Home Stretch for the Governor
Republican Governor Terry Branstad is leaving nothing to chance as the November election draws near.
The governor leads in the polls and in fundraising against his Democratic challenger Jack Hatch. But you couldn’t tell it by his campaign schedule.
At a city park in Boone, more than 50 people gather on a Monday morning, and many of them have a long history with the governor. Gary Nystrom, a small business owner, says he’s met with the governor many times over the years.
“Dozens of times,” Nystrom says.
Retired FAA flight inspector Ron Driscoll of Madrid has walked many miles over the years doorknocking for the governor, this year in Boone and Madrid and earlier when he lived in Madison County.
“I used to do that in Winterset,” Driscoll says. “We walked Bedford, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, several places down in Winterset.”
The governor is now reaping the benefits of that long association with Iowans as he seeks a sixth term. From small towns to larger cities, the governor is highlighting Iowa’s improved employment picture during his current term. And he’s touting a big property tax cut approved by a divided legislature.
He makes that personal for Boone voters.
“In this fiscal year’s property taxes, there’s a 127 million dollar reduction,” Branstad says. “The state is replacing property taxes with state dollars. For Boone County alone that's 775,000 dollars.”
The governor says Boone County unemployment has fallen from 6 percent to just over 3 percent. He has similar numbers for Carroll County where a similar crowd shows up on a weekday afternoon.
“It’s great to be here with your dynamic young mayor,” Branstad says. “In a beautiful city park in Carroll, Iowa on a beautiful fall day so thank you very much.”
Some Carroll County supporters have also been on Branstad’s side for a long time. 78-year-old Virginia Hagemann can’t even count how many times she’s personally spoken with the governor.
“Umpteen times,” Hagemann says. “During each campaign season and in between. He’s one of us, conservative, and concerned about money.”
Carroll County attorney John Werden recalls the governor’s 1994 campaign.
“20 years ago on my patio you gave a speech about how you win elections and you win it by working hard,” Werden tells Branstad.
“That’s exactly right,” the governor replies. “That's why I've never lost. No one will outwork me.”
Branstad is hoping for a Republican legislature to work with if he’s re-elected. He has been appearing at rallies on behalf of GOP statehouse candidates.
“We will maintain the majority in the House and we’ll take over the Senate. So let’s get it done,” says Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.
Democrats currently hold a slim one-vote majority in the Senate.
Back in Boone, Ron Driscoll says Governor Branstad has been good for the Iowa economy and state coffers.
“We’ve got more people working,” Driscoll says. “The rainy day fund is full and they’ve just done a super job.”
But some Democrats who also go way back with Branstad say he hasn’t improved with time.
“I was in the state senate. He was governor,” says former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. “I don't think he had the same dynamic that he has now. I certainly didn't always agree with him but I believed that his staff was very competent and they were moving his agenda as well as they could following the rules. I'm not sure that's true today.”
Judge cites lawsuits against Branstad, along with recent controversies over some of his appointees. And she concludes either the Governor is not as engaged, or the people at the top of the ladder with him aren’t the right people. The governor calls that a partisan attack. He praises in particular his current campaign manager.“
"Jake Ketzner has done a fabulous job,” Branstad says. “Every goal has been exceeded. He’s the campaign manager. We talk to him on a regular basis. I ask him how much money has come in today.”
The governor says he’s posed a new challenge for himself for the 2014 election.
“In addition to winning an election you try to do something that might be different or historic. In 1982 it was carrying Dubuque County which Abraham Lincoln didn't carry. So that was neat. And last election it was Wappello County. I was just in Wappello County last weekend and our goal is to carry Wappello County again.”
This year the campaign has run television ads across the river in Quincy Illinois to try to carry Lee County for the first time. That would make heavily democratic Johnson County the only one left to conquer. The governor says that would be like climbing Mount Everest.