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Terry Branstad

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Terry Branstad
Terry Branstad official photo.jpg
12th United States Ambassador to China
Assumed office
July 12, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byMax Baucus
39th and 42nd Governor of Iowa
In office
January 14, 2011 – May 24, 2017
LieutenantKim Reynolds
Preceded byChet Culver
Succeeded byKim Reynolds
In office
January 14, 1983 – January 15, 1999
LieutenantRobert Anderson
Jo Ann Zimmerman
Joy Corning
Preceded byRobert Ray
Succeeded byTom Vilsack
President of Des Moines University
In office
August 9, 2003 – October 16, 2009
Preceded byRichard M. Ryan Jr.
Succeeded bySteve Dengle[1]
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 1, 1989 – July 31, 1990
Preceded byGerald Baliles
Succeeded byBooth Gardner
40th Lieutenant Governor of Iowa
In office
January 12, 1979 – January 14, 1983
GovernorRobert Ray
Preceded byArthur A. Neu
Succeeded byRobert Anderson
Member of the Iowa House of Representatives
from the 8th district
In office
January 8, 1973 – January 7, 1979
Preceded byDel Stromer
Succeeded byClifford Branstad
Personal details
Terry Edward Branstad

(1946-11-17) November 17, 1946 (age 72)
Leland, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceBeijing, China
EducationUniversity of Iowa (BA)
Drake University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1969–1971
Unit503rd Military Police Battalion
AwardsArmy Commendation Medal

Terry Edward Branstad (born November 17, 1946) is an American politician, university administrator, and diplomat serving as the United States Ambassador to China since 2017. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as Governor of Iowa. Branstad also previously served three terms in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979.

Branstad served as the 39th Governor of Iowa from 1983 to 1999. After his retirement from politics, he served as President of Des Moines University from 2003 to 2009. In 2010, he returned to politics to run for Governor again, defeating incumbent Chet Culver to become the state's 42nd Governor.[2][3] He was reelected to a sixth overall term in 2014. In December 2015, he surpassed New York's George Clinton as the longest-tenured Governor in American history.[4]

In December 2016, Branstad accepted President Donald Trump's nomination as United States Ambassador to China, a position he was confirmed and sworn into in May 2017. Upon his resignation as Governor, he was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, who became Iowa's first female Governor and went on to win a gubernatorial election in her own right.[5]

Early life

Branstad was born in Leland, Iowa. Branstad's father was Edward Arnold Branstad, a farmer. Branstad's mother was Rita L. (née Garland).[6][7] Branstad's mother was Jewish, and his father was from a Norwegian American Lutheran family.[8] Branstad himself was raised Lutheran, and later converted to Catholicism.[9] Through his mother, Branstad is a second cousin of DC Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland.[10][a]


Branstad received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Iowa in 1969 and a Juris Doctor from Drake University Law School in 1974.[14][15] After getting his undergraduate degree, he was drafted and served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971, serving as a military policeman in the 503rd Military Police Battalion at Fort Bragg,[16] and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service; he once recalled that he arrested actress Jane Fonda for coming onto post at Arlington National Cemetery, where she was planning to attend an anti-war protest.[17][18][19][20]

Early political career

Branstad served three terms in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979 and served as the Lieutenant Governor of Iowa from 1979 to 1983, the year he was elected Governor of Iowa.[15]

Governor of Iowa

First tenure (1983–1999)

Branstad attending the recommissioning ceremony for the USS Iowa, April 28, 1984
Branstad attending the recommissioning ceremony for the USS Iowa, April 28, 1984

When elected governor at age 36, Branstad became the youngest chief executive in Iowa's history.[21] Reelected in 1986, 1990, and 1994, and ultimately serving four consecutive terms, he left office as Iowa's longest-serving governor. He served as Chairman of the National Governors Association during 1989–1990, and also was Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association. In 1997, he chaired the Education Commission of the States, the Republican Governors Association, and the Governors' Ethanol Coalition.

In 1983, he vetoed a bill that would allow a state lottery.[22]

Iowa's unemployment rate went from 8.5% when he took office to a record low 2.5% by the time he left office in 1999.[23][24] In his first year as governor, the state budget had a $90 million deficit.[25] It took several years until the budget was balanced. He said that he did not have enough support in the legislature to approve budget reforms until 1992. By 1999, Iowa had an unprecedented $900 million budget surplus.[26][27]

Inter-gubernatorial career

Branstad (left) with Fred Thompson and Robert D. Ray in 2007
Branstad (left) with Fred Thompson and Robert D. Ray in 2007

Branstad focused most of his efforts on endeavors outside of politics when he left office in early 1999. He founded Branstad and Associates, LLC[28] and was also a partner in the firm of Kaufman, Pattee, Branstad & Miller,[29] and a financial advisor for Robert W. Baird and Co.[30]

In August 2003, Branstad accepted an offer from Des Moines University to become its president.[19] On October 16, 2009, he announced his retirement from Des Moines University in order to run again for governor.[31]

Branstad was appointed by President George W. Bush to chair the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education.[32] The commission was charged with developing a plan to improve the educational performance of students with disabilities. After completing his work with the commission in 2003, he was asked to serve as a member of the National Advisory Council for Positive Action for Teen Health, or PATH. The advisory council encourages action toward detecting adolescent mental illness. In April 2003, he was named to serve as a public member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which comprises both professional and public members who address a variety of issues related to the profession.[33]

Branstad serves on the boards of, among others, Conmed Health Management Inc,[34] American Future Fund,[35] the Iowa Health System, Liberty Bank, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,[36] and Living History Farms.[37]

Second tenure (2011–2017)

2010 gubernatorial election

Branstad in 2011
Branstad in 2011

On August 2, 2009, The Des Moines Register reported that Branstad was actively considering seeking the Republican nomination for governor. On October 7, 2009, Branstad filed papers to run for governor in the 2010 election.[38] According to a poll conducted in September 2009 by The Des Moines Register, he maintained a 70% favorability rating from Iowans as compared to Governor Chet Culver's rating of 50%.[39]

On June 8, 2010, Branstad won the Republican gubernatorial nomination,[40] but when opposing candidate Bob Vander Plaats conceded, he did not endorse Branstad.[41]

The Des Moines Tea Party gave Branstad a "no" on their report card regarding "criteria for acceptance" and said Branstad had "a history of raising taxes, [was] not a true conservative, and increased the size of government every year he held office, [and] built a state-owned phone company."[42][43][44][45] Branstad was accused by former Iowa State Auditor Richard Johnson of keeping "two sets of books" on the state budget when he was governor. Johnson said Branstad needed to be "transparent" to Iowa voters about the reporting of Iowa's finances during his tenure as governor.[46]

2014 gubernatorial election

Branstad speaking at the 2016 Roast and Ride, hosted by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst
Branstad speaking at the 2016 Roast and Ride, hosted by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst

Branstad ran for reelection in 2014. He was opposed in the Republican primary by Tom Hoefling, a political activist and nominee for President in 2012 for both of America's Party and American Independent Party.[47] Branstad won the primary with 83% of the vote.

For the general election, Branstad faced Democratic nominee State Senator Jack Hatch and won the election with 59% of the vote.


In June 2013, Branstad signed into law a sweeping tax reform bill that garnered widespread bipartisan support, passing the Iowa Senate by 44 votes to 6 and the Iowa House by 84 votes to 13.[48] The bill, entitled Senate File 295,[48] provided for the state's largest tax cut in state history, including significant property tax reforms – estimated at $4.4 billion at the time of signing[49] – as well as an estimated $90 million of annual income tax relief, in part in the form of an increase in the earned income tax credit.[50] The bill also included significant reforms to education and healthcare.[50]

Job creation ranking

In a June 2013 analysis by The Business Journals looking at 45 of the country's 50 governors by their job creation record, Branstad was ranked number 28.[51] The five governors omitted from the analysis all assumed office in 2013. The ranking was based on a comparison of the annual private sector growth rate in all 50 states using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[52]

Gun rights

On April 13, 2017, with large Republican majorities in the Iowa legislature,[53][54] Branstad signed a bill into law expanding gun rights in Iowa, enacting a stand-your-ground law, expanding the right of citizens to sue if they believe their Second Amendment rights are being infringed, and expanding the gun rights of minors, among several other provisions.[55]

Discrimination lawsuit

On July 15, 2019 a jury in Polk County, Iowa awarded a gay former state official $1.5 million in damages, finding that former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation in 2012.[56]

U.S. Ambassador to China

Branstad meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, May 30, 2017
Branstad meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, May 30, 2017
Terry Branstad with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, 2017
Terry Branstad with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, 2017

In December 2016, Branstad was chosen by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as US Ambassador to China, succeeding Max Baucus.[57] Branstad accepted the offer within one day after meeting with President Trump in New York.[58] Trump cited Branstad's decades of experience with China in his role as Governor of Iowa in choosing him for the role.[58] Xi Jinping, China's paramount leader, considers Branstad an "old friend".[59] Branstad's relationship with Xi stems back to 1985 when the Chinese President, then a young official from Hebei Province, headed a five-man agricultural delegation to Iowa.[60] Branstad's hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee was held on May 2, 2017.[61]

Branstad was confirmed by the Senate on May 22, 2017, in an 82 to 13 vote.[62] He resigned as governor on May 24, 2017, in a ceremony at the Iowa State House, and was immediately sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to China. His appointment marked the third time in a decade that a politician resigned a statewide office to become the Ambassador to China; Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned as Governor of Utah in 2009, and Max Baucus resigned as U.S. Senator from Montana in 2014.

In May 2019, Branstad travelled to Tibet Autonomous Region, amid heightening trade tensions between the United States and China. This diplomatic journey was designed to give the United States opportunities to inherit a better perception of Tibet and its people, cultural practices and life. This move was also strongly supported by both Tibetan independence and autonomy advocates, as part of the global Free Tibet movement.

Personal life

Branstad married Christine Johnson on June 17, 1972. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Christine has worked as a medical assistant and as a volunteer at schools and hospitals.[63]

Branstad is a member of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. He received the honor of "Knight Commander of the Court of Honor" in 2015.[64] By becoming a Freemason, Branstad has excommunicated himself from his Catholic faith.[65]

In December 2015, a biography of Branstad entitled Iowa's Record-Setting Governor: The Terry Branstad Story was released. The book, written by longtime newspaperman and Iowa historian Mike Chapman, details Branstad's youth on the family farm, his high school days in Forest City, and his rise in the political world.[66]

Electoral history

  • 1972 election for Iowa House of Representatives District 8:
    • Terry Branstad (R), 59.0%
    • Elmer Selbrand (D), 41.0%
  • 1974 election for Iowa House of Representatives District 8:
    • Terry Branstad (R), 68.7%
    • Jean Haugland (D), 31.3%
  • 1976 election for Iowa House of Representatives District 8:
    • Terry Branstad (R), 70.4%
    • Franklin Banwart (D), 29.6%
  • 1978 Republican primary election for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa:
    • Terry Branstad, 42.1%
    • Hansen, 32.7%
    • Oakley, 25.2%
  • 1978 election for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa:
    • Terry Branstad (R), 57.7%
    • William Palmer (D), 42.3%
  • 1982 election for Governor of Iowa:
1982 General Election:[67]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 52.8%
  • Roxanne Conlin (D), 46.6%
  • Marcia Farrington (L), 0.3%
  • Jim Bittner (S), 0.3%
  • 1986 election for Governor of Iowa:
1986 General Election:[68]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 51.9%
  • Lowell Junkins (D), 48.0%
1990 General Election:[69]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 60.6%
  • Donald Avenson (D), 38.8%
  • Bailey/Nelson (SW), 0.4%
Republican Primary[70]
1994 General Election:[71]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 56.8%
  • Bonnie Campbell (D), 41.6%
  • Hughes/Davis (Petition), 0.6%
  • Butler/Stone (NL), 0.4%
  • Olsen/Carey (L), 0.3%
  • Galati/Pena (SW), 0.1%
Republican Primary[72]
2010 General Election:[3]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 52.9%
  • Chet Culver (D), 43.1%
  • Jonathan Narcisse (I), 1.3%
  • Eric Cooper (L), 1.3%
  • James Hughes (I), 0.3%
  • David Rosenfeld (SW), 0.2%
  • Write-Ins, 0.2%
Republican Primary:[73]
    • Terry Branstad (R), 129,752 votes, 79.8%
    • Tom Hoefling (R), 16.2%
    • Write-Ins, 0.2%
2014 General Election:[74]
  • Terry Branstad (R), 59.1%
  • Jack Hatch (D), 37.3%
  • Lee Deakins Hieb (L), 1.8%
  • Jim Hennager (I), 0.9%
  • Jonathan Narcisse (I), 0.9%
  • Write-ins, 0.1%


  1. ^ Branstad's maternal grandfather, Louis Edward Garland, is an Anglicized spelling of Louis Edward's grandfather Leib Yitzhak Garfinkel who lived in the Pale of Settlement in Russian Empire in the late 19th century.[11][12] Leib Yitzak's father was Zelig, grandfather was Nakhman, and great-grandfather was Leib, born in 1735.[11] Leib Yitzak's son was Nakhman Garfinkel.[11] His sons Max Hyman (later "Harry") Garland and Louis Edward Garland immigrated to the United States from their native town of Vagova, Lithuania, arriving December 7, 1907, aboard the Celtic in New York City after sailing from Liverpool.[11][13] These brothers listed their race as "Hebrew".[11][13] Later, the Garlands settled in Council Bluffs.[11][13] Max is Merrick Garland's grandfather.[11][12]


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  34. ^ [1] About Team.
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  38. ^ "Branstad Files Paperwork for Gubernatorial Run". October 7, 2009. Archived from the original on March 6, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
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  41. ^ ‘The new Vander Plaats question: Will he back Branstad?’ Archived January 21, 2013, at, blog post by Reid Forgrave, The Des Moines Register, June 8, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
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External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Neu
Lieutenant Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Robert Anderson
Preceded by
Robert Ray
Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Tom Vilsack
Preceded by
Gerald Baliles
Chair of the
National Governors Association

Succeeded by
Booth Gardner
Preceded by
Chet Culver
Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Kim Reynolds
Academic offices
Preceded by
Richard M. Ryan Jr.
President of Des Moines University
Succeeded by
Steve Dengle
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Max Baucus
United States Ambassador to China
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Ray
Republican nominee for Governor of Iowa
1982, 1986, 1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Jim Lightfoot
Preceded by
John Engler
Chair of the
Republican Governors Association

Succeeded by
David Beasley
Preceded by
Jim Nussle
Republican nominee for Governor of Iowa
2010, 2014
Succeeded by
Kim Reynolds
This page was last edited on 11 October 2019, at 19:17
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