The 2010 campaign for governor reached another turning point Friday as the current governor began running campaign ads, defending his across-the-board cut in the state budget and a former governor announced he was retiring from his job to reenter politics. Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, says the timing of the ads “made sense” because he wanted to quickly “explain” his budget-cutting decision.
“I think it’s important to explain to the people of Iowa exactly why I had to cut the budget 10% and I didn’t want to leave any doubt in anyone’s mind that I did the right thing,” Culver says. “I made a tough decision under tough economic circumstances and I wanted to make sure that I told the story as opposed to anyone else.” Culver, a Democrat, says he rejected Republican calls to convene a special legislative session to make selective cuts because “quick” action was needed, and there was a danger interest groups would successfully lobby to spare their pet projects from budget cuts.
“I didn’t want to pass the buck to the legislature and have a special session that could have exacerbated our economic challenge,” Culver says. Culver has hired a campaign manager, but told reporters on Friday he’s not ready to formally declare his intentions to seek a second term as governor.
“Actually that’s the furthest from my mind right now…I’m focused on governing and getting the job done as governor,” Culver said. “There’s going to be plenty of time for politics. We have just shy of 400 days between now and Election Day. There’ll be a very spirited primary between now and June, and then we’ll have plenty of time to talk about politics and our differences next summer and next fall.” On Friday, former Republican Governor Terry Branstad said he’s retired from his job as president of Des Moines University so he can talk with Iowans about seeking a fifth term as governor.
“Thousands of Iowans, from all across our state, have asked me to reenter public life, to become a candidate once again,” Branstad said. “I am very touched and humbled by that interest and that support and I have said I will give that serious consideration.” Branstad’s leaving a formal announcement ’til later and dismissed the idea that he’s the frontrunner for the G-O-P’s 2010 gubernatorial nomination.
“And I don’t take anything for granted,” Branstad said. “…You’ve got to earn the respect and support of the people and I hope to do that.” Branstad said he is “sick” about the status of state government in 2009. “I guess I believe that I have the experience and the ability to make a difference and I want to and I guess it’s really because I love the state of Iowa,” Branstad said. “It’s with mixed emotions because I love Des Moines University and I hate leaving here, but I think there’s a bigger calling I have right now and I believe that at this time in our history the people want a leader with experience and somebody that can put the state back on track.”
Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican who already has formally announced he’s a candidate in 2010, issued a statement, saying “while those who have encouraged Governor Branstad to run have been focused firmly on Iowa’s past,” he looks “forward to continuing (his) conversation with Iowans about our future.” Branstad served as Iowa’s governor from January of 1983 ’til January of 1999, and Vander Plaats made it clear Branstad’s entry in the race would not prompt him to drop out. None of the other handful of Republican candidates who have been campaigning for governor issued statements Friday.