WASHINGTON — Dave Heineman wants more time, while Terry Branstad has picked a side.
Much of the hallway chatter at the National Governors Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., over the weekend was about Senate campaigns on the horizon.
Branstad, Iowa’s Republican governor, said Sunday that his party would be better off going with Rep. Tom Latham in the 2014 Senate race, not Rep. Steve King.
The two Republican congressmen are considered to be the leading contenders for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
While attending the governors’ meeting, Branstad told The World-Herald that Latham is a “very popular, very effective” congressman. He also noted that Latham is the senior member of Iowa’s House delegation and has represented 56 of the state’s 99 counties.
“Steve King’s a great congressman. I really like him. He’s been a great voice for agriculture and in northwest Iowa he’s loved, but he has work to do to get better acquainted in eastern Iowa,” Branstad said. “So I think down the road he could be a great senator, too, but I think right now that Latham is probably the best prepared.”
Early surveys have found that King would be formidable in a primary battle but would face challenges in a general election.
On the other side of the river, Nebraskans are waiting anxiously to learn whether Heineman, a Republican, will run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.
They might want to settle in and get comfortable.
After Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., announced last week that he would not seek re-election in 2014, Heineman said he wanted to take a “few days” to decide.
But at the governors’ meeting over the weekend, Heineman sounded as if he was in no hurry.
“There’s no rush on my part,” Heineman said. “It’s not going to be six months ... but it may be longer than I thought originally.”
He said he did not have any formal meetings with Senate Republican leaders or their national campaign committee during his trip to the nation’s capital, but he has talked to them by phone.
Heineman also said this situation is different from his decision not to run for Nebraska’s open Senate seat in 2012.
“Two years ago I would have had to give up the governorship, which I wasn’t prepared to do,” he said. “This time it’s at the end of my term and I’m willing to think about it, but I’m not rushing to judgment.”
He criticized the current state of Washington politics as “dysfunctional and disorganized” and said it could benefit from following the example of the nation’s governors. “When I meet with my fellow governors, Republican and Democrat alike, I’m convinced you put ten of us in a room, we could solve this budget problem overnight,” Heineman said.
The White House released new figures Sunday on the impact of looming across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
According to the White House, Nebraska would lose about $3 million in primary and secondary education funding and an additional $3.5 million in money for teachers and aides who help children with disabilities. About 4,000 civilian defense department employees would be furloughed — a $25.1 million reduction in gross pay. And the state would lose about $460,000 for job search and placement assistance.
In Iowa, about $6.4 million in school funding would disappear, as would $5.8 million for those who help children with disabilities, the White House said. About 2,000 civilian defense department employees would be furloughed — a reduction in gross pay of about $7.4 million. And the state would lose about $376,000 in job search and placement assistance.
Both Heineman and Branstad accused the White House of engaging in scare tactics. They downplayed the impact of sequestration.
“The federal government spends too much money,” Heineman said. “It’s too big. A 2 to 3 percent reduction, they can survive.”
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