When Chet Culver ran for Governor in 2006, he told Iowans that he was a man of “deep religious faith.” He ran television ads showing his two children on his lap reading the Bible, and he also ran a series of ads on a number of Christian radio stations across the state.
Culver’s faith seemed authentic. He was the only candidate in the Democratic primary to openly oppose gay marriage, a position that he continued to advance after winning the primary and being elected to office. In fact, as Varnum vs. Brien was headed to the Iowa Supreme Court, Culver pledged to “do everything under my power to protect marriage.”
Culver’s strong position on marriage lasted until the day the Iowa Supreme Court issued its decision that allowed gay marriage in Iowa. Where did that man of deep religious faith go to?
Now that months have passed since the Courts ruling, Governor Culver is once again publically talking about his faith. This time, Governor Culver is offended by an atheist ad that appeared on Des Moines Area Transit (DART) buses. The ad read, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
Governor Culver told the Des Moines Register, “I was disturbed, personally, by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent.” Culver also indicated that the ads could become a legal battle.
The same Governor Culver who refused to do anything when the Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling on marriage, who also refuses to let the people of Iowa vote on a constitutional amendment to settle the matter, is willing to challenge a group’s first amendment right to free speech? The matter will not come to that. Shortly after the Governor’s comments, DART said that the ads were never approved and we put up accidentally.
We shouldn’t be surprised by the Governor has reconnected with his faith. Culver’s re-election effort is now in full swing, and it is likely that Iowans will once again be seeing television ads with him and his Bible and hearing “Culver for Governor” ads on Christian radio. Is this who Governor Culver really is? Or is it simply clever marketing to help he get elected?
His faith isn’t the only thing about Governor Culver that has Iowans confused. Iowans are wondering who to believe when it comes to the state’s financial health. On one hand, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) paints a grim forecast for state revenues. Governor Culver already has to deal with an actual deficit following fiscal year 2009 and a $1 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2010, so any additional decline in state revenues would only exacerbate the problem.
Governor Culver instead chooses to ignore the numbers from the LSA and has even said that they are wrong. When asked by reporters about the state’s financial troubles, Governor Culver says that Republicans are playing politics with the issue despite the fact that Republicans have only cited the same concerns as the LSA.
The most difficult issue that Governor Culver will have to deal with in his re-election effort can be summed up in one word – trust. How can Iowans trust that Governor Culver is telling them the truth when he claims that the state’s revenues are fine and huge budget cuts are not in the forecast and when they elected a Governor who consistently stood for traditional marriage until the court issued its decision?
Governor Culver will not be the first incumbent governor to lose re-election since 1962 because of issues like gay marriage, his billion dollar I-Jobs borrowing scheme, and the budget mess he created. He will earn that distinction because Iowans no longer trust him.
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