One of the major wins of the evening was former Governor Terry Branstad defeating incumbent Democrat Governor Chet Culver by almost eight points. The race did tighten, but Governor Culver had too much of a deficit to overcome and Republican turn-out as well as a major increase in early voting helped to seal the deal.
Culver simply could not run on his record. Setting ideology aside he simply was incompetent evidenced by his fiscal mismanagement and the number of scandals in the last year. His debacle with the film office, skepticism regarding his I-JOBS program, budget cuts that in turn led to property tax increases, and flip-flopping on defending marriage were issues that picked apart voter confidence in his governing ability. In Terry Branstad Iowans saw experience, and more importantly, competence. So Iowans looked to the past to find the future, and now Governor-Elect Branstad will begin his 5th term in January.
We are also going to be acquainted with now Lt. Governor-Elect Kim Reynolds. Will she go the way of Lt. Governors in the past – fade away, or will this set her up for a run for higher office down the road. She is young and this could be a stepping stone for a future Gubernatorial bid of her own in 4-8 more years (depending on wheter or not Governor Branstad seeks re-election after his 5th term in office)?
The other office that Iowa Republicans picked-up is Secretary of State. Matt Schultz defeated Michael Mauro by just under 3 %. Not a wide margin, but it is difficult to beat incumbents in races like these with scant name recognition among the electorate. Schultz ran a hard and energetic campaign. With the concern over illegal immigration and voter fraud he had the right issue which was the heart of his campaign – requiring a voter ID.
Apparently this was a surprise win to the The Des Moines Register; they had called it for Mauro at 10:09p. Oops. They have since taken that down, but someone was kind enough to email Caffeinated Thoughts a screenshot (Matt’s brother Thomas).
Republicans held two other offices both with wide margins. Dave Vaudt won reelection as State Auditor beating his Democratic challenger, Jon Murphy, by 13 points. Dave Vaudt has been a perpetual thorn in Governor Chet Culver’s side and as such is well known. His message of fiscal discipline has certainly resonated among voters. The fact he was the only CPA running helped as well. He has a great catch phrase – “In God we trust, everyone else we audit.”
Bill Northey took his Democratic challenger, Francis Thicke, behind the woodshed to win re-election as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture winning by 25% his margin of victory was second only to Senator Chuck Grassley’s defeat of Roxanne Conlin. Northey has done an excellent job, the post isn’t really a partisan one, and he has a firm grasp on agricultural issues within the state.
Republicans also experienced set-backs in two other races with Democrat incumbents. Brenna Findley lost her race against 28-year incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller. Findley came in with little name recognition lost by 11 points. In a poll taken in August she only had 26% support, but she traveled the state visiting all 99 counties and out campaigned and out-raised Miller.
She couldn’t overcome the experience argument, and the fact that she looks so young likely didn’t help. It is frustrating to see since she is certainly intelligent and capable of doing the job. Miller also got a little help from The Des Moines Register for their decision not to treat his unethical loans as a story, instead deciding to bury that news in a fundraising story. I still think that he needs to be challenged on this and disciplined if it is discovered he broke the law. Simply put while Findley didn’t win; she gave Miller a run for his money. He ran unopposed last time so isn’t used to actually having to get out there to campaign and spend money which certainly helped other races.
Findley told me last night that it is too early to consider running again, but if Tom Miller decides to run for re-election if she doesn’t run she’ll find somebody to run against him. I’m predicting that this will be his last term in office, I think he’s lost his campaigning edge as this race demonstrated.
The other race that didn’t go Republicans way is the State Treasurer race. The Republican candidate Dave Jamison lost his race to incumbent Michael Fitzgerald by almost six points. This is a hard office to unseat an incumbent in. Fitzgerald also hit the airwaves, including WHO Radio touting himself as a fiscal conservative. It’s simply hard to really draw distinctions between candidates. News of Fitzgerald’s misdeeds didn’t garner enough public attention and Jamison ran a quiet campaign, but pulling to within five percent when he was down by 12 points this summer.
Even with the two losses, no one was expecting a sweep of the executive branch offices in Iowa. Republicans have done extremely well.