CEDAR RAPIDS — Flood recovery is about leadership and management and being realistic about what state government can do, former Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday in Cedar Rapids.

“I don’t believe the Culver administration has done that very well,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee said about Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.

Culver has overpromised, been slow to deliver and saddled the state with enormous debt by borrowing money to pay for flood recovery, according to Branstad, who met with Cedar Rapids business people and toured flood-damaged neighborhoods.

A governor should surround himself with the best people to manage crises and recovery, Branstad said, and “be very realistic in telling people what you’re going to and not do what Gov. Culver did once again up at (Lake) Delhi — go in and promise the moon and then have to backtrack.

“That’s wrong. You need to be empathetic and understanding, but you also have to be realistic.”

A Culver campaign spokeswoman called the criticism “absolutely ridiculous.”

Although Branstad criticized Culver’s $875 million I-JOBS borrowing plan that is financing flood recovery efforts, he has not provided any solutions, Ali Glisson said. Branstad has failed to offer a plan for flood recovery and flood mitigation.

“Culver has fought to take care of these communities,” Glisson said. More than one-third of I-JOBS funds go toward flood recovery and flood mitigation projects.

“Something had to be done immediately after the 2008 floods,” she said. “We could not wait any longer and hope that these communities would be able to come up with the funds to rebuild.”

Branstad, who called Culver’s administration response “dysfunctional,” said he would “put someone in charge that has clear authority, makes the tough decisions and is an advocate with bureaucrats at federal level.” Someone — he wouldn’t call them a “flood czar” — who could “push the bureaucrats who want to tell you why you can’t do something.”

There is money to help communities recover from floods and other disasters available through FEMA, but there needs to be better coordination between federal, state and local agencies, Branstad said.

He’s had plenty of experience in dealing with disasters, Branstad said. During his 16 years as governor, he dealt with plane crashes, ice storms, tornadoes and flood.

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“You don’t do it by yourself,” Branstad said. “You surround yourself with capable, talented people.

“We don’t have that today.”

Instead, Culver has “focused on politics, not policy … and surrounded himself with people who don’t make good decisions and they don’t make them quickly.”

Glisson dismissed the criticism.

“The only thing worse than Branstad’s failing to be honest and provide solutions is criticizing Chet Culver, who has provided a solution and taken action,” Glisson said.

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