Governor Chet Culver is in Iraq. His new Democratic challenger in the governor's race said he shouldn't be (but more on that later). Culver held a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon to say he went to Iraq through the Department of Defense (he added the DOD paid the bill for the trip and that he has wanted to visit there for three years). Culver said he wanted to visit with Iowans serving there. When I covered the annual condition of the guard address earlier this month, the guard told me it had its fewest number of Iowans, about 100, serving in Iraq since the war started. Here's the release from the governor's office:
Now back to Jonathan Narcisse, who announced he will challenge Culver in the Democratic primary. Narcisse is a former Des Moines school board member, who accrued ethics complaints and the ire of his fellow board members during his one-term tenure. During his remarks Saturday morning, Narcisse called Culver a "nice guy". But he also said Culver has shown " failed leadership".
GOVERNOR CULVER VISITS IOWA SOLDIERS IN IRAQ
IRAQ – Governor Chet Culver today is in Iraq, where he is meeting with Iowa reservists who are serving on behalf of the United States mission. The Governor is joined on the trip by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and is meeting with soldiers and reviewing the progress that has been made on the ground.
“As Commander-in-Chief of the Iowa National Guard, it is an honor to see the work that Iowa soldiers are doing on the ground in Iraq,” said Governor Culver. “Iowans should know the troops our state has deployed are incredibly dedicated and acting out of a spirit of service. I have been impressed and inspired with their work ethic, their focus and the love of country that motivates so many to serve. To all of our Iowa veterans on behalf of a grateful state, I say a heart-felt thanks for your legacy of service in the name of freedom in America and abroad.”
During a call with reporters this afternoon, the Governor once again called on the legislature to pass four bills that help Iowa soldiers and their families. The Governor highlighted the “Trailing Spouse Bill” (HF 2110), which expands unemployment benefits for spouses who are forced to leave their jobs when their spouse receives a military reassignment or deployment, the Exemption of Veteran’s Benefits from Income Tax (HF 2138), Modification of Visitation Rights for Veterans (HF 2417) and Addition of Veterans Representation on Commissions (SF 2175).
Prior to their departure, yesterday both Governors met with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, received a briefing from Defense officials, and visited with injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
The Governor will return to Iowa in the coming days, however for security reasons, that information cannot be shared at this time. More information will be available upon the Governor’s return to Iowa soon.
Governor Culver was invited to join the trip by the US Department of Defense, who covered the expense of the trip.
Narcisse also said Iowa has an obesity crisis. And he said he would be a better leader to address that than Governor Culver. Narcisse said, "Iowa's obesity crisis is not about Governor Culver. But sometimes, you have to take leadership by example." Narcisse estimates he has lost at least 60 pounds but said he gave his scale to his mother last July.
Narcisse went on to criticize Culver's trip to Iraq. He said, "Instead of being in Iraq, he ought to be in Iowa meeting with state legislators. I'm not going to let you out of session until we have real solutions for the crisis (sic) that face Iowa."
Narcisse said he doesn't know how many signatures he has to fill the necessary petition to run for governor by the filing deadline of March 19th. He also declined to say how much money he has raised, but he said he expects to raise $4 to 5 million for the race. And if he doesn't win the Democratic primary, Narcisse said he will run as an Independent in November. He added Culver has "zero chance" of beating Republican Terry Branstad.