Thank You, Governor Culver
From the jam-packed mid-day Hamburg Inn crowd of 80ish to the long list of accomplishments, you'd have though it was a victory lap.
With one week to go in his term, Chet Culver reflected only briefly on the central reason for his Thursday Iowa City, part of an eight city “Thank You Iowa” tour: his own defeat in November.
"Winning is more fun, but I'm at peace that the people of Iowa have chosen another direction," he said of his loss to Terry Branstad, wishing the old/new governor well. "We have our differences, now we need to convince them to change their minds."
"I'm just one voice. I'm sleeping better at night knowing these folks are still gonna be there," he said of legislators Mary Mascher (who will be in a 60-40 Democratic minority in the House) and Bob Dvorsky (part of a one-vote Democratic Senate majority).
The legislators were among a multitude of elected folks on hand to with Culver well: a large courthouse contingent (Rettig Sullivan Slockett Painter Lyness) and four mayors of cities that suffered from the floods of 2008. Two of those were Iowa City past and present - Regenia Bailey and Matt Hayek. Also on hand were Jim Fausett of Coralville and the mayor of the city that got hit hardest of all, Benita Grooms of Oakville. Remember when both the Iowa and the Mississippi were overflowing their banks? Oakville's where they meet.
(Tangent: Benita was one of my strongest supporters long ago in my house race, and I giver her more credit than I give myself for winning Oakville. She was traveling with another of my `96 allies, Don Paulson of Muscatine County.)
Flood survival and recovery topped Culver's list of accomplishments. "We were faced with unprecedented challenges the last four years," he said. "We've never had a disaster of that magnitude. THe same is true of the economy, with the worst downturn since the Great Depression."
"The thing I'm taking away from this office is how Iowans have come together through these challenges, and that'll make us stronger for our future. We're leading America out of the recession, we have $900 million in the bank and a AAA bond rating. 99 percent of our children have health care. We've added 58,000 kids to our health care rolls and we're number one in terms of adding children to preschool."
That last item is in particular jeopardy, as preschool spending is on the chopping block for Branstad and the House Republicans. But on another hot issue, soon to be private citizen Culver offered an unequivocal opinion: "We're NOT going to amend the Constitution in a way that's discriminatory and wrong."
"I'm not sure what's next for me," Culver said of his own immediate future. He said his children are looking forward to spending more time with Dad, and he's signed up for one old pursuit again: "I'll be coaching my son's fourth grade football team."
As for career prospects after 12 years in elected office (eight as Secretary of State before his term as governor), Culver said he wants to stay in Iowa and work in the renewable energy sector.
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