Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is defending the demeanor of a man he appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court. Justice David Wiggins will be up for a retention vote in November of 2012.
Last week, Governor Branstad said Wiggins would face a battle for retention because Wiggins showed a “lack of temperament” when he led the process for interviewing 60 candidates for the recent openings on the Iowa Supreme Court. Vilsack, who is currently the U.S. Ag Secretary, says Wiggins acted appropriately.
“I know Justice Wiggins. He is a very, very sharp legal mind,” Vilsack says. “I think what he did during the course of interviews was to probe, which I think you need to do. Certainly when I questioned potential candidates…for judgeships when I was governor, we had probing questions that you needed to ask to get a sense of the candidates.”
Wiggins and the 14 other members of the Judicial Nominating Committee interviewed 60 candidates in late January for the three openings on the Iowa Supreme Court. Last week Branstad suggested Wiggins had not treated all the candidates fairly.
“I was actually surprised the governor weighed in on that,” Vilsack says. “You know, I think it’s very important that we keep separate the executive branch and judicial branch.”
Vilsack, a Democrat, appointed Justice Wiggins to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2003. Wiggins won his retention vote in 2004 and the rotation calls for a second retention vote for Wiggins in 2012. Vilsack cautions Branstad and others about targeting Wiggins in a judicial retention battle similar to last fall’s which saw three justices voted off the Iowa Supreme Court. The three new justices Branstad just appointed to the state’s highest court will also be on the ballot in 2012.
“And I’m not sure that folks are actually going to be able to distinguish between those that were appointed by a Vilsack or a Culver administration, or those that were appointed by a Branstad administration,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack made his comments today during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press” which airs Friday night at 7:30. (Watch the program/read a transcript here.) Vilsack was in Iowa this week for a tour with the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and he refused to respond to questions about his wife’s decision to run for congress.
“I’m here as the Secretary of Agriculture and as a result of that I have to draw a very bright line in terms of what I can talk about and what I can’t talk about,” Vilsack said during the “Iowa Press” taping. “And I’m really not at liberty to talk about politics in terms of Christie’s race.”
Christie Vilsack formed an exploratory committee this week, confirmed she and her husband are moving to Ames, and announced she’s embarking on a “listening tour” in Iowa’s fourth congressional district.