Branstad won’t rule out another term


Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad talks to a student during a stop at Iowa State on Sept. 9, 2014.

Alex Hanson

After cruising to reelection last November, earning his sixth term as Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad is on his way to being the longest-serving governor in American history.

He’s also not ruling out running for a seventh term down the road.

Branstad’s comments came this past weekend during an appearance on “Iowa Press,” a public affairs program broadcast on statewide Iowa Public Television.

“Absolutely,” Branstad said when asked if he would serve out his full-term as Iowa’s governor. Some Iowa political watchers have said Branstad may step aside to give Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds a leg up in the next election by giving her the advantage of being an incumbent.

“I love this job and I love this state,” Branstad said. “I’m not done yet and I have a lot more I want to do.”

When asked if he would run for a seventh term, Branstad mentioned that former Gov. Robert D. Ray, who served from 1969-1983 before Branstad’s first stretch as governor, did not make his decision to retire until February of the election year.

“I don’t intend to make my decision until the election year in 2018,” Branstad said.

He added right now he is only six months into his current term and his main focus is what he ran on during the 2014 gubernatorial election.

“My impression is that [Branstad] does not want to commit himself right now,” said Tim Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa. “One reason that politicians don’t want to indicate one way or another, especially if they aren’t going to run again, is that it changes the political dynamic and all of a sudden you get folks talking about a lame duck.”

Iowa political watchers believe Reynolds is being groomed as Branstad’s succesor. Even if Branstad serves out his full term, Reynolds is expected to run for the Republican nomination as his replacement.

“It’s not impossible,” said Mack Shelley, a professor of political science at Iowa State, on Branstad retiring mid-term to give Reynolds the advantage of an incumbent.

Reynolds, who was a state senator before being chosen as Branstad’s running mate, is “fully ready and prepared” to be governor, Branstad said.

“I’ve got a great lieutenant governor, she’s a great partner with me,” Branstad said. “[She is] probably better prepared than anybody else has ever been because we’re partners, and she has been in on all the decision making.”

Branstad also brushed aside the idea that waiting until election year 2018 would hurt the Republican nominee that year because Democrats would get a head start campaigning.

“Unless something goes catastrophically wrong when you’re a fill-in as an incumbent, being an incumbent would put her in a much stronger position,” Shelley said. “She could claim that she has experience that nobody else running against her has.”

When Branstad came back in 2010 to run against incumbant Gov. Chet Culver, he was able to win the Republican primary by about 10 percent against Bob Vander Plaats, the socially conservative president of The FAMiLY LEADER. In 2014, Branstad and Reynolds easily fended off a primary challenge from the right.

Even with Reynolds as the Republican nominee, Shelley said a primary challenge is likely, but their credentials, like Vander Plaats being well known among evangelical voters in Iowa, will determine if they have any chance against her.

On the Democratic side, Shelley said former state Sen. Jack Hatch and Cedar Rapids Councilwoman Monica Vernon, the 2014 nominees against Branstad, were not able to excite the voting base enough, and someone like Hatch had an insider image from Des Moines as a state senator.

“Hatch was perceived as too much of a creature from Des Moines,” Shelley said. “Republicans were able to use his insider persona against him. It didn’t work well for Hatch.”

Branstad and Reynolds defeated Hatch and Vernon easily last November by about a 22 percent margin.

“The Democrats would have to do a much better job at positioning their candidate on issues, as well in terms of personality,” Shelley said. “If you’re going against Kim Reynolds, that’s different from going against Terry Branstad.”

During the interview, Branstad also discussed a series of legislative items passed this term. He defended the 10-cent gas tax increase and called for immediate repairs to Highway 20. Branstad sounded skeptical of “one-time” funds approved by the legislature for education, but would not commit to signing or vetoing it. He also added he has not made any final decisions on bills, including a bill to keep mental health facilities open in the state.