You could see it on their faces Sunday, as Chet Culver’s staff brought him into the WHO radio studios to appear on the weekly “Sportsman’s Notebook” program. That look of disbelief.
Hours before that, the Cedar Rapids Gazette hit the doorsteps of its eastern Iowa readers, containing the first newspaper endorsement of the Iowa governor’s race. And the endorsement didn’t go to Culver.
Gov. Culver says Terry Branstad shouldn’t have gotten the endorsement. He says Branstad opposes the i-Jobs spending that is funding rebuilding projects in Cedar Rapids to help the community recover from the flood..
What Culver and his staff are missing is what we’ve warned about for weeks.
The Culver campaign is using an old political model in a new political climate. The model that says if you show up in times of tragedy and promise help, then release the funds during re-election the gratitude of the populace will give you the votes for victory. But it backfired on Culver.
Already Cedar Rapids citizens were resentful of the government, with FEMA, Culver and everyone else promising to get them back to normal after one of the worst floods in a century. But the days turned into weeks and months and they found FEMA awash in rules and regulations and getting life back on track a more distant possibility. Mention federal assistance in Cedar Rapids and you’re likely to get glared at by at least a couple of people in the room, if not an outright lecture.
So it didn’t help when Culver began promising i-Jobs money for Cedar Rapids about the same time as the election campaign got underway. Cedar Rapidians saw it for what it was. An attempt to buy favor and votes. And more money that won’t get them back to normal…or to work. A new library doesn’t help get your home or business back after the flood. If you’re not a member of a skilled trade that employs unionized workers, you aren’t getting any help. Culver is seen as someone who comes to the city to make big promises, but isn’t listening to their concerns.
And the Gazette editorial staff also looked at Culver’s record in office. They didn’t like the fact that Culver and legislative Democrats increased state spending while there was a national recession underway, only to have to impose a drastic across-the-board cut to avoid a deficit. They called it “binge and purge budgeting.”
They didn’t see any concrete plans for the future from the Culver administration, other than the feel-good photo op proposal for universal preschool. Culver is quick to point to i-Jobs, but not to a plan to bring more jobs in the future. “Give us more time” is not something that Cedar Rapids wants to hear.
Culver still thinks the people in Cedar Rapids are behind him. But he needs to wake up and understand that the old photo-ops and opening of the checkbook at election time aren’t working. He’s got to come up with solid reasons why he should be returned to office, along with details of what he’ll change and how he’ll fix the problems we face.
A good first step would be to talk about K-12 education and how Iowa’s going to get out of the gutter. We have a majority of our urban schools that have failed No Child Left Behind evaluations for three years. If he could articulate a clear plan there voters might give him another chance.
His comments over the weekend to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser are precluding another save. It was there Culver promised to push for “fair share” and “prevailing wage” legislation. These are job-killers, not job creators. The state needs to boldly show it is committed to small business. Kow-towing to labor unions is not the way to do that. It’s likely to stifle expansion.
There’s not much time left, but Culver says he’ll get his “fair share” of endorsements from Iowa newspapers. Anyone want to bet which paper will be the first to endorse him?
Photo by Dave Davidson
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