Governor-elect Chet Culver has been closely examining the records of other governors as he prepares to take the reigns of state government. Later this morning Chet Culver will take over from Tom Vilsack, the first Democrat to be elected governor in Iowa in 30 years.
However, Culver, who like Vilsack is a Democrat, doesn’t intend to be a Vilsack clone. “I’ll be my own guy and I’ll make my own way,” Culver says. Culver has sought out the advice of Vilsack predecessors Terry Branstad and Robert Ray — both Republicans. Culver also has been carefully reviewing the record of former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. “
Warner in Virginia really did a terrific job a few years ago of creating kind of one Virginia, which is a state very similar to Iowa in terms of rural/urban make-up,” Culver says. vVirginia is a state that can be dominated by the D.C. suburbs, with residents in Virginia’s rural areas resenting their urban counterparts. But Culver says Warner was successfully able to sell the idea that all the state’s residents had to sink or swim together — in “One Virginia” as Warner labeled it. “It worked,” Culver says.
“While there’s a lot of exciting things happening in northern Virginia, he was able to go down to southwestern and southern Virginia and bring people together and he did it around public policy issues.” Culver is beginning to mimic that, with “One Iowa” events in western, central and eastern Iowa on this Inaugural weekend.
Former Governor Warner says Iowa and Virginia aren’t that different. “We had industries of tobacco, textile and furniture all on decline in southern Virginia and we made the connection between those communities and our high-tech communities in northern Virginia, similar to some of the traditional manufacturing communities in rural Iowa and some of the agricultural communities that have been on hard times (contrasted to) the relative prosperity of the Des Moines area,” Warner says.
Warner, who made a personal fortune in the cell phone industry, made the case as governor that it was in the self-interest of all Virginians to ensure that all areas of the state prospered. Warner announced a couple of months ago that he was abandoning his plan to run for president, but Warner had already spent time in Iowa over the past two years campaigning.
“There were an awful lot of rural communities I went to in Iowa where people felt that Des Moines got all the attention, all the money and that their communities weren’t having a full enough voice,” Warner says. “This is something Governor-elect Culver has got to stress from day one…The only way you can get over that hurdle and that normal kind of skepticism from the rural parts of the state is to not only to…talk the talk but walk the walk.”
As for this morning’s “Inaugural Address,” Culver says he’ll be sticking to the proposals he laid out during the campaign. “There won’t be a lot of surprises,” Culver says. “But we have to realize, I think first and foremost, that the people have spoken and they expect their new governor and their new legislature to get the people’s work done.” The Inaugural Ceremony begins at nine o’clock this morning in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Inaugural Ball will be held tonight on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.