Iowa politics update: Govenor Branstad to be Trump’s ambassador to China; Lt. Govenor Reynolds to take on govenor’s responsibilites

By Michael Cummings
cummings@grinnell.edu

The 2017 Iowa Legislative session may be over but divisive political battles in the Statehouse are continuing to unfold. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D) announced in a ruling this week that when a lieutenant governor assumes the office of governor, Iowa’s Constitution will not permit them to appoint their own lieutenant governor.

This is important because Governor Terry Branstad (R), who became the longest serving governor in American history last year and is currently in his twenty-third year in that office, is expected to leave office within the next few weeks pending a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate concerning his appointment as President Trump’s ambassador to China.

Miller announced that after Branstad leaves office, Lieutenant. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) will assume the full powers and duties of the office of the governor. However, she would not be able to appoint her own lieutenant. Reynolds will become Iowa’s first woman to hold the office of Governor.

This announcement, coming in the form of an official legal opinion, is contradictory to a statement Miller made in December in which he said that Reynolds should be able to appoint a lieutenant govenor. Miller explained that while he still personally believes she should be able to make that appointment, his staff convinced him to change his mind based on legal and constitutional arguments. Republicans have accused Miller of partisanship for his change of opinion.

Reynolds responded to the statement by expressing her intention to appoint a lieutenant governor once she takes office, regardless.

The last time an Iowa lieutenant governor assumed the position of governor was in 1969. No lieutenant governor in that position has ever appointed their own lieutenant.