Government

Gov. Reynolds could reach record if she wins again

She'd be in running for longest-serving female governor

Gov. Kim Reynolds greets supporters late Nov. 6 at an Iowa Republican Party election night watch party at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown Hotel. She defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell to win a full four-year term. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds greets supporters late Nov. 6 at an Iowa Republican Party election night watch party at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown Hotel. She defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell to win a full four-year term. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — When she stepped into the role of governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds said she had no intention of trying to outdo her predecessor’s tenure as the longest-serving governor in the United States.

After all, Terry Branstad had been governor for more than 13 percent of the 62,245 days that Iowa had been a state when he resigned May 24, 2017. His 8,169 days in office represented nearly one day for each week since Iowa became a state Dec. 28, 1846.

But Reynolds, who after 17 months in office was elected to a four-year term earlier this month, could claim a record of her own as the nation’s longest-serving female governor.

She hasn’t announced any re-election plans, but Iowans have a history of re-electing incumbents.

“As long as you’re are effective and contributing, Iowans like their incumbents,” she said during a break last week between fiscal 2020 budget presentations.

Branstad was elected six times. Sen. Chuck Grassley is in his seventh term. Sen. Tom Harkin served five terms. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald and Attorney General Tom Miller were just re-elected to their tenth terms.

“Iowans, if you’re doing a good job, they tend to stick with you,” Reynolds said.

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Iowans would have to stick with her beyond the 2022 election until June 10, 2025, for her to surpass the current longevity record for a female governor. That would give her 2,940 days in office — one more than Ruth Minner, who was Delaware governor from 2001-09.

That didn’t even get Minner, one of just 39 women to have served as governor, on the list of the 50 longest-serving U.S. governors ever.

Today, Reynolds is one of six current female governors and one of nine who were elected or re-elected earlier this month to be sworn in later. That matches the 2004 high-water mark for the most female governors.

Reynolds said she hasn’t given any thought to setting a record for time in office.

“I never thought I’d be sitting here,” she said in her formal office at the Capitol. “I’m not like Gov. Branstad who knew in second grade that this is what he wanted to do.”

She wanted to be a teacher, but after a variety of jobs, went to work in the Clarke County Treasurer’s Office and later was elected treasurer. Then Reynolds served in the Iowa Senate until Branstad tapped her to be his running mate when he was re-elected in 2010 after a 12-year hiatus from the governor’s office. They were re-elected in 2014.

“I’ve never really thought about it in that way,” she said about the longevity record. “I just wanted to be at the table. To be impactful.

“I’ve found that if you always give 150 percent, doors will open,” Reynolds said. “The key is not to be afraid to walk through them.”

At 59, Reynolds doesn’t see herself matching Branstad’s 22 years, four months and 19 days in office. And even if she surpasses Minner’s tenure, Reynolds thinks it’s likely another woman would break her service record.

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Govs. Kate Brown in Oregon and Gina Raimonda in Rhode Island, who took office in 2015, have head starts on her.

“There are so many younger women getting involved, getting elected, that the record may not last,” Reynolds said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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