By John Celock
Iowa is on tap to have it’s first woman governor after President-elect Donald Trump picked Gov. Terry Branstad (R) as the next ambassador to China.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is slated to succeed Branstad after the governor steps down early next year to take the job in Beijing. Reynolds’ elevation shakes up the Iowa political stage, guaranteeing that an incumbent Republican governor would be on the ballot next year. Branstad had not announced whether he would seek a seventh four-year term next year.
Reynolds was first elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with Branstad in 2010, when Branstad was returning to the governorship after a 12-year hiatus. As the state’s second in command, Reynolds has been a frequent presence around the state, traveling to each of the state’s 99 counties annually. She has worked on economic development, agricultural and STEM issues. She is Branstad’s fourth lieutenant governor.
Reynolds was chairwoman of the National Lieutenant Governors Association from 2015 to 2016 and has been active in the NLGA since taking office in 2011.
Reynolds’ elevation confirms what has been a likely 2018 gubernatorial campaign in the event that Branstad did not run. Her service in the governor’s office also likely clears the GOP field for her in 2018. State Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett were both potential candidates for the governorship. No Democrats have stepped forward to seek the governorship in 2018, yet.
Reynolds is the second lieutenant governor in the country being elevated to the governorship due to Trump’s appointments. Trump’s decision last month to appoint South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) as ambassador to the United Nations, opens up the path for Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to become South Carolina’s next governor.
Several other governors remain on Trump’s shortlist for various posts, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who is a potential secretary of the Interior. If Fallin were to step down for a slot in the Trump cabinet, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (R) would become Oklahoma’s next governor.
Reynolds’ rise to the governorship caps a political career that dates back to her 1994 election as Clarke County treasurer. Reynolds held the county treasurer’s post for 14 years prior to her 2008 election to the state Senate, a post she held for two years before becoming lieutenant governor.
Haley’s appointment to the United Nations and Reynolds’ rise in Des Moines, will keep the count at five female governors in the country next year. In addition to Fallin and Reynolds, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) will hold office next year. New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) is expected to seek the New Jersey governorship in next year’s election.