Trump Taps Iowa Governor

By John Celock

The longest serving governor in American history is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to China.

Published reports Wednesday said that Trump has asked Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to become his top envoy to China. The nomination comes days after Trump shook up U.S./China relations by speaking by phone with the president of Taiwan, the first contact between an American leader and Taiwan since 1979. Branstad has had a long friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Branstad’s nomination caps a political career that has seen Branstad dominating Iowa politics since the early 1980s. He was first elected to the Iowa governorship in 1982 at the age of 36, starting a career that would see him serving four consecutive terms as governor. When he left the governor’s mansion in 1999 he was the state’s longest serving governor.

Branstad, who practiced law and was president of Des Moines University following the governorship, made a comeback in 2010, challenging Gov. Chet Culver (D), saying that Iowa needed a governor who could focus on economic development. Branstad’s early years as governor in the 1980s were marked by an 8.5 percent unemployment rate when he took office amid a farm crisis. Unemployment dropped during his first tenure.

Branstad defeated Culver in 2010 and won an unprecedented sixth term in 2014. A year ago, Branstad became the longest serving governor in American history, beating out former New York Gov. George Clinton, who had held the distinction for over 200 years.

Branstad’s tenure in the governorship has been marked with a strong focus on agriculture and economic issues, including promoting ethanol usage, a popular issue in the corn producing state.

Branstad has been in Iowa politics since 1972, when he was first elected to the state House of Representatives. Following six years in the state legislature, Branstad was elected to one term as lieutenant governor in 1978.

Branstad is the second governor tapped by Trump to be an ambassador in his administration. Last month, Trump announced his nomination of South Carolina Nikki Haley (R) to serve as ambassador to the United Nations.

Branstad will succeed former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in the China post. Baucus’s predecessor as ambassador was former Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D). Locke took the ambassadorship after his service as U.S. commerce secretary.

The U.S. Senate is expected to take up Branstad’s nomination after Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. He is slated to be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) after he steps down to head to Beijing.