Third gubernatorial debate is history

Hello, sportsfans!  How many of you were able to catch today’s live broadcast of the third and final face-off between Terry Branstad and Chet Culver?  Maybe you’re going to pop some popcorn and hit the couch at eight o’clock tonight to watch the event on Iowa Public Television. 

I happened to be on the set, on a panel of journalists asking questions.  The two candidates walked into the IPTV studio at about 11:45 a.m., did the hand-shake for the cameras, and then exited to their respective locker rooms for a few more minutes before returning to the stage.

The candidates both spent the three minutes or so before air time standing behind the lecterns,  heads bowed, rather furiously writing notes on pieces of paper (at least I’m guessing they weren’t drawing cartoons).  Both men were wearing red ties.

As the debate began, Branstad did not look at Culver, but later Branstad began turning his whole body toward Culver as he launched his “you’ve tried hard, but…” lines at Culver. 

Just over two-dozen questions were asked during the hour-long debate.  A little over half-way through the “lightning round” began, and those questions and answers were probably the most interesting part of the debate.  Both men would sign a law banning smoking at the casinos.  Neither would sign a bill allowing the medicinal use of marijuana.  Neither would change the state’s non-partisan system for drawing congressional and legislative district lines according to the new census figures.

The two gave different answers when it came to key 2010 ballot issues.  Both were asked how they would vote on the constitutional amendment that may eventually dedicate money to land and water conservation.  Culver said he’d vote yes.  Branstad said it was up to the people and he wouldn’t disclose his opinion on the subject.

When the two were asked how they’d vote on the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are on the ballot in a retention vote, here is how they answered:

“I think people should vote their own convictions on these issues,” Branstad said. “I’m not going to try to influence the way people vote on ballot issues.”

Culver answered: “Governors need to lead.  I will vote yes on retaining the justices.”

The candidates were asked: Beyond sorting out the legal fallout from the film tax credit scandal, should Iowa even have a film office?   Culver simply said: “no.”  Branstad said: “yes, we should have a film office, but what they did under Governor Culver’s watch was a disaster.”

Later, the two were given a chance to discuss the issue at length.

Another lightning round question:  Should the governor have the authority to choose whomever he wants to appoint as a judge in Iowa, just as a president does with the federal courts?

Branstad: “Yes, the present system is skewed because you have 12 Democrats and only 2 Republicans on the nominating committee.

Culver: “No, it worked great under Terry Branstad and Bob Ray for 30 years.  We shouldn’t change it now.”

Next question:  Is it right for churches to face a tax penalty if pastors tell their congregation how to vote?

Branstad: “No, No.  People should have the freedom to say what they want.”

Culver: “They need to follow to laws related to non-profits.” 

The final question of the debate came from Dean Borg of Iowa Public Radio & IPTV.  He asked what bugs them most about the way they’re portrayed or caricatured.  Culver began by talking about being a dad, bragging about his kids and his wife.

 “And I am like most Iowans. I’m hardworking. I’m honest and I’m committed to doing everything I can to make a difference,” Culver said. 

Borg interjected: “So, you like everything about yourself, then?” 

Culver responded: “No, I can’t control a lot of that, Dean, but what I can do is get the job done which is exactly what I’ve done for the last four years.” 

Borg redirected the same question to Branstad: “What caricature really gets under your skin?”

Branstad referred to a Des Moines cartoonist’s work: “Duffy always makes me look really, really short and, you know, I have a mustache, but now I’m nominated for a national award.” 

Branstad has been nominated for the American Mustache Institute’s Robert Goulet Memorial “Mustached American of the Year” Award.  (That would be Robert “If Ever I Would Leave You” Goulet.)

Read this afternoon’s Radio Iowa story about the debate; it includes links to The Des Moines Register & Iowa Public Television which plan to post the video from the debate.

Tomorrow morning’s Radio Iowa story includes a long segment from the debate where Culver cites state-by-state rankings by magazines and Branstad disses the magazine published by Steve Forbes. (Branstad, by the way, backed Bob Dole, not Steve Forbes in 1996.)

Culver: “Forbes magazine just said that Des Moines, Iowa, is the best place in America to do business and we have the 4th best state in America to do business. Those jobs are coming to Iowa: Aviva, Google, Microsoft, IBM — good wages, good benefits. There’s not a state in the country that can compete with us right now and in my second term, we’re going to go from being the third-best-run state in America to the absolute best-run state.” 

Branstad replied:  “First of all, I don’t read all the Wall Street magazines and that sort of thing, but I can tell you I’ve been traveling all over the state of Iowa. I’ve been to all 99 counties and there are 114,000 people out of work. There are a lot people hurting in this state. I know we can do better. I will focus on it day in and day out, year in and year out — not just before the election.”

Before today’s noon-time debate Culver attended the unveiling of Aviva’s new facility in West Des Moines, telling the crowd it gave him time to practice his opening statement for the debate.  An Aviva official quipped that Culver wouldn’t have to face rebuttals at the event.

Todd Dorman of The Cedar Rapids Gazette blogged about the debate.  The Register’s Kathie Obradovich, moderator of today’s debate, blogged about the event late this afternoonThe Register’s Jennifer Jacobs wrote this summary of the debate’s high points. Here is the story Mike Glover of the Associated Press wrote. The Gazette’s Rod Boshart wrote this story.  Lynn Campbell of wrote this.

The Register had a blog post about the pre-debate hoopla outside Iowa Public Television’s studio.  As I walked into the building, the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” was blasting from a boom box in the parking lot.  “Like, oh my God” was one of the last lines I heard as the door closed behind me.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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