116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Here's an excerpt from Republican candidate for governor Terry Branstad's Monday meeting with our editorial board.
Q -- You chose a legal career in the beginning, and you appointed one of the (justices) that's on the ballot this fall. Why not take a stand on this retention question?
"Because it's a ballot issue and it's up to the people to decide. And so I think people should vote their own convictions on this.
"And let me say this about a legal career. I recently spoke at the Drake law school. And certainly I don't regret (chuckles) getting a legal education. But I never imagined it would lead to being president of a medical school. But, a legal education, you can be an FBI agent, you can do a lot of different things. In my case, I've had a wonderful career.
"But I don't think that I should try to influence, uh...First of all, I'm running for governor. That's a big, important office, and I'm focused on what I think is the most important issues facing the people of Iowa, jobs and restoring fiscal responsibility. And I think these other issues that are ballot issues, and there are several of them on the ballot, should be up to the voters to decide."
Q -- But it's a pretty big public policy question. And I think a lot of folks see your silence as sort of a tacit endorsement of the effort to oust those judges...
"No. I mean, in the primary, there was a lot of pressure put on me, and one of my opponents is leading the effort against the judges, and I took the position in the primary that it should be the people's decision on that and that I was running for governor, not to oversee the court. But I do think the people do have a right to make those decisions. I respect that, and I respect the fact that it's on the ballot for retention and people should vote their convictions."
Q -- The retention system itself, do you think there's any adjustment that needs to be made in it?
"The nomination system needs to change. First of all, the original intent was to get it out of politics. But it's become very political. We now have, on the state judicial nominating commission, 12 of the 14 are Democrats. You even have a state senator whose husband is on the Supreme Court. It's become a very partisan situation.
"In all other boards and commissions in the state, we require not only gender balance but party balance. I think we ought to require party balance so we get away from this situation where one party dominates and controls the process. And I think that's one reason for the reaction by Bob Vander Plaats and others against this, because they think it's being used as a political weapon. If you look at recent appointments to the court, I think you can make a case for that.
"It's not the way I did it. It's not the way Bob Ray did it. But I think we need to get back to a truly nonpartisan approach. Balance the commission so that the judicial nomination commission is more open, and there needs to be party balance as well as gender balance.
Q - So you're no longer talking about the idea of governors having their own pick without...
"That takes a constitutional amendment. What I'm talking about you can do in a statute. When I was governor before we did amend the statute to say gender balance on all boards and commissions, and we included the judicial nominating commission...I see no reason you couldn't do the same thing and say let's have party balance there too. I think it's a better way to get balance on the judiciary and may avoid some of the partisanship people are concerned about."
Q - How would that work if half are selected by the bar (association)?
"I think what you do is what you do with gender, you tell the lawyers you have to elect half Republicans and half Democrats. And then the gubernatorial appointments would have to be balanced the same way..."
Q - Should Iowa have a law that says marriage is a union between man and woman?
"I signed that law, the courts struck it down. I think the people should have an opportunity to vote to restore it."Thirty-one states have passed it. Iowa voters should be given that opportunity. I find it kind of arrogant that the Democratic leaders in the Legislature won't let the people vote on an issue of this magnitude. They refuse to let that come up for a vote. And I think that they're not fulfilling their responsibility of giving the people an opportunity to vote. It doesn't take that long to bring a resolution like that up for a vote of the people. I believe Iowans should be given that opportunity."