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Endorsement: Keep Branstad as Governor

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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When Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad completes his current term in early 2015, he will be the longest serving governor in the history of the United States. He has held office in Iowa for 19 years and eight months. With that kind of track record, it will take a lot to persuade Iowans that he needs to be replaced in the election this November. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board does not believe the Democrat candidate Jack Hatch has done so.

Any political challenger running against a deeply entrenched incumbent needs to be on the offensive to have a chance, and Hatch has made numerous claims about Branstad’s inefficacy in dealing with the state’s problems.

To start with, there’s the economy. Hatch has repeatedly attacked Branstad’s approach, saying he broke promises and lacks leadership. But Iowa has made a remarkable recovery following the Great Recession in 2008-2009. At its peak, Iowa’s unemployment rate hit 6.4 percent in late-2009-early 2010. But as of August, the state’s employment rate was at 4.5 percent, the 10th lowest in the country. Yet in order to challenge Branstad, Hatch is left with the untenable position that the state hasn’t had enough recovery.

On the topic of jobs, the topic of minimum wage has been brought up in the debates between the candidates at various points. We have previously made the case for a raise tied to inflation, and Hatch’s $10.10 minimum-wage proposal is consistent with those values. We also applaud Hatch’s views on education, such as his support for a universal pre-kindergarten program.

But these simply aren’t enough.

Hatch’s policy proposals often seem too narrow-minded in focus. He prefers to spend time casting doubt about Branstad’s performance, but in trying to paint Branstad as a governor in need of replacement, he left little room to illustrate his own ideas for the state.

The latest polling on the race seems to confirm this belief among Iowans. RealClearPolitics aggregate polling data show Branstad with 54.5 percent compared with Hatch’s 36.7 percent from Oct. 3 to Oct. 24.

There are serious concerns with Branstad’s administration. He was warned of the existence of secret settlements that forced former state employees into silence before making statements to the contrary. He cut education funding, including signing off on a $25 million reduction in funds to the state Board of Regents. As a student-run organization, we would be remiss to fully endorse a governor who hasn’t looked out for students. We implore Branstad to address these concerns, as well as others that have been raised over the course of the campaign.

Yet in order to replace this governor, with more experience than any other in the nation, Hatch needed to make a stronger case for himself in the race.

One can take this as a tepid endorsement for Branstad. It would be more accurate to say it is a recognition of the lack of viable alternatives to the status quo.


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