Republicans Nominate Branstad for Iowa Governor
DES MOINES – After more than a decade out of office, former Gov. Terry Branstad on Tuesday claimed the Republican nomination to seek a fifth term, outlasting Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats in a fiercely competitive gubernatorial primary.
"I really appreciate the confidence that the voters in the Republican primary have shown in me," Branstad said. "I feel confident we can not only unite the Republican Party, but we can attract a significant number of independents as well as some disaffected Democrats."
The governor's race has drawn plenty of attention for months, as Branstad sought a return to the office he held from 1983 to 1999. He received endorsements from former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, while Vander Plaats got support from actor Chuck Norris and conservative icon James Dobson.
With 70 percent of the state's 1,873 precincts reporting, Branstad had 50.4 percent of the vote, compared to 40.3 percent for Vander Plaats. State Rep. Rod Roberts, of Carroll, was a distant third with 9.2 percent of the vote.
Nancy Bunker, 60, a real estate broker from the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, said she voted for Branstad but the endorsements didn't mean much to her, especially Palin's support for the former governor.
"I don't care about Sarah Palin," Bunker said.
The gubernatorial primary could indicate the direction of the Republican party in Iowa.
Branstad campaigned largely as a pragmatist, arguing he had the best shot of ousting Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. He focused on economic matters and glossed over emotional social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.
That prompted some conservatives, most notably leaders of the influential Iowa Family Policy Center, to threaten to sit out the general election if Branstad won the nomination.
Vander Plaats tried to appeal to social and religious conservatives by concentrating on gay marriage, an issue that soared to prominence last year after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex unions violated the state constitution.
Vander Plaats repeatedly said he'd sign an executive order on his first day in office that would set aside the court's decision, a move many argued would be illegal. Vander Plaats also stressed the need for a public vote to overturn the decision and called for ousting the justices who unanimously made the ruling.
Chris Buldhaupt, 30, an insurance agent from Des Moines, said he voted for Vander Platts because of his conservative positions.
"The reason I like Vander Platts is I don't want Branstad in there. I know his history," Buldhaupt said. "I believe in the conservative values."