The charges and countercharges are already flying in the race to become Iowa’s next governor. On primary night, Chet Culver — the Democrat nominee — warned that Republican rival Jim Nussle would “drain” the state budget in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

“Are we going to continue the path of progress with a Democratic governor, or will we turn the clock back and turn the state over to a loyal foot-soldier to George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom Delay?” Culver asked his supporters. Culver made it clear he’ll make Nussle’s role as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee an issue in the campaign.

“Will we honor our long, bipartisan tradition of balancing the state budget or run up the largest deficits our government has ever seen? Will we stand for Iowa values or switch to Washington’s values of deficit, debt, cronyism and corruption?” Culver asked his supporters. “This is no time to slow down, to stop or retreat.”

Republican Jim Nussle is quick to respond. “I think it makes for good spin and mudballs and personal attacks to throw mud this early, but I think it shows how nervous they are,” Nussle says. Nussle says he’s looking forward to a “spirited debate” on the issues, but he will defend himself if attacked. “If all they’re going to do…is throw mud, Iowans need a wake-up call. Wake up, Iowa,” Nussle says. “If you don’t want to talk about the future, it’ll be a very interesting campaign I can say that.”

Nussle is issuing a “warning” to Culver to talk about the future or he’ll reciprocate. Yet Nussle’s runningmate, Bob Vander Plaats ridiculed Culver this (Wednesday) morning during a G-O-P unity news conference. “We need a governor who is ready for prime time,” Vander Plaats said. “In my opinion, Chet Culver is not ready for prime time.”