Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad will reveal his choice of a running mate at about nine o’clock this morning. Since January of 1987, four different women have served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor and three of the last four men who’ve been the Republican nominee for governor have selected a female running mate.
In November of 1986, Democrat Jo Ann Zimmerman was the first woman elected to serve as Iowa’s lieutenant governor, but in 1990 the governor and lieutenant governor candidates began running together as a team. It’s been 24 years since a man served as lieutenant governor of Iowa.
Earlier this month, Branstad told reporters he does not feel compelled to choose a woman as his running mate. “I’m certainly going to consider women, but I’m not going to rule out men,” Branstad said, with a laugh. “I think we should choose the best person for that job, so gender is not going to be the primary consideration.”
In 1990 and ’94, Branstad did choose a woman, Joy Corning, to serve as his lieutenant governor. Corning says Branstad did seek her advice on his 2010 running mate decision, but Corning has some to give. “I think it is a very good idea to have a team at the top of our state government of a man and a woman,” Corning says. “And of course what I hope for someday fairly soon is a woman governor of the State of Iowa.”
Jim Lightfoot, the 1998 Republican nominee for governor, selected Almo Hawkins as his running mate. She was the first African-American woman nominated for statewide office. That was the same year Democrats Tom Vilsack and Sally Pedersen won as a governor/lieutenant governor team. Pedersen later served as the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party during the Vilsack/Pedersen administration’s second term.
“I encourage people in both parties to look to women for positions in leadership,” Pedersen says.
Zimmerman, Iowa’s first female lieutenant governor, was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Don Avenson’s running mate in 1990. Zimmerman hopes Branstad chooses a female, just as he did in 1990. “I think there are always women out there who are very competant that are overlooked by the establishment,” Zimmerman says, “and I’m hoping that (Branstad) looks for a well-qualified woman.”
Pedersen offers some of the same sentiments. “There are, I think, as many qualified women as men,” Pedersen says. “And so I think it’s a real opportunity for any gubernatorial candidate to broaden the ticket.”
In 2002, G.O.P. nominee Doug Gross asked Debi Durham to be his running mate. She had been and continues to be the head of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, Republican Jim Nussle selected Bob Vander Plaats as his running mate. It was the first major party ticket in 12 years in Iowa to divert from the male/female team concept. Some of Vander Plaats’ supporters intend to place his name in nomination for lieutenant governor at the Iowa Republican Party’s state convention this Saturday.
In 1994, Democrats nominated Bonnie Campbell for governor and she chose Leonard Boswell as her running mate. In 2006, Chet Culver asked Patty Judge to be his running mate and earlier this month Iowa Democrats nominated the Culver/Judge ticket for the 2010 ballot.