Governor Terry Branstad is conceding two of the men he’s asked to serve on the board the governs the state universities face long odds. Board of Regents president Craig Lang, nominated for another six-year term, and construction company executive Robert Cramer need to get “yes” voted from 34 of the 50 members of the Iowa Senate to be confirmed for the job.
Branstad was asked at an event Friday if they will get enough votes. “I hope so, you know we have a very high standard in Iowa. You can be confirmed for the United States Supreme Court in Washington by a bare majority in the United States Senate,” Branstad replied.
He said it takes a constitutional two-thirds majority vote in Iowa to confirm someone and if people are absent, it’s the same as no vote. “It’s a very high standard here in Iowa.” Lang and Cramer faced criticism from Democrats on the Senate Education Committee which sent their nominations to the full Senate without a recommendation they be approved.
Branstad says politics has led to nominees being blocked from the Board of Regents in the past. “Marvin Pommerantz, one of our finest regents was rejected when he was reappointed — I think for no valid reason. We saw the same thing happen with David Fisher. This kind of partisan politics has no place in Iowa,” Branstad said.
Pommerantz and Fisher’s nominations were both blocked during Branstad’s first stint as governor. Branstad says Lang has done a lot of good things as president of the board, including the hiring of new presidents at Iowa State and UNI, and the effort to gain more funding for UNI from legislators.
He says Cramer’s construction background would be important to the board. “I chose them specifically because of their experience and because of their talent and ability, and I would hope that the Senate would take that into consideration through the process of confirmation,” Branstad said.
Senate Democrats met in private this week to discuss Lang and Cramer. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs was asked by a reporter if the two nominees lack the votes to be confirmed.
“I will talk to the governor…and let him decide what he wants to do based on the information I give him,” Gronstal said. When a reporter suggested it “sounds doubtful” Lang and Cramer will get confirmed, Gronstal replied: “Perhaps to you.”
Gronstal refused to speculate further. A third nominee for the Board of Regents, Dr. Subhash Sahai of Webster City is a Democrat, and is expected to win confirmation.
Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson also contributed to this story.