The first face-to-face meeting between the two major party candidates for governor is history, with each attacking the other’s tenure as governor during the hour-long televised event.

First-term Democrat Chet Culver and Republican Terry Branstad met in Sioux City tonight. Culver accused Branstad of failing to meet his job-creation promises during his 16 years as governor. The four-term governor shot back. “You took Iowa from 3.7 percent unemployment to 6.8 percent unemployment,” Branstad replied.

Culver interjected: “But did you fulfill your promises?”

Branstad said: “Quit interrupting. Let the people decide for themselves.”

During the middle section of the debate, the candidates asked one another questions and Branstad challenged Culver to list three mistakes he’s made.

“We’ve made our fair share of mistakes. The difference is that we’ve taken responsibility for those mistakes. In your case, you had 20 different scandals in 12 separate state agencies. You continue to not be honest with the people of this state,” Culver said.

Branstad responded a few seconds later. “Governor Culver just launched an attack on my administration and I want you to say that I think he’s made some huge mistakes. One was in 2009, passing the biggest budget in state’s history when the whole nation is in recession,” Branstad said. “…I believe in doing things on a pay-as-you-go basis. That’s the way we did things before.”

Culver soon replied: “Well you didn’t believe in pay-as-you go when you bonded for $4.3 billion, Terry.”

Branstad at one point accused Culver of living in a “fantasy land” and Branstad attacked Culver’s proposal to expand state-sponsored preschool so every four-year-old in Iowa can attend. “There he goes again, making another promise that he knows he can’t fulfill and won’t keep,” Branstad said. 

Culver repeatedly accused Branstad of “misleading” Iowans. “There’s really a Terry versus Terry campaign going on here.  He said one thing when he was governor.  Now, as a candidate, he’s saying something else,” Culver said.

Perhaps the sharpest exchanges of the evening came nearly three-fourths of the way through the debate when the two men talked about Jack DeCoster, the large-scale livestock operation whose operations are at the heart of the nationwide egg recall.  Branstad accused Culver of a “pay for play” scheme with the DeCoster family.

“Now (Peter DeCoster) gave $10,000 to the attorney general and $400,000 to Governor Culver through the Democratic Governors Association,” Branstad said. 

Culver interjected: “Not true.” 

Branstad continued: “Your largest contributor is the Democratic Governors Association and the DeCoster family gave $400,000 to ’em. I believe that is absolutely wrong.”

Culver, during his next turn to speak, accused Branstad of welcoming DeCoster into the state.

“It was during his administration in 1987 that he brought DeCoster to Iowa, that his former economic development director, Jack Bailey….testified in front of numerous boards about what a man of character Jack DeCoster was, so I think you’ve forgotten the past,” Culver said.

Branstad said: “No, I know.”

Culver continued: “It’s been so long ago that you don’t remember.” 

Tonight’s debate was sponsored by Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Iowa and Citadel Communications.  It will be rebroadcast tomorrow night at seven o’clock on IPTV World.  Two other debates are scheduled in October.