DES MOINES (MCT) — As political consumers, Iowa voters are establishing a new standard for brand loyalty.
Iowa has the rare distinction of having half its executive-branch comprised with three of the nation’s longest-serving elected office holders — Republican Terry Branstad as governor and Democrats Tom Miller as attorney general and Mike Fitzgerald as state treasurer.
“I am not sure if that has ever happened,” said Audrey Wall, a Council of State Governments’ official who is managing editor for “The Book of The States,” a yearly publication with data going back to 1933.
“It is unusual for half of the executive branch to be that long serving,” Wall said. “Without going back and just counting all of them, I would say that you do have a fairly unique situation. But as far as it never happening before, I couldn’t say that.”
Branstad, 67 — a four-term governor, from 1983 to 1999, who came out of retirement to capture an unprecedented fifth term in 2010 — is the longest-serving current governor and is on track for the all-time record held by former New York Gov. George Clinton as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.
Clinton served from 1777 to 1795 and again from 1801 to 1804. But part of his service occurred before New York became a state, Wall said, meaning Branstad will surpass Clinton on the all-time list if he completes his current term in January 2015. Branstad’s span in office would total 7,303 days — 19 years, 11 months and 29 days – at the end of his current term on Jan. 9, 2015.
“Branstad has not officially announced his candidacy for 2014 but has already amassed a record of Joe DiMaggio-like proportions that no one may ever break,” according to the Smart Politics blog at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Along with Branstad are Miller, 69, and Fitzgerald, 62, both in their eighth terms with plans to seek re-election in 2014. Miller’s time in his office spans from 1979 to 1991 and from 1995 to the present, while Fitzgerald has served continuously in eight terms dating back to 1983.
“The thing about all of these guys is that they’re pretty low key in many ways,” said Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt. “They don’t yell and scream and they don’t pound on desks. They just kind of plod along like a good plow horse and keep moving forward.
“That’s pretty remarkable.”
The trend carries to the U.S. Senate, where multiple-term Republican Charles Grassley is sixth on the seniority list, followed one notch behind by Democrat Tom Harkin. Schmidt said the common threads among Iowa successful candidates are that they do their due diligence in overseeing their duties, they travel the state meeting people and making their case and they aren’t flamboyant about it.
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