Branstad, Reynolds share experiences

Stories are focus of Republican fundraiser

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Jeff Kaufmann, center, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, asks questions of former Gov. Terry Branstad, left, and current Gov. Kim Reynolds, Thursday evening during a Republican fundraiser at Fort Frenzy in Fort Dodge. The personal experiences of Branstad and Reynolds were the topics of discussion rather than Republican politics.

In the uncertain early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kim Reynolds was trying to keep Iowans informed with frequent press conferences when she received criticism from an unexpected source: people whose favorite TV shows were interrupted.

That story and other lesser known anecdotes came to light Thursday evening, when Reynolds and former Gov. Terry Branstad participated in a Republican fundraiser in Fort Dodge.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, served as a kind of talk show host, asking Branstad and Reynolds about their experiences. Those experiences, rather than typical Republican talking points, dominated the session.

About 150 people filled the Cardiff Center at Fort Frenzy, where Branstad, Kaufmann and Reynolds sat on a stage for the question and answer session, which was not scripted in advance. Thus, when Kaufmann directed the first question to Reynolds, the governor immediately replied ”Dang it.”

Branstad noted that his ties to Webster County predate his political career. His wife, Chris, and her family are from the Clare area, and he could not resist the temptation to joke about his in-laws being ”a bunch of Hoods from Clare.”

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Former Gov. Terry Branstad, left, speaks Thursday evening during a Republican fundraiser at Fort Frenzy in Fort Dodge. Current Gov. Kim Reynolds stands at right.

He said that when he ran for lieutenant governor in 1978, he carried Webster County by one vote. In every one of his subsequent races, he carried the county by ever growing margins.


Reynolds said she had an ”incredible team” of state and local officials to work with as she dealt with the pandemic beginning in the spring of 2020.

”It has taken all of us working together to serve Iowans,” she said.

In the midst of dealing with life and death issues, Reynolds got some complaints about a surprising issue. She recalled Thursday night that a woman regularly complained that her afternoon press conferences interfered with her favorite show ”Let’s Make A Deal.”

When the press conferences were moved to earlier in the day, even more people complained, according to Reynolds. She said they were made because the conferences interrupted the soap opera ”The Young and the Restless.”

Branstad, who resigned from the governor’s office in 2017 to become the United States ambassador to China, was there when the pandemic began in Wuhan, China.

”The Chinese still deny that it started in Wuhan, China,” he said. ”The unfortunate thing is that the Chinese continue to deny the reality of what happened.”

He said he and his wife, Chris, were on vacation in New Zealand when he learned that the American consulate in Wuhan would have to be evacuated. Eventually, he said, 1,300 Americans in China had to be sent back to the United States because of the pandemic.

Branstad said the COVID-19 situation Reynolds confronted was worse than the 1980s farm crisis he dealt with as governor.

Second chances

Reynolds recalled giving the commencement address to a group of inmates at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville.

She recalled that as she spoke the inmates seemed bored. So on the spur of the moment, she set aside her prepared remarks and started talking about her own battle with alcohol years ago. She talked about how she overcame that to eventually become governor.

Reynolds said she saw a change come over her audience.

”i saw in their eyes that they were thinking maybe I, too, can have a second chance,” she said.

Reynolds said she will ”continue to be passionate” about giving people a second chance.


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