Watch the wife

I recall a speech Governor Tom Vilsack made during his second month in office — February of 1999.  He was speaking at a luncheon at Hoyt Sherman Place and the place was full of females, his wife included.  Vilsack chose to say a few nice words about his wife, and tell the story about how he, his wife and his staff were sitting around campaign headquarters in 1998.  One of his staff members said "Somebody has to go to Page County."  Vilsack, in recounting this story, said of course he didn’t want to go because Page County was the home of his opponent, Congressman Jim Lightfoot.  Vilsack’s runningmate, Sally Pederson, didn’t want to go.  It was at this point, Vilsack told the crowd, that his wife piped up and said "I’ll go."  The punchline of this story:  Vilsack ended up winning Page County.

For those of you who haven’t been around the Vilsacks as a couple or Mrs. Vilsack as an individual, she is the vivacious half of this couple.  She is the one who likes to campaign.  He is the one who when I asked him in 2002 if he liked to campaign replied that he "likes to govern." 

When Christie Vilsack became Iowa’s First Lady in January of 1999, she approached the "job" in a much different way than her predecessor.  Chris Branstad had kids to raise and later during her husband’s 16-year-tenure as governor when her kids were older, she got a job as a med tech.  Chris Branstad wasn’t interested in campaigning or making public appearances for her husband.  In stark contrast, during Tom Vilsack’s tenure in office there have been many weeks in which Christie Vilsack made more public appearances around the state than her "governing" husband. 

During one of those recent public appearances, Christie Vilsack introduced a new catch-phrase I think you’ll hear Tom Vilsack using quite a bit in the coming months as he touts Iowa’s economic record.  In the first two minutes of her speech, Mrs. Vilsack used the phrase "changed the landscape" nine times.  Today, her husband is making three stops in eastern Iowa to "highlight the changing landscape of Iowa" according to the news release issued by the governor’s staff.  They’ve dubbed it the "promises kept" tour.

What changes in the landscape are the Vilsack’s touting?  The new ethanol plants, the new wind turbines, the new or improved public libraries, the newly-constructed community attractions like that museum in Dubuque or the sports arenas that popped up in Des Moines and Council Bluffs — partially financed with state grants for the "Vision Iowa" program Vilsack signed into law.  Vilsack was in Davenport this morning, at ADM in Cedar Rapids over the noon hour and he’ll be in Burlington’s public library in about an hour. Later today, though, Vilsack will face one of the economic failures that occured during his tenure.  He’ll be in Centerville tonight to talk about the closure of the Rubbermaid plant there. 

Mrs. Vilsack, by the way, has nothing on her public schedule today.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Clyde Tolson says

    In 1998 Vilsack got stomped in Page County.