What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.
Looking through Governor Terry Branstad’s latest set of appointments and nominations, I was again struck by how many former Iowa House and Senate members end up on state boards and commissions. I remember Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver appointing lawmakers to high-profile jobs too, but the trend seems more pronounced under the current governor. Background and details on the new appointees are after the jump.
Branstad served in the Iowa House himself during the 1970s before becoming lieutenant governor, and he has often gravitated toward lawmakers for important positions. His desired successor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, served half a term in the Iowa Senate before the 2010 election. Several other leading contenders to be Branstad’s running mate that year had served in the Iowa legislature too. Former State Senator Joy Corning was lieutenant governor for Branstad’s third and fourth terms during the 1990s.
Aside from Reynolds, the most senior former lawmaker in the current Branstad administration is onetime State Representative Rod Roberts. Roberts left the Iowa House to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2010. Though he was a competitor to Branstad, his presence in the GOP primary helped Branstad in several ways. After the 2010 election, the governor-elect offered Roberts a job for which he had not applied and for which no one else was interviewed: director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. He is among the state department and agency heads Branstad carried over from his last term.
Two years ago, Branstad put former State Senator Larry McKibben on the Iowa Board of Regents, perhaps the most prestigious of all state boards.
The full list of the governor’s latest nominations is at the end of this post on former Iowa House Democrat Geri Huser’s nomination to the Iowa Utilities Board. Assuming Huser is confirmed, all three of that board’s members will be former state legislators; the others are former Iowa House Republicans Libby Jacobs and Nick Wagner.
Branstad also just named former GOP State Senator Merlin Bartz to the Vision Iowa Board. His day job is running Representative Steve King’s district office in Mason City, a position he accepted shortly after losing his 2012 re-election bid to State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm in Iowa Senate district 26.
Former Democratic State Representative Joe Riding appears on Branstad’s list as a nominee for the Environmental Protection Commission. I was surprised, because I don’t remember Riding taking a particular interest in environmental issues during his two years in the Iowa House. GOP rising star Zach Nunn defeated Riding in last November’s election to represent Iowa House district 30.
The governor has nominated former Iowa Senate Majority Leader Stew Iverson (who later served a term in the Iowa House) to chair the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board. Branstad first appointed Iverson to that position two years ago.
State Representative Dolores Mertz, long known as the most conservative Iowa House Democrat, just got the nod from Branstad to serve another term on the state Racing and Gaming Commission. After initially putting her on the Environmental Protection Commission, Branstad named Mertz to the commission that oversees gambling in 2012. The chair of that commission is former GOP State Senator Jeff Lamberti, whom Branstad first appointed in 2011.