When the two major party candidates meet in their second face-to-face debate on Thursday night, flood recovery will likely be a key debate point as the event will be staged in Cedar Rapids.
Governor Chet Culver, the Democratic incumbent, will tout his administration’s response to the floods of 2008, while Republican rival Terry Branstad will attack Culver’s record and tout the way he responded to the floods of 1993, as Branstad was governor at the time.
The two candidates gave reporters a bit of a preview Tuesday during separate appearances in central Iowa. “There couldn’t be a more stark difference between my commitment to the people of Cedar Rapids, my commitment to those communities across eastern Iowa, in particular, that were devastated by the 2008 floods versus Terry Branstad,” Culver said. “Terry Branstad doesn’t want to do anything to help them.”
Branstad suggested Culver’s administration hasn’t been much help to flood victims. “Only about 34 percent of the money that’s been allocated — federal and state — for flood relief has gotten to the people that need it. That’s terrible,” Branstad said. “You know, after the flood of ’93, we had an after-action report made in May of ’94 — less than a year later. Here we are, more than two years later and, still, they’ve gotten so many run-arounds.”
Culver accused Branstad of bearing some responsibility for the severity of the 2008 floods. “He has a record of doing nothing, or very little, to help after natural disasters,” Culver said. “In 1993, he had a commission that was put together. He didn’t adopt one of the recommendations. As a result of that, we were more vulnerable in 2008 because of his inaction.”
And Branstad called Culver’s response to the flooding “a tragedy.”
“After the flood of ’93…I chaired a flood recovery coordination committee that met every day and I put Tommy Thompson in charge of it because I knew that General Thompson knew how to get things done because he’d done it during the Farm Crisis of the ’80s and I know that he could cut through the red tape and get it done. We did it when we got loans to farmers during the Farm Crisis. He did it during the flood of ’93,” Branstad said. “That’s not been done.”
Thursday’s debate is sponsored by The Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG Television. It will air on KCRG in Cedar Rapids at seven o’clock and then be rebroadcast statewide on Iowa Public Television at eight p.m. The third and final debate between the two candidates will be held October 21.