Chet Culver won the Democratic party’s gubernatorial nomination in Tuesday’s primary, capturing 39 percent of the vote. Culver won the backing of a few labor groups, as well as a rare endorsement from Planned Parenthood, and he spoke directly to both groups in his victory speech. “I believe it’s time to stand up for working men and women and raise the minimum wage in Iowa,” Culver said. “And I believe we need to protect the rights of women in this state and I will veto any attempt to infringe upon a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”
Abortion was a key factor in the race following passage of a law that would outlaw abortions in neighboring South Dakota.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle was unopposed in yesterday’s election, but he held a rally of his own in Des Moines last night. “Friends, you probably haven’t heard the news yet. I’ll break it to you tonight right now. The polls have closed with the lowest voter turn-out in over a generation for the Democratic party, guess who won?” Nussle asked his supporters. “None of the above.”
Culver’s runningmate Patty Judge responded at the Culver rally a few moments later. “Well, I’ve got news for Jim Nussle…and I sure hope Jim Nussle’s listening to me,” Judge told a cheering crowd. “He ain’t seen nothing yet until he sees Culver and Judge coming at him.”
Culver, Iowa’s Secretary of State, and Judge, the State Ag Secretary, have both won statewide election in 1998 and 2002. Nussle is an eight-term member of congress who rose through the ranks to become chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Democrats across the state voted with their feet tonight and decided they didn’t like the candidates that were running. They didn’t like the personal attacks. They didn’t like the mudslinging. They didn’t like the visionless leadership. They want a change.” Nussle said. “They want to elect a leader, someone with vision, someone who can get the job done and with Jim Nussle and Bob Vander Plaats, we’re going to get to the job done.”
Culver’s two main rivals for the Democratic nomination — Mike Blouin and Chet Culver — both spoke with him by phone last night to pledge their support to his candidacy. “They demonstrated a lot of class and they worked hard and I also want to acknowledge each of their supporters, all of their supporters, their campaign staffs. We need you. We want you and we’re going to beat Jim Nussle in the fall,” Culver said. “I want to thank them for their hard-fought, spirited efforts. We’re not adversaries. We’re friends and we’re a stronger party as a result of the vigorous campaign.”
Blouin, who had the backing of most labor groups including the growing union for government employees, finished with 34 percent of the vote. Blouin called Culver to concede around 11 o’clock and moments later spoke to his supporters. “I just finished placing a phone call to Chet Culver, the Democratic nominee for governor for the State of Iowa, and I think with a little help, he’ll be our next governor,” Blouin said.
Blouin told his fellow Democrats their entire focus must now be the defeat of Jim Nussle in November. “This guy has no business having a key to the Golden Dome or Terrace Hill and we should not allow that to happen over these next five months,” Blouin said. Blouin, who resigned from his job as the state’s econoic development director to run for governor, pledged to actively campaign for Culver when he’s not out job-hunting.
Fallon, the state Representative from Des Moines who finished third with 26 percent of the vote, told supporters his strong finish proved many people wrong. “What they don’t understand is that there are a lot of people in Iowa, across this state, who are very dissatisfied with the status quo,” Fallon told supporters gathered on the street in front of his house. “We have sent a very, very powerful message that things cannot continue the way they’re going in Iowa. Corporate powers and special interests with their PACs and lobbyists and their big donors have controlled what happens in state government for a long time. They’ve been controlling it since I got elected 14 years ago. It’s gone from bad to worse. It must change.”
Fallon also asked his supporters to back the democratic nominee. “We’ve got to out-muscle Jim Nussle,” Fallon said.
Nussle’s claim that Democratic turn-out was the lowest in a generation is a bit off as over 147,000 Democrats cast votes in the primary. Republican turn-out statewide was extremely light by comparison. In Polk County, the state’s largest, just nine percent of registered Republican voters participated in yesterday’s balloting as there were few local contest GOP primaries. In GOP-leaning western Iowa, turn-out was even lighter. In Pottawattamie County, Republican turn-out was seven percent.