Governor Chet Culver formally kicked off his campaign for reelection this morning, saying he hasn’t gotten everything right during his first term, but he’s given “100 percent effort.”

Culver, a Democrat, is embarking on a week-long campaign blitz through the state that began with a rally at the Des Moines high school where he used to teach. If he wins a second term, Culver pledged to expand access to public preschools, boost the amount of “alternative energy” being produced in Iowa and spur streamlining efforts for local governments.  Culver said during his first term Iowa had been tested by flooding, tornadoes, pandemics and the recession.

“You know, I’ve not always gotten it right, but I’ve always given it 100 percent effort. My love for the people of this state and my belief in a God that teaches us it’s our struggles that make us stronger has never been more rooted,” Culver said this morning.  “I’ve listened.  I’ve learned and I’ve grown as a person.” 

Three Republicans, including former Governor Terry Branstad, are vying for the chance to face Culver in November. Culver suggested Iowans aren’t interested in going “back to the ’80s” as that’s when Branstad began his 16-year run as governor.  “They want to take us back to the failed policies of the Bush and Branstad era,” Culver said.  “We’re not going to go back.  We’re going to go forward.”

Culver did not directly nmention the issue of gay marriage, but when he made this declaration he got a standing ovation from the crowd. “Will we stand up and fight for civil rights and human rights for every Iowan or choose to amend our constitution in such a way that we all know would be discriminatory and wrong?” Culver asked, leaning into the microphone to speak more forcefully as he ended the statement.

Although the audience peppered Culver’s remarks with applause, that was the only standing ovation Culver got during his 20 minute speech.    Listen to the entire speech here : Culver kickoff 34:34 MP3

First Lady Mari Culver introduced her husband to the crowd.  “He is a very good, good man.  He is the man with the heart of a lion.  He is a wonderful, wonderful father,” Mari Culver said.  “…This is a man who puts people first.”

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Culver’s running mate, also spoke, describing herself as a tenacious nit-picker. “Occasionally we don’t see eye to eye…but even though we aren’t in total agreement every day I’ve found the governor to be a good listener.  He’s a learner and he’s a guy that enjoy a good laugh and by the end of the day we always find a way to be on the same page,” Judge said.  “And isn’t that what you want from a leader?”

Judge was Iowa’s secretary of agriculture for two terms.  She ran for governor in 2006, but abandoned her campaign to become Culver’s running mate. 

Tomorrow, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at a Culver campaign rally in Cedar Rapids.

(This story was updated at 12:59 p.m.)