The second of three face-to-face debates between the two major party candidates for governor is set for this Saturday in Burlington. The latest poll shows Democrat Jack Hatch trailing Republican Governor Terry Branstad by 23 points. “I’m excited about the way the campaign’s going,” Branstad says. “I think so far we’ve met all of the targets that we’ve set, but we still have a ways to go and we’re not going to let up.”
With just 46 days left in the campaign, Hatch doesn’t have much time to close that sizable gap. “I have to show Iowans that there’s a difference between the governor and myself, that there are two different visions for Iowa and that we have the ability to move this state forward as opposed to staying kind of stale and moving in the wrong direction,” Hatch says.
Saturday’s debate will focus on economic issues and Hatch plans to criticize the state incentives Branstad approved for the Iowa Fertilizer Plant in southeast Iowa. Hatch says it boils down to $700,000 per job. “It’s not about that I’m opposed to the fertilizer plant,” Hatch says. “I’m opposed to a deal of a corporation that we give $110 million to. It is clear this state did not need to give them that much money.”
Branstad plans to tout the deal during Saturday’s debate. “It is an example of the success we’ve had in economic development,” Branstad says. “That area, Lee County, had the highest unemployment in the state when I was elected and we’ve reduced it by nearly 40 percent.” Hatch says
Branstad is benefiting from the work former Governor Tom Vilsack did to expand the financial services and renewable energy sectors of the economy. “But today we’re coasting on a vision and accomplishments of previous governors,” Hatch said Thursday. “It’s great to be living in Tom Vilsack’s Iowa, but I’m really ready to take the next step.”
Saturday’s debate is co-sponsored by the Greater Burlington Partnership, the local alliance of chambers of commerce, as well as KWQC Television in the Quad Cities and the Burlington Hawk Eye. The debate can be seen nationwide on C-SPAN. Burlington was the state’s first territorial capital and Branstad has a family connection to the city. It’s his mother’s home town.
“I had my first haircut in Burlington and my mother talked about Snake Alley and Crapo Park,” Branstad says. “You know, I grew up in northern Iowa, but certainly I have fond feelings about Burlington and I’m glad that the debate’s going to be held there.” Branstad’s mother, Rita Garland Branstad, was born in Burlington in 1926 and her family moved to Sioux City when she was 13. Saturday’s debate starts at 7 p.m. and will last an hour. It will be held at a middle school in Burlington and organizers say they’ve distributed all 500 tickets for seating inside the debate venue.