Three GOP candidates meet in first “debate”

The three Republicans who are running for governor in Iowa gathered at KTIV studios in Sioux City early this afternoon for the first “debate” of the 2010 primary campaign season.  It will air this evening at 7 p.m. on the three NBC affiliates (KTIV, KTTC & KWWL), but was available “live” online at 1 p.m.  What follows is a live blog of the event.

The three candidates had 90 second opening statements.  Former Governor Terry Branstad trotted out a new line: “Results over rhetoric, that’s what this is all about.”

First question is about the state’s budget problems:  State Representative Rod Roberts says people of Iowa are “taxed plenty,” and it’s important for next governor to “say no to any new increased spending in government.”

Business consultant Bob Vander Plaats, in his answer, suggested the state budget problems started during the Branstad administration, continued through Vilsack’s and into the current Culver Administration, as Vander Plaats talked about a “bad mindset from governor after governor after governor.”  Vander Plaats said government had been “on steroids.”

“Iowans want results, not rhetoric,” Branstad replied, saying he’d made tough decisions and left a budget surplus when he left office in January of 1999.

Vander Plaats added, in response to the next question: “We need to limit government.  It’s not about serving people less. It’s about serving people better.”

Branstad said Culver was “dead wrong” about budgeting; Branstad mentioned I-JOBS and attacked the program.

“We need to create new jobs,” Roberts said, arguing again for his proposal to eliminate the corporate income tax.

For the second time in the debate — not even 15 minutes in — Branstad praised Roberts for his answer.

Next question is about gay marriage.  Vander Plaats was first in the rotation, and he talked about the promise he’s made to issue an executive order that would suspend gay marriage in Iowa until voters have a say on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa. 

Branstad mentions he signed the Defense of Marriage Act.  He went on to suggest the answer wasn’t “as simple” as Vander Plaats suggests.  “That doesn’t make sense,” Branstad said of the executive order, suggesting it would prompt another court-room skirmish.  Branstad said the “proven way” to outlaw gay marriage in Iowa would be a constitutional amendment.

Roberts also questioned Vander Plaats’ strategy of issuing an executive order.  “I don’t believe it’s constitutional,” Roberts said. “I do think it will create conflict.”

Vander Plaats got a rebuttal.  “Governor Branstad, I believe you appointed two of the justices who wrote that opinion,” Vander Plaats pointed out, before defending his plan for an executive order.  “…As a leader you need to lead.”

The first quarter of the debate is over.  There’s a break.  After the break, the question comes from a viewer.  It’s about funding for K-through-12 public schools. 

Roberts said the decisions Governor Culver had made would lead to layoff notices for 2500 Iowa teachers.  “Those local schools…are part of the life-blood of a local community,” Robert said.

Vander Plaats said again refers to the growth in government under “governor after governor after governor.” 

Branstad’s rebuttal.  “Both Representative Roberts and also Mr Vander Plaats are correct.  Culver has made some bad decisions…He promised additional money for schools and then he underfunded it.”

Next question is about medicinal use of marijuana.

Roberts is opposed.  “It’s important to take care of one’s body…I’ve never understood one would want to ingest a substance that is harmful to one’s health…Whether you’re smoking tobacco or you’re smoking marijuana, it’s just not good for your health.”

Vander Plaats is opposed, says he has “no interest” in legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.  Then, Vander Plaats says he wants to “bring it back to gambling.”  Vander Plaats says Branstad “oversaw the construction of 15 casinos and the lottery and parimutual” race tracks in Iowa.

Branstad says he’s opposed to allowing medicinal use of marijuana. Then, Branstad says:  “Let me answer the attack.  I believe we’ve got enough gambling in Iowa and we should not be expanding it….Iowans do support the gamling we have, but they don’t want to see an expansion of it.”

Roberts gets a rebuttal.  Roberts criticizes Culver for calling for four new casinos licenses.  Roberts says the way to best stimulate the economy is not to expand gambling, but — instead — boosting the private sector.

Halfway through.  There’s a break.  The next question is from a viewer who complains about partisanship.  Vander Plaats talks about offering voters a “compelling vision.”  Branstad mentions, for a third time, the “results over rhetoric” line.  Roberts talks about reaching out to Independents and Democrats, adding that he is “friendly, civil and respectful of other people.”

In rebuttal, Vander Plaats said leadership “is also about being honest” and he mentioned Branstad’s “results versus rhetoric” mantra, attacking Branstad’s support for gambling, the tax increases he signed.  

Branstad:  “Do I get to respond since he went over?’  Nope.

Onto the next question is about health care reform.  All three support court challenges from the states which challenge the constitutionality of the national health care reform plan Obama signed into law last month.

Branstad was given a chance to give a rebuttal.  “I’m not going to join in the attack, counter attack,” Branstad said to start, despite his previous inquiry of the moderators about being able to respond to BVP’s remarks.   Branstad talks about being DMU president, suggesting the national health care reform plan is unafforable and people need to take more “ownership” of their own health.

Next question is about ethanol subsidies.  Roberts supports them.  Vander Plaats supports them.  Branstad supports them. 

Branstad also said: “I’m glad to say I agree with Bob.”  That was in reference to BVP’s call for clean-burning-coal plants like the one that was derailed in Marshalltown.  Roberts, in rebuttal, said he would make sure those kind of plants are permitted.

There’s another break.  Next question, about making Iowa more business-friendly. 

Vander Plaats mentions his call for making Iowa the “start-up capital” of the world.  He also takes a shot at Branstad’s promise to create 200,000 new jobs.

Branstad defends himself: “I think you need to set ambitious goals and I’ve done that before and we’ve accomplished it.”

Roberts has a reply to Branstad’s mantra:  “Rhetoric needs to be replaced with ideas and concrete proposals.”  Roberts talks about his proposal to completely get rid of the corporate income tax.

Vander Plaats wraps up this segment with a defense of his economic message:  “We have a real plan to grow business in the state of Iowa.”

The next question prompts the three to talk about their “political resume.”  Branstad talks about his experience as president of Des Moines University first, then talks about his 16 year tenure as governor.

Roberts mentions his decade as a legislator and the benefit that would be if he’s governor.  “I will understand how the legislature works.”

Vander Plaats said he has experience in “real-life leadership, real-life experiences and real-life results.”

Branstad’s rebuttal time: “The test of good leadership is results,” Branstad says, mentioning his 16-year tenure, a time he suggests “we can repeat.”

A final break.  Next up, closing statements.  Each is 90 seconds long.

Roberts:  “Iowa needs new leadership…Our next governor needs to be a conservative…Iowa needs a new direction.”  Robert said he has “great respect” for his two competitors, but he said there are “real differences” among them.  “I am best prepared to be the next governor.”

Roberts said too many Iowans have lost their jobs.  “I believe it is time chet Culver loses his.”

Vander Plaats:  “Governor after governor after governor has given us” bloated government and higher taxes.  “Iowa doesn’t need a comeback to the same old policies.” 

“In short I’ll be a transformational governor.”

Branstad: “I genuinely love the state of Iowa…I can see Iowans are fearful and concerned about our current governor…I want to make Iowa the great state that I know that it can be.”

Each plugged their own website in the closing statement.  “It has been a blast,” one of the moderators says. Debate over.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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