Democrat Chet Culver’s four-year term as governor ends Friday morning when Republican Terry Branstad takes the oath of office.
“Leaving the governor’s office is awkward,” Culver said during an interview with Radio Iowa, laughing before he added: “It’s hard for any governor including, I guess, the Branstads. It’s the best job in the world.”
Branstad was Iowa’s governor for 16 years, was out of office for 12 years, and is returning now for a fifth term.
Culver is the first governor since 1962 to leave the office after losing an election. Former Iowa Governors Harold Hughes, Robert Fulton, Bob Ray, Branstad and Tom Vilsack — did not seek reelection when they exited the governor’s office.
“There’s a bigger record that no one’s talking about,” Culver said. “I was the only Democratic governor in 160 years that ever succeeded a Democratic governor who served more than one term. It was more likely that I wouldn’t have won in ’06 than that I would have lost in ’10, so I want to make sure we all know our history.”
Culver cleared out his desk in the statehouse late Wednesday, finding the letter Governor Tom Vilsack wrote to him in 2007. “(The letter was) very kind and thoughtful,” Culver said. “…It’s something I’ll always cherish and now, appropriately, put in a scrapbook rather than burying it in my desk.”
It is tradition for the exiting governor to leave a note behind for his successor and Culver plans to leave a hand-written letter in the desk Branstad will now use.
Culver has said he hopes to land a job in the renewable fuels industry and he vows he’s been putting an ethanol blend in the tank of the used pickup he bought last week.
“Since I am a very fiscally-conservative Democrat — some would say a little bit frugal — it’s an ’02 (Ford) F-150 and they didn’t have the flex-fuel option then, but if I get a job I will try to upgrade maybe a little bit so I can run on that E85,” Culver said, laughing. “But we’re certainly going to be putting nothing but E10 in there for now.”
Culver suggests it will be “weeks” before he figures out his “next step.” Culver has repeatedly said since the election that he has no regrets and wishes Branstad “Godspeed” as he takes over the reigns of state government.