He's Back: Branstad Re-elected Governor
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Former Gov. Terry Branstad rode his claim of experience and stability back into office Tuesday for a fifth term as Iowa governor, defeating incumbent Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.
The loss by Culver marked the first time since 1962 that Iowa voters have ousted a sitting governor.
Branstad beat Culver by a solid margin, with about 53 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Culver with 78 percent of the state's precincts reporting.
Branstad promised to hit the ground running, saying he'd move quickly into the transition.
"We'll start right away, tomorrow," Branstad told The Associated Press.
He noted that Republicans made gains in the Legislature and said that would ease his task as governor.
"That's going to give us an opportunity to get things done," Branstad said.
Branstad credited his win to "hard work and a focus on jobs, those things that Iowans really care about."
He said it was a tough election.
"It's never easy to beat an incumbent," said Branstad. "We worked hard, and we turned our votes out."
A somber Culver said he was proud of his accomplishments during his single term in office, pointing to increasing the minimum wage and recovering from disastrous flooding.
"It's been an enormous privilege to serve the people of Iowa," said Culver. "We are proud of our record."
With the decision, Culver and Branstad must begin a rare transition from one party to the next, and they will be under severe time pressure.
While Culver will deliver the annual State of the State speech to a joint session of the Legislature in early January, Branstad will be responsible for submitting a new budget by late in the month. The two sides appeared to be making the initial moves toward cooperating, with Culver telephoning Branstad with congratulations, and Branstad praising the governor he defeated.
"He was a real competitor," said Branstad.
The race for governor was filled with unusual twists, including both candidates claiming their experience in office was the difference.
Branstad's fifth term will come 12 years after he left office as the state's longest-serving governor.
The campaign for governor has stretched on for more than a year and has been the most expensive in state history. Each candidate has raised more than $8 million, spending much of the money to air nonstop television ads.
Culver argued that he led the state through a deep recession and dealt with plunging tax revenue by cutting spending and not increasing taxes. He's contrasted that with Branstad's 16-year record as governor, which included tax increases as well as tax cuts.
Branstad has focused on his claim that much of Iowa's economic problems could be blamed on Culver. He was especially critical of a Culver program that borrowed more than $800 million in an attempt to generate jobs while also financing flood repair and infrastructure work. The debt is being repaid through state gambling revenue.
Culver, 44, is the son of former U.S. Sen. John Culver. He attended Virginia Tech University on a football scholarship and returned to Iowa to get his master's degree at Drake University. He taught and coached at Des Moines high schools before winning the first of two terms as secretary of state in 1998. He was elected governor in 2006.
Branstad, 63, served in the Legislature, then was elected lieutenant governor in 1978. He was elected governor in 1982 and went on to service four terms. After leaving office in 1998, Branstad became president of Des Moines University, a medical school.