September 23, 2014

Chris Christie to appear at another ‘Branstad 2014′ fundraiser

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is coming back to Iowa on October 25 to raise money for Governor Terry Branstad’s 2014 campaign.

Christie did a solo appearance at a Branstad for Governor fundraiser in 2010. At the time, a gushing Terry Branstad said Christie was such a dynamic orator, Christie reminded him of Ronald Reagan.

Christie is now chairman of the Republican Governors Association and is helping raise money for the 36 gubernatorial races around the country, but his visit to Iowa adds to the speculation about Christie’s ambitions for the White House. Christie has already been to Iowa this year to help Branstad raise money. Christie spoke at a fundraiser in the Quad Cities in mid-July after appearing at a campaign-style hand-shake event at a cafe in Marion.

The October 25 event will be held in central Iowa, in Clive, and is Branstad’s annual “Birthday Bash.” Last year’s “Bash” was held in November and another prospective 2016 candidate — Wisconsin Congressman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan — was the headliner. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another 2016 prospect, was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Branstad Birthday Bash.

Children’s Policy Coalition releases voter’s guides

A coalition of Iowa groups is releasing a voter guide that shows how the two major party candidates for governor responded to questions about child care, foster care, preschool and other kid-related topics.

“There are major child policy issues which must be addressed for children’s’ and Iowa’s prosperity into the future,” says Jerry Foxhoven, a spokesman for the Children’s Policy Coalition.

In the voter guide, Republican Governor Terry Branstad repeated his desire to limit state assistance for preschool to low-income Iowans, while Democratic challenger Jack Hatch supports state-sponsored preschool for all four-year-olds. Foxhoven says his coalition thinks preschool is “great for kids.”

“As much preschool as can be offered should be offered,” Foxhoven says. “Certainly there are resources that need to be devoted to children’s issues and we need to select which ones they are to be given to, but we would encourage preschool on a universal basis, if possible.”

Over 30 Iowa non-profit organizations are part of the Children’s Policy Coalition and the coalition plans to hold events in each of Iowa’s four congressional districts to call attention to where Iowa candidates for federal office stand on children’s issues as well. Despite efforts over the past two decades, Dr. Jennifer Groos, a Des Moines pediatrician, says about 20,000 Iowa kids still aren’t covered by health insurance and are at risk of developing long-term health problems.

“So it’s going to take all of us working together, reaching outside of what we can do in our realms, but working together find ways to improve the quality of care for children across our state,” Groos says.

No other state has a greater proportion of working parents — either both parents or the single parent who heads the household holding down a full-time job. Deann Cook, the executive director of Iowa’s United Way organizations, says candidates need to tell voters how they’ll work to ensure quality child care is affordable and available in Iowa.

“We regard this as keys to families providing economic security for their children and for nurturing children’s development in ways that contribute to their long-term educational success,” Cook says.

This Iowa coalition is part of a national effort to make children’s issues a greater national priority. According to the group’s news release, children make up 24 percent of Iowa’s population and “100 percent of its future.” Find links to the voter’s guides here.

Hatch says Branstad will use ‘bully pulpit’ to push for same-sex marriage ban

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says Iowans “should be very skeptical” of Republicans like Governor Terry Branstad who say making same-sex marriage illegal in Iowa isn’t a top priority.

“I think we have to realize that you get a Republican House and a Republican Senate and you have a Republican governor, then marriage equality is at risk,” Hatch says.

Branstad says governors have no “direct role” in setting up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

“It is a legislative matter and I respect the fact that the legislators are the ones that are going to make a decision on this,” Branstad says.

Hatch, who supports same-sex marriage, says Branstad has made it “very clear” the only legitimate marriages should be between a man and a woman.

“It is their number one social agenda, without a doubt,” Hatch says. “…We should be very scared of the agenda of the Republican leadership.”

Terry Branstad

Terry Branstad

Branstad says he’s focused on education and economic development and this isn’t a priority issue for him, but Branstad says Iowa voters “should have the opportunity” to decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“It’s up to the people to decide who they want to send to the legislature, if they want people who are going to give the people of Iowa a chance to vote on this issue,” Branstad says.

Branstad says voters appreciate a governor who is “focused and doesn’t try to do everything.”

“I’m running for reelection as governor of Iowa and I’m focusing on things that are important to the people of Iowa and that the governor has a role in,” Branstad says. “I do respect the fact that there are people who have strong views on this issue and that is not my responsibility. It is a legislative matter.”

Hatch suggests Branstad has “enormous power” to speak out for the ban same-sex marriage.

“Don’t let him fool us that he doesn’t have this authority. He does. He has the authority of the bully pulpit,” Hatch says. “…I think he’ll use it and, unfortunately, I think he’ll use it in the wrong way.”

In 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that it was unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples. In 2010, during the last campaign, Branstad said the court had made the “wrong decision.”

Even if Republican legislators pass a resolution in 2015 calling for a statewide vote to ban same-sex marriage, the same resolution would have to pass again in 2017 — so the earliest the matter could be presented to voters would be in three years from now.

Iowa Fertilizer Plant the focus of tonight’s gubernatorial debate

The fertilizer plant under construction in southeast Iowa was a major point of contention during this evening’s debate between the two major party candidates for governor. The incumbent, Republican Terry Branstad, defended his administration’s decision to award $110 million worth of state incentives to the Egyptian company that’s building the plant near Wever.

“We’re very proud of it and the CEO of the company recently said they’re just getting warmed up,” Branstad said. “When they complete this, they’re looking at expanding it.”

Democratic challenger Jack Hatch said that’s $700,000 worth of state incentives per job and that’s a “bad deal” for taxpayers.

“The state has the responsibility to invest in our communities and our small businesses, not the big, undeserving corporations like we have,” Hatch said.

The debate was held in Burlington — about 14 miles away from the construction site in neighboring Lee County. Branstad called the development a “great deal” and, over time, Branstad said local southeast Iowa governments will reap millions.

“The net result is the Fort Madison School District and Lee County are going to get net plus of $2.9 million additional tax revenue every year and the State of Iowa is also going to gain revenue,” Branstad said. “If it hadn’t located here, we wouldn’t get those additional tax revenues.”

Hatch said rather than giving $110 million worth of incentives to one company, there would have been greater economic impact if that money had been spread out among businesses statewide.

“The top-down approach that Governor Branstad has been using, where Des Moines picks winner and losers, is the wrong approach to use when we’re recovering from a recession,” Hatch said.

The two candidates quarreled over Branstad’s job creation claims and each questioned the other’s commitment to raising the minimum wage. The conduct of the campaign was a simmering issue during Saturday’s debate as well, with Hatch complaining about Branstad’s ads that criticize Hatch’s property development business.

“Governor, I’d like to ask that you take the key from one of your political heroes, Ronald Reagan and he said…’You stop lying about me and I’ll stop telling the truth about you,’” Hatch said, to applause from his supporters in the crowd.

Branstad didn’t back down.

“If he wants to disprove our claim that he has gained substantially and made millions of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense, I would challenge Senator Hatch to release four more years of his taxes,” Branstad said. “He’s only done one. I’ve done 24. I’m willing to do another four of the previous four before I came back as governor if he’s willing to do that.”

Branstad served four years as Iowa’s lieutenant governor, then 16 years as Iowa’s governor and left office in January of 1999. In 2010 he won a fifth term as governor. The political culture of Illinois was cited during Saturday’s hour-long debate. Hatch listed a number of controversies that have popped up over the last four years, including Branstad’s order to close the Iowa Juvenile Home and the disclosure that some state employees were being paid extra to stay quiet about their exit settlements with the state.

“This is the kind of leadership you’d expect from the governor of Illinois, not the governor of Iowa,” Hatch said.

Branstad responded.

“This is Iowa, not Illinois. Most of the former governors of Illinois are in prison. I’m back in office ’cause the people of Iowa trust me,” Branstad said, drawing applause from his supporters in the room. “They know me. They can rely on me.”

Tonight’s debate was sponsored by the Greater Burlington Partnership — an alliance of local chambers of commerce and by the Burlington Hawk Eye and WQAD television. The third and final debate between Branstad and Hatch will be held in Sioux City on October 20.

Second gubernatorial debate between Hatch and Branstad set for Burlington

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.


Hatch says Branstad’s new ‘center’ not an original idea (AUDIO)

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s latest policy proposal is nothing more than following through on a new federal law. This is Branstad’s pitch on the plan, from a speech the governor made Tuesday.

“This is the third item that we have brought up as a new proposal in this campaign and we’re calling it a ‘Center for Human Capital Enrichment,’” Branstad said. “This will be a public-private partnership…This would bring together all stakeholders to identify demand, skills gaps and training needs.”

Hatch said this morning that it’s not a new proposal. It’s part of a federal law that the state will be required to implement next year.

“There’s no creativity there. You could be Jack Hatch, Terry Branstad or anybody else. That is what the law required,” Hatch said. “…Does he have any ideas of his own?”

Hatch made his comments during a speech to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, an alliance of 21 central Iowa chambers of commerce.

AUDIO of Hatch’s appearance, 45:00

Branstad spoke to the group Tuesday (find the audio here).

Branstad insists his proposal is unique.

“This is an Iowa approach that focuses on the success we’ve had, but is designed to make sure that it’s coordinated,” Branstad said late this morning, “and that (the state Departments of) Education, Economic Development and Workforce Development are working together.”

Hatch accused Branstad of merely copying the requirements of the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014″ that President Obama signed in July.

“What he did was what any governor would have to do,” Hatch said. “He just accelerated it and embraced it as his own initiative.”

According to Hatch, it’s ironic Branstad is embracing a proposal signed into law by President Obama since Branstad has identified the federal government as the biggest obstacle to Iowa’s economy.

The new federal law, which Iowa Senator Tom Harkin helped craft, requires state workforce development agencies to coordinate with economic development and education initiatives to help businesses find the skilled workers they need.  The bill passed congress with bipartisan support.

(This post was updated at 12:47 p.m. with additional information.)

New poll shows Branstad with 23 point lead, Hatch points to Truman’s ’48 comeback

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

A new Quinnipiac University Poll finds Republican Governor Terry Branstad leading Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 23 points.

Branstad’s campaign issued a written statement saying this shows Iowans “resoundingly” want Branstad reelected to a sixth term. Hatch told a crowd in Des Moines early this morning that 66 years ago to the day Harry Truman — who was trailing badly in the polls — brought his “whistle stop” tour to Iowa.

“And if you know anything about the history, it’s Dexter, Iowa, and (Truman’s) presentation to over 100,000 Iowa (and) Midwestern farmers that caught the attention of the media and the public and Harry S. Truman was on his way to capture the heart and soul of Iowa and America,” Hatch said, “and, on the day of the election — of course, was elected president of the United States.”

Hatch said Truman was able to “ignite” the countryside with his “plain talk.”

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

“No one thought he could win,” Hatch said. “The polls said he was a dead duck, but he campaigned throughout the heartland and talked to business people, Iowans, citizens and gave a presentation and a vision of what he wanted this country to be. We will do the same thing.”

Branstad scoffs.

“He’s no Harry Truman, but the truth of the matter is the people of Iowa can judge my record and my vision of the future and his record,” Branstad told reporters late this morning. “I’ve been to every county. There’s a lot of Iowa he’s never even seen.”

Truman won 28 states in 1948, including Iowa, and secured 303 votes in the Electoral College. On this day in 1948, Truman went to the National Plowing Match that was being held in Dexter, where he delivered a campaign speech, railing against what he called a “do-nothing” Republican congress that had “stuck a pitchfork in the farmer’s back.”

The Quinnipiac Univerity Poll released today found Governor Branstad had the support of 60 percent of those surveyed, compared to the 37 percent who said they’ll vote for Hatch. Pollsters found 44 percent of the likely voters surveyed don’t know enough about Hatch to form an opinion about him. Peter Brown, the poll’s assistant director, said with seven weeks until Election Day, Hatch has a “long, long ways to go” and it would be “one of the largest turnarounds in American political history” if Hatch were to win.

(This post was updated at 12:25 p.m. with additional information)