Unlikely

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Kim Reynolds said she’s focused on visiting all 99 counties and talking to Iowans face-to-face to see what their concerns are, and the campaign will “see what happens” in terms of scheduling a debate with Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge.

Branstad jumped in when a reporter asked how Reynolds thought she would do in a debate, saying, “She would do great” and that debate preparation takes time and would be hard to fit in the campaign’s schedule.

“Frankly at this point in time we’re very late in the campaign and the schedules are pretty well set,” Branstad said. “So we don’t want to pull the lieutenant governor off of the great job she’s doing meeting with people and rallying the troops, and visiting every county and talking about jobs.”

Culver’s campaign had agreed to a lieutenant-governor candidate forum with, but the Branstad campaign said it couldn’t accommodate the proposed schedule.

This weekly summary comes from, an online government and politics news service. Reporter Andrew Duffelmeyer and other correspondents contributed to this report.

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