Former Governor Terry Branstad is coming to a venue near you. In the course of announcing his retirement as president of Des Moines University today, Branstad said he will “fully explore” whether to run for governor again. Somehow I doubt he would ditch a job that pays half a million dollars a year without being absolutely committed to running for governor.
Branstad plans to visit all 99 counties, but he didn’t say when he will make a final decision or whether he will attend events featuring other Republican candidates. Branstad avoided answering a question about same-sex marriage today. He’ll need an answer ready soon if he’s going to tour the state.
Branstad didn’t criticize other Republican candidates today, but noted that he has more experience and name recognition than they do. He had harsh words for Governor Chet Culver’s handling of the budget, which he called a “fiscal debacle” (he would know). During his four terms as governor, Iowa’s sales tax and gas taxes went up, but Branstad said today that he cut taxes as well and will be happy to debate his record on taxes. My memory is that when times were tough, Branstad raised regressive taxes, but when times were good, he preferred to cut income taxes, especially for the wealthiest Iowans.
Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal interviewed Doug Gross this week about Branstad as a potential candidate. Gross was one of Branstad’s top aides and has remained close to the former governor. He told Hayworth that as a friend, he hasn’t encouraged Branstad to get back into politics, but that seems disingenuous. The Branstad recruitment efforts might never have happened if not for polls on the governor’s race that Gross’s Iowa First Foundation commissioned in March and July.
Meanwhile, Culver launched the first television commercial of his re-election campaign today:
It’s risky to make a virtue out of budget cuts that may turn out to be unpopular. On the other hand, this ad pre-empts Republican charges that Culver didn’t act quickly and decisively to balance the budget.
The line about choosing to rebuild after the floods refers to the I-JOBS state bonding initiative, which includes $165 million for disaster recovery and prevention, along with $100 million to reconstruct flood-damaged buildings at the University of Iowa. Republicans have unanimously denounced the bonding program.
The line about investing in new industries alludes to the Iowa Power Fund, which has also drawn Republican criticism. Allocated $25 million in state funding a year for four years, the Power Fund has supported a wide range of projects.