During tonight’s televised debate, the two major party candidates for governor each questioned the other’s integrity on the issue of gambling.
The candidates were asked whether the state has reached a saturation point when it comes to gambling. Republican Terry Branstad, a former four-term governor, said his main concern was “keeping corruption out” of the state’s gambling industry. “And you know there’s a DCI investigation going on now about the people in Fort Dodge who were involved in promoting this gaming facility who then also then gave their money to the Culver campaign,” Branstad said. “Now I understand (Culver) has given it to charity, but I’ll tell you, it doesn’t look good.”
Democrat Chet Culver, the state’s current governor, shot back. “Your largest donor owns two casinos in Iowa. He’s given you more than $100,000, so we don’t need to hear about any integrity issues coming from you with respect to casinos.”
Branstad criticized Culver for publicly lobbying the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission on casino license requests from Fort Dodge and Ottumwa. “I think we have enough casinos in Iowa,” Branstad said. “And I think it’s important that we protect the integrity of the state and that I think the Racing and Gaming Commission was wise to reject Governor Culver’s letter that insisted they add four new casinos.”
Culver offered this as a rebuttal. “You don’t practice what you preach, Terry,” Culver said. “You came over here to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and promised the people here a dog track and then you went back to Des Moines when you were governor and you urged the Racing and Gaming Commission to give them a license here.”
Tonight’s debate was sponsored by The Cedar Rapids Gazette, broadcast by KCRG-TV and held at Coe College. The hour-long forum plowed little new ground, but at times gave viewers a glimpse of the tension of the campaign. The crowd of supporters in the auditorium ignored the edict to remain silent during the debate — booing, laughing, cheering and applauding at times, like when Branstad blasted Culver’s administration for signing contracts with an Illinois firm for construction on the University of Iowa campus and for building the new state prison in Fort Madison.
“Well, now we know what I-JOBS really is. It’s Illinois jobs and because of what Governor Culver did with the (Project Labor Agreement), an Illinois company got the contract and an Illinois Carpenters Union got the contract and that’s why they marched with him in the (University of Iowa) Homecoming Parade,” Branstad said, as some Branstad supporters in the auditorium guffawed, prompting some Culver supporters to boo. “Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for Illinois jobs.”
Culver was unapologetic. “Terry Branstad’s not telling the truth with respect to the prison project down in southeast Iowa. Again, he’s opposed to the $160 million prison that we’re building there because it’s an I-JOBS project,” Culver said. “The overwhelming majority of those jobs are going to hard-working Iowans and I’m glad they’re getting a prevailing wage to rebuild that prison, too.”
Culver backers in the room then cheered and applauded. I-JOBS is the borrowing plan Culver proposed in early 2009 as a means of financing flood recovery and other road, bridge and infrastructure projects around the state. Branstad has called it a boondoggle, and vowed to impose a “pay as you go” strategy for state construction projects.
The candidates were asked about property taxes as well as job creation, illegal immigration and “free” preschool in the public schools. Both repeated the policy positions they’ve been spelling out for voters for the past few months, as well as the accusations they’ve been making in speeches and campaign commercials about their opponent’s record on the issues.
The two men will meet one more time in a televised forum. Their October 21 debate is sponsored by The Des Moines Register and will be broadcast statewide on Iowa Public Television. You may submit your potention questions in YouTube or text.