Branstad makes it official

Former Governor Terry Branstad’s kick-off event for his fifth campaign for governor began shortly before 10 o’clock this morning at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story about the event and if you click on that link, you will find an mp3 of the entire Branstad speech there.  What follows below is a “live blog” of the event.

State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, took to the microphone about seven minutes before 10 o’clock. 

A few minutes into his remarks, Kaufmann talked about gay marriage, defending Branstad’s record and pointing out Branstad signed the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

“He signed it,” Kaufmann yelled into the microphone, to applause from the crowd.

“…Stay with Terry Brasntad into the future,” Kaufmann said.  “Terry Branstad can win…He left office with a 70 percent approval rating.”

As for whether Branstad is conservative enough, Kaufmann had an answer.  “Just like the three little bears, I’d say that Terry Branstad was just right,” Kaufmann said.

Kaufmann also suggested Branstad had the ability to “satisfy our base” — a reference to conservative Republicans.

At 10:02 a.m., Branstad and his wife, Chris, walked into the building holding hands.  “Jump” by Van Halen was pumped into the sound system.  (The song is the only Van Halen song to make it to #1 on the charts.  It was released in 1984, during Branstad’s first term as governor.)

Mary Andringa, head of Vermeer in Pella, offered a brief (very brief) introduction, then Branstad was on stage.

“I’d like to start the day with one simple question:  Are you ready for a comeback?” Branstad asked.  “…Is Iowa ready for a comeback?…Iowa is ready for a comeback.”

At 10:06 a.m., Branstad made it “official” (although Branstad said he “will be” rather than “I am” a candidate — does that leave a little wiggle room).  “I’m here to officially announce I will be a candidate for governor in 2010,” Branstad said.  “Together, we will bring Iowa back to the greatness that we know we have within us.”

At 10:08 a.m., after the crowd had booed Branstad’s reference to a budget “deficit” in state government,  Branstad lost his place in his speech text and there was a pregnant pause.  He found the place and resumed talking.

Next, Branstad listed the goals he’d seek if he’s elected governor again:  200,000 new jobs for Iowans, an increase of at least 25 percent in “family incomes” (sorry single people), reduce the size of government by “at least” 15 percent and “educational excellence.”

Branstad got his largest burst of applause with this line: “It’s time for fiscal responsibility to come back.”

“…Some will say Iowa can’t come back, but working together, I know we can and will,” Branstad said.  “How do I know this?  Because we’ve done it before.”

“…Iowa is poised for a comeback…and it’s this campaign and you who will start this comeback,” Branstad said.  Branstad was done at 10:14 a.m.

Doug Gross, the 2002 Republican nominee for governor, was in the crowd. Gross served as Branstad’s chief of staff. Dave Roederer, another aid to Branstad while Branstad was governor, was on hand.  Roederer helped run George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns in Iowa as well as John McCain’s 2008 campaign in Iowa.  Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, Branstad’s running mate in 1990 and 1994, was there, too, as was Darrell Kearney, an Iowa pol who worked for Jack Kemp’s 1988 Iowa campaign and served as the Iowa GOP’s long-time finance director.

Branstad was among the last people to leave the building this morning as he spoke to nearly every person who lingered. 

I walked out of the venue behind Kim Schmett and his wife.  Schmet was the Republican nominee for Iowa’s third district congressional seat in 2008.  He worked in state government during part of Branstad’s tenure as governor.

UPDATE:  about an hour before Branstad was scheduled to speak, Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan held a news conference in a third floor conference room in the State Historical Building.  Kiernan quipped about Branstad’s choice of venue: “We find it kind of ironic that today Terry Branstad is announcing his candidacy for governor at the State Historical Society.  As we talk about the elections of 2010, the real question is: are we going to turn back the hands of time or talk about the future?” 

UPDATE II:  Below is the text of the speech.  In it, you will read Branstad’s explanation for why he chose the Historical Building for his 2010 campaign kick-off.

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad today announced his run for governor. At an event held at the Iowa State Historical Building in Des Moines, Branstad began his four-day, 17-city “Iowa Comeback Tour.”  Below is Branstad’s announcement speech, as prepared for delivery:

I’d like to start off today with one simple question:  Are you ready for a comeback?

Perhaps an even more important question:  Is Iowa ready for a comeback?

You could not be more right.  Iowa is ready for a comeback. And that’s exactly what I’ve been hearing from the thousands of Iowans who I’ve met with over the last two months.

And that’s why I stand here today, with the full support of my wife, Chris.  Our children and grandchildren.  And our entire family to officially announce that I will be a candidate for governor in 2010!

Together we can bring Iowa back to the greatness we know we have in us.

You know, this building is very special to me.  I’m kicking off my campaign here, because this building shows what determined Iowans and a hands-on Governor can accomplish when we have a shared vision for Iowa.  And when we bring Iowa’s best together to make our dreams a reality.

This building is a perfect example of that leadership in action. 

Back in the 1980’s our old historical building was obsolete.  The east side of the Des Moines River was a blighted area.  In addition, the state of Iowa was in the middle of the farm crisis.

People told me it couldn’t be done.  That we needed to wait until better times to build a new Historical Building.   I took that as a personal challenge and we went about getting it done.

We paid for this building with $15 million in private donations.  And only $10 million in state funds. On a pay-as-you-go basis. Without borrowing a dime.  And we put it here, hoping that it would serve as the spark for the redevelopment of this East Village area. 

Look at this building.  Look at this neighborhood.  It worked.

Right here.  Today.  At this time.  In this building, we WILL begin leading Iowa’s comeback.

How are we going to do it?

The way we have always done it.  Setting ambitious goals.  And we won’t stop working until we get them done.

Where do we start?  We start by getting Iowa’s fiscal house back in order. That’s job number one.

When I left office, Iowa had a $900 million surplus.  Today we face a projected $1 billion deficit.

In a little over a decade the massive surplus I left the state has been squandered.

So, balancing the state budget and restoring fiscal discipline to government is our highest priority. When we get that done the rest of our dreams and goals are possible.
And here they are:

First, 200,000 new jobs for Iowans.  We’ve met tough challenges before.  At the start of my first term Iowa’s unemployment rate was 8-and-a-half percent.  By the time I left office it had been reduced to 2-and-a-half percent.  We worked day-in and day-out to do it.  We brought new companies to Iowa. Iowa businesses expanded.  We created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It will take the same kind of personal, hands-on approach to experience that kind of success again.  It’s time for jobs to come back!

Second, let’s grow family incomes in Iowa, all across the state, by 25 percent.  Iowa families are hurting.  Many have had big cuts in their household incomes.  We must lead a historic comeback in the Iowa economy.  To benefit all Iowa family incomes across this state.  It’s time for family incomes to come back!

Third, the cost of government must be reduced by at least 15 percent.  Government spending has skyrocketed. Yet, our population has remained the same.  We have more government than we can afford.  We must reduce its size and scope.  We need to set priorities.  We need to be more efficient.  We need to be more accountable.  Together, we can deliver the services we need at a cost we can afford.  It’s time for fiscal responsibility to come back!

Fourth, we should again give our children the best education in the country.  Test scores are slipping.  At the very time our children need to be at their best.  Mediocrity is not acceptable.  Educational excellence is my passion.  It’s time for our schools to come back!

During the coming weeks and months I’ll be out meeting Iowans.  Going to every college and university.  Visiting every county.  Listening to your ideas.  Discussing innovative and bold policy options.
Some will say Iowa can’t come back.  But working together, I know we can. And will.

How do I know this?  Because we’ve done it before.

When I left office Iowa had record employment. A $900 million state budget surplus.  Personal incomes for Iowa families were growing.

This didn’t happen by accident.  And the path to get there wasn’t always straight.  It required hands-on leadership.  Continuous improvement in Iowa’s tax and business climate.  And a leader with an unwavering commitment to a bright and prosperous future for Iowans.

I truly believe Iowa is poised for a historic comeback.  I believe it’s this campaign and YOU (point to the crowd) who will start that comeback.

Thousands of Iowans have committed to be a part of our campaign. They’ve touched my heart.  People offering to volunteer.  Or donate.  Do whatever we need to help us get this job done.  They’ve stopped me on the street, to provide encouragement and support.  I’ve been reminded of the incredible spirit of Iowans.  The faith that working together we can overcome our challenges.  And bring Iowa back stronger than EVER! 

It’s time for jobs to come back!
It’s time for family incomes to come back!
It’s time for fiscal responsibility to come back!
It’s time for our schools to come back!

Together, we will lead this comeback. Iowa’s comeback starts today.  Thank you and God bless each and every one of you!

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


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