Student group backs Branstad


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The year was 1983, and a 35-year-old Terry Branstad was sworn in for his first term as Iowa governor. Future UI student Nic Pottebaum wasn’t going to be born for about seven more years.

Back to the future: A 19-year-old Pottebaum is leading a group of UI politicos who support the now-63-year-old Branstad’s latest bid for the governorship.

But the UI group Students for Branstad isn’t an anomaly — the former governor’s campaign is making a conscious effort towards rallying the youth vote in both June’s Republican primary and the November general election.

“I think people [my age] grew up knowing Branstad as their governor,” Pottebaum said. “When it comes down to it, you want somebody who can win, and you want someone who identifies with the same things you do.”

The students’ talking points mimic those of older Branstad supporters. They center on the one-time governor’s economic record, pointing to job creation and Branstad’s handling of the farm crisis in the 1980s and the record floods of 1993.

“I think a lot of challenges facing Iowa right now require a tested, proven leader,” UI senior and group co-chair Sam Konchar said.

Branstad served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor from 1979 until 1983 and then served as governor from 1983 until 1999. Despite his popularity across the state, he failed to garner much appreciation in Iowa City over four elections. He failed to ever win a majority of Johnson County ballots.

However, Branstad’s young faithful say he could be popular in the college community this time around.

“I think it’s important for students to want to get involved in this and to have a stake and look at how much their education is going to cost,” UI senior and group co-chairman Joe Jay said. “One of Branstad’s goals is to reform education, which I think can resonate with a lot of students.”

Branstad’s campaign is utilizing both Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the public.

Students for Branstad has almost 60 people in its Facebook group, though the officers are still in the process of recruiting members.

While none of the other Republican hopefuls have official groups at the UI, another Branstad group is materializing at the University of Northern Iowa. UNI student Jared Parker said Branstad was an easy choice for the 2010 gubernatorial race.

“He’s one of those guys you can look at and say ‘He’s done a good job,’ ” the UNI sophomore said.

Branstad campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht said young people across the state identify with issues Branstad thinks are important, particularly higher education and employment.

“Young people understand he will lead Iowa’s economic comeback. He’s a proven job creator and will work day in and day out with a hands-on approach to economic development,” Albrecht said.

While the campaign website doesn’t yet list any campaign stops in the Iowa City area, Albrecht said Branstad — who served as the president of the University of Des Moines from 2003 to 2009 — has committed to visiting each college campus in Iowa.

“He is not going to take the student vote for granted and will campaign very hard to get that support,” Albrecht said.

Representatives from Gov. Chet Culver’s campaign were not available to comment on Monday afternoon. Dane Hudson, a member of the UI’s University Democrats, said the group has not yet been involved in the gubernatorial race.

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