It has now become routine to see Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds standing next to Governor Terry Branstad at news events and during his weekly meeting with the media — but that’s not the way things have always been.
The role of lieutenant governor has been evolving since the late 1980’s when the state constitution was changed so the governor and lieutenant governor could run on the same party ticket.
Before the change it was not uncommon for each official to be from opposite parties. The assigned duties were also different then.
Art Neu served as Lieutenant Governor from 1973 to 1978 when the job was to preside over the Iowa Senate. “I assigned bills to committees, I named members of the committees, and I named the chairman of the committees, and I would argue vigorously that this was a far more important job and certainly entails a lot more power than it does today. It was not however as visible because under Vilsack, under Culver and apparently now under Branstad they’re almost like twins tied together,” according to Neu.
During Branstad’s first stint as governor, he recruited State Senator Joy Corning as his running mate. “And at that time I said what will the lieutenant governor do? Because when we made the change in the constitution the duties were not specified other than to say ‘the duties will be assigned by the Governor’,” Corning explained.
Corning sat in on budget meetings, went on trade missions, and headed up special projects on diversity and literacy. She also campaigned to stop violence against women. The job was not that much different than it is today, but it was less visible.
Sally Pederson served as lieutenant governor when Branstad did not run again and Tom Vilsack won the office. Pederson was the first to begin participating in the weekly news conferences, and says it was a true partnership, which she discovered was the exception across the country.
Peterson says, “I knew from talking with my colleagues that most of them were sort of envious of the relationship that the Governor and I had. And I don’t think we’re likely to go back.” In fact, Iowa’s next governor elevated the position again.
Chet Culver named Patty Judge as his running mate before he’d even secured the nomination and once elected, chose her to lead the Iowa Department of Homeland Security. Branstad says he had a good working relationship with Corning, but admits the position has evolved.
“I think Vilsack took it another step and I think Culver was very astute in teaming up with Patty Judge. I think she really got him elected because of the appeal that she had to the agriculture community. And we gave a lot of thought to it this time,” Branstad says.
“Part of it because the fact that, you know, I’m older and so I wanted a lieutenant governor that I felt could take over, somebody I would feel real comfortable with and shared my values and my philosophy.”
Branstad believes Reynolds is as prepared to be Governor as any lieutenant governor before her, because of the prominent position she’s played in his administration.