The three men vying for the Iowa Republican party’s 2002 nomination for governor met face-to-face for the first time Monday evening. Doug Gross, a Des Moines attorney and lobbyist who’s a recent entrant to the race for Governor, says when democrat Tom Vilsack became governor four years ago, the G-O-P discovered how devastating it is not to have a republican in the top political job in the state. He says in the past three and a half years, the governor has had 77 priorities instead of the three that’re needed. Gross says those priorities are economic development, making sure the budget’s in good shape, and making sure the education system stays the strongest in the world. Gross worked for former Governors Bob Ray and Terry Branstad. He says he understands the issues and what it takes to get the job done.Gross says Vilsack hasn’t accomplished anything significant, and Iowans aren’t better off than they were when he was elected.Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City and Steve Sukup of Dougherty joined Gross in attacking democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s record,particularly on the state budget crisis and the state’s business climate.Vander Plaats says Vilsack hasn’t proposed the right fixes to the budget crisis. He says indicators today aren’t going the right direction, and that means the state needs new leadership.Sukup says Vilsack has created a “budget nightmare” for the state. He says the governor took a short-term problem and created a long-term problem.Sukup, who’s a legislator, sought to differentiate himself from the other G-O-P candidates. Sukup says he’s the only candidate to actually win a race.And Vander Plaats questioned the electibility of his competitors. He says legislators have a difficult time upsetting a sitting governor, and he says Gross would have the same problem as a lobbyist.Vander Plaats, a former teacher and coach, now runs a non-profit agency that serves brain-injured children and adults.
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