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SOLON - October in Iowa is about tailgating and football games, cooler temperatures and falling leaves - and Terry Branstad on the campaign trail.
The Republican Iowa 'governor for life” - or at least six terms - no longer is in elected office. He's not running for anything. He's just back from more than three years as the U.S. ambassador to China.
Now he's out on the campaign trail, stumping for President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and state and federal Republican candidates around the state.
'I love Iowa and I love the campaign and I've been having a lot of fun ever since I got back,” Branstad said during a stop Tuesday afternoon at the Palmer House Stable after visiting Decorah earlier in the day.
That remains true even when he's not campaigning for himself.
'I'm proud to be back and pleased to be in Iowa to support the great Republican team we have here,” he said in an appearance with 2nd Congressional District GOP candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks and state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann. 'These are all people I know really well and people I respect and appreciate. I want to do what I can to help get the message out about how important this election is.”
As much as he said he's enjoying being back on the campaign trail, Branstad was quick to reject a suggestion that he'll run for office again.
He served four terms as governor from 1983-99. Then after 12 years in business and president of Des Moines University, he was elected again in 2010 and 2014.
'Kim Reynolds has learned everything I taught her and improved on it,” Branstad said about his lieutenant governor, who stepped in when he became ambassador in 2017 and was elected to the governorship in 2018. 'So I want to do everything I can to support her and the job that she's doing as governor. I want to make sure she's got a legislature that will continue to work with her.”
Democrats picked up six seats in the Iowa House in the 2018 midterm elections, but failed to take control of the chamber and regain a seat at the lawmaking table - controlled after the 2016 general election by Republicans.
Democrats now hold 47 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House and are trying to flip enough on Nov. 3 to take control.
'I would say I'm cautiously optimistic,” state Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City, House Democratic leader, said in an interview earlier this month. 'We know that the House is definitely in play, and we know that we're competitive.”
Branstad said that under Republican rule, Reynolds and the Legislature have improved the state's fiscal strength and continued to diversify the Iowa economy.
'I'm proud of my work and I'm proud of the role that I played, but my role is in the past,” Branstad said. 'I just want to do all I can to support the people that are working so hard for the state in the present.”
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Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed.