‘Someone who should never be underestimated’

Lawmakers react to Branstad’s confirmation

In a move that has been predicted for months, Gov. Terry Branstad was confirmed Monday by the U.S. Senate as the next U.S. Ambassador to China, and local lawmakers said he was a good pick for the job.

“I wish him well with this new endeavor,” said state Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown. “When it comes to trade with China, the governor has a long-standing relationship with the Chinese and has promoted Iowa’s businesses and what we export here.”

Fellow state Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, also said Branstad is the right pick for ambassador.

“I certainly think it’s a very positive step for Iowa,” he said. “His relationship with President Xi (Jingping) is very good, and I think that bodes very well for more exports from Iowa to China.”

State Sen. Jeff Edler said it’s possible that the state’s ag economy will benefit from Branstad’s close relationship with China.

“I think he’ll be a great advocate for agriculture in the Midwest,” he said. “He’s also good with other business deals.”

As the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, the lawmakers said Branstad has dealt with many situations at the state level, both in his first tenure from 1983-1999 and in his current tenure, which began in 2011.

“I haven’t always agreed with some of his decisions,” Fisher said, adding “He’s done a lot of good things for Iowa … Overall, I think his impact in the state has been positive.”

Edler praised Branstad’s “expertise and knowledge,” and said he’s served the state well. Specifically, he cited the state’s low unemployment rates as a positive aspect of Branstad’s governorship.

“I attended his inauguration in 1983, when he first became governor of the state,” Smith recalled. After he gave his inauguration speech, the person next to me leaned over and said ‘One term.’ … I’ve always felt that he’s someone who should never be underestimated.”

He added that the governor “has done some good things” for the state over his tenures in office.

“I see what he did during the first 16 years as governor of Iowa being very much different that what he’s done in the last few years,” Smith said, adding he has been more critical of Branstad’s current tenure; he used the privatization of Medicaid as an example of a policy he disagrees with.

Branstad is expected to resign as governor this week. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to be sworn in shortly afterward, becoming the state’s first female governor.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com