Former State Auditor Richard Johnson says the financial concerns he raised during Terry Branstad’s tenure as governor are valid for the upcoming campaign if Branstad decides to seek a fifth term. 

Johnson and Branstad are both Republicans, but Johnson was a frequent critic of the way Branstad handled state finances and in 1994, Johnson didn’t back Branstad’s bid for a fourth term. 

“I was supporting Fred Grandy 16 years ago and we almost won,” Johnson says.  Johnson campaigned extensively for Grandy, a former actor who served as an Iowa congressman for eight years. Grandy lost to Branstad in the June, 1994 Republican primary by just four points.

Johnson, the co-chair of Republican Bob Vander Plaats 2010 campaign for governor, says it’s time for a “fresh” approach to state government.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting seven or eight months now just because when you look at two candidates, there are so many similarities between Governor Culver and Governor Branstad, that, you know, it’s going to be difficult, I think, for Governor Branstad,” Johnson says. 

Almost two decades ago, Johnson began railing against the two sets of accounting books kept by Branstad aides as the state sometimes struggled during Branstad’s tenure to pay bills on time. Johnson was harshly critical of the practice of calculating some payments to the state as having arrived — before the checks actually were received and deposited.  Johnson says his criticism of Branstad is about the way he ran state government, not about Branstad personally. 

“I have a tremendous respect for him.  I think he’s doing an outstanding job at Des Moines University,” Johnson says. “But it’s a different climate than it was 12 years ago when he left office and even 16 years ago when he last ran for office.”

Branstad has said he will announce sometime this month whether he’ll run for another term as governor.