DES MOINES — One of the Iowans least surprised by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s decision Wednesday to seek a sixth term was his likely Democratic opponent, Des Moines state Sen. Jack Hatch.
Hatch, 63, the only major Democratic contender for governor in 2014 with less than five months before the June 3 primary, said he had planned all along for a matchup with the Lake Mills Republican in November.
“We always knew that the governor was wanting to do this," Hatch said. "He wanted to be the longest-serving governor in the country. It’s a motivation of his.”
Branstad, 67, is a four-term governor, from 1983 to 1999, who came out of retirement to capture an unprecedented fifth four-year term in 2010. And he is the longest-serving current governor and is on track for the all-time record held by former New York Gov. George Clinton as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.
Clinton served from 1777 to 1795 and again from 1801 to 1804. But part of his service occurred before New York became a state, according to the Council of State Governments, meaning Branstad will surpass Clinton on the all-time list if he completes his current term in January 2015. Branstad’s span in office would total 7,303 days — 19 years, 11 months and 29 days — at the end of his current term on Jan. 9, 2015.
Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, 54, fortified by $4.1 million in campaign funds and strong approval ratings, plan to hit the road Thursday to begin making their case to Iowa voters that they have succeeded in advancing the agenda they spelled out in 2010 to create 200,000 jobs, raise incomes by 25 percent for Iowans, restore Iowa’s world-class place in education and cut the size of government by 15 percent over five years.
Nothing could be further from the truth, Hatch said, and he plans to spend a good deal of time on the campaign explaining why he thinks Branstad is attempting to distort the facts and mislead Iowans by creating “myths” about the Branstad-Reynolds administration’s accomplishments.
“I really believe he has made mistakes, and he has missed opportunities, and he has misled Iowans about his accomplishments,” Hatch said. “He’s kind of the happy warrior but never leading from the front.”
The 33rd District senator since 2003 who previously served six terms in the Iowa House said Branstad’s claim of creating 130,000 jobs is inflated when you subtract more than 80,000 positions that have been lost since he took office. Branstad said his job-creation goal from the 2010 campaign did not promise 200,000 in net job growth.
Hatch also said average Iowans have not enjoyed strong income growth and Branstad sought to weaken Iowa’s preschool effort with means testing that was blocked by legislative Democrats.
“It’s unfair to Iowans to be elected on false promises and, not only not deliver, but try to manipulate the facts and to fool Iowans that you’ve actually accomplished something,” said Hatch, a real estate developer who has played a lead role on health-care issues in the Legislature. “That to me is a record that I can run against.”
Hatch said Iowans would see early-childhood opportunities scaled back and education funding dulled, rights for women and gays eliminated, taxes cut for corporations and wealthy Iowans, state government scaled back “below the level that is safe” and other radical changes if Branstad reclaims the governorship and Republicans take control of the Legislature after the fall elections.
Not having to face a primary opponent would enable him to have $1.5 million to $2 million by the end of June to combat Branstad’s fundraising edge, Hatch said.