Chet Culver

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Chet Culver
Gov Chet Culver.jpg
41st Governor of Iowa
In office
January 12, 2007 – January 14, 2011
LieutenantPatty Judge
Preceded byTom Vilsack
Succeeded byTerry Branstad
29th Secretary of State of Iowa
In office
January 15, 1999 – January 12, 2007
GovernorTom Vilsack
Preceded byPaul Pate
Succeeded byMichael Mauro
Personal details
Chester John Culver

(1966-01-25) January 25, 1966 (age 55)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mariclare Thinnes
(m. 1993)
EducationVirginia Tech (BA)
Drake University (MA)

Chester John "Chet" Culver (born January 25, 1966) is an American politician who served as the 41st Governor of Iowa from 2007 to 2011. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 29th Secretary of State of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. He was also elected as the Federal Liaison for the Democratic Governors Association from 2008 to 2009. He founded the Chet Culver Group, an energy sector consulting firm, after he left public office in 2011.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Culver was born in Washington, D.C. He is the son of Ann (née Cooper) and John Culver, a former U.S. Senator from Iowa.[2] Culver attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland before attending Virginia Tech on a football scholarship. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1988. Later, he received a Master of Arts degree in Education from Drake University in 1994.[3]

Political career[edit]

After college, Culver moved to Iowa and worked as a staff member for the state Democratic Party. He worked with Bonnie Campbell on her 1990 campaign for state attorney general, serving as field director. Culver previously worked as a lobbyist under the guidance of Campbell's husband. From 1991 to 1995, Culver worked as a consumer and environmental advocate in the attorney general's office. After completing his master's degree, he took a job as a teacher in Des Moines. Working first at Roosevelt High School and then Hoover High School, he taught government and history. Culver coached sophomore football and eighth grade boys basketball during his tenure.[4]

Secretary of State of Iowa[edit]

In 1998, Culver ran for Secretary of State of Iowa and won. At the age of 32, he was the youngest Secretary of State in the United States at the time. He was reelected to a second term in 2002 by a large margin. While serving at this post, he created the Iowa Student Political Awareness Club, which attempts to get students motivated to participate in politics when they reach voting age.[5] During his tenure, Culver received accolades for modernizing the office, increasing voter registration, and ensuring voter accessibility for people with disabilities.

In 2005, Culver announced his candidacy for Governor of Iowa.[6] Culver's main opponents for the Democratic nomination were former director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development Mike Blouin and seven-term State Representative Ed Fallon. Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge was also running for the nomination, but after she withdrew from the race, she gave her support to Culver and became his running mate. Culver won the Democratic primary with 39% of the vote.

Governor of Iowa[edit]

Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Governor Culver (right) in 2010

Culver's 2006 election as Governor of Iowa marked the first time that Democrats simultaneously controlled both the executive and legislative branches of the Government of Iowa since the 1965–1967 session of the Iowa General Assembly. Culver is also the first Democratic Governor of Iowa since Nelson G. Kraschel in 1937 to be elected to succeed another Democrat.

Governor Culver in 2010

Culver ran unsuccessfully for reelection with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. He was challenged by Republican four-term former governor Terry Branstad, who was running with State Senator Kim Reynolds.[7]

Issue positions[edit]

Stem cell research[edit]

One of Culver's first initiatives was to sign legislation easing limits on types of stem cell research in Iowa. "The new legislation allows medical researchers to create embryonic stem cells through cloning. While allowing for further research, it prohibits reproductive cloning of humans." according to National Public Radio.[8] Culver said lifting the ban will "give hope to those suffering from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."

Culver proposed spending $12.5 million to establish a stem cell research center at the University of Iowa.[9] NPR called it a "Key Moment in the Stem Cell Debate."[8]

2008 floods[edit]

A September 2008 poll of Iowans found 60% supported Culver's handling of the major floods that struck Iowa and much of the Midwest.[10] A year later, Culver and other state elected officials expressed "outrage" at the slow pace of disbursement of federal funding to affected areas.[11][12]

In 2010, Culver proposed a $40 million "disaster relief fund"[13] and declared March 2010 "Flood Awareness Month."[14]

Alternative energy[edit]

Culver touted Iowa as the leading alternative "energy capital of the world".[15] He started a "power fund" to assist with that effort. The Associated Press wrote, "Gov. Chet Culver has bet much of his political future on alternative energy. The power fund was a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, and he managed to push the program through the Legislature. Lawmakers have allocated $49.6 million for the effort over the last two years."[16]

Electoral history[edit]

Chet Culver taking the oath of office as Governor of Iowa
Iowa Gubernatorial Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Terry Branstad 589,828 52.86 +8.2
Democratic Chet Culver (incumbent) 481,590 43.16 -10.8
Iowa Party Jonathan Narcisse 20,747 1.28 n/a
Libertarian Eric Cooper 14,293 1.28 +0.7
Socialist Workers David Rosenfeld 2,730 0.24 +.04
Petition James Hughes 3,846 0.34 n/a
Write-in n/a 2,717 0.24 n/a
Majority 108,238
Turnout 1,047,714
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Iowa Gubernatorial Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Chet Culver 565,657 54.0 +1.7
Republican Jim Nussle 466,757 44.6 +0.1
Green Wendy Barth 7,722 0.7 -0.7
Libertarian Kevin Litten 5,621 0.5 -0.8
Socialist Workers Mary Martin 1,957 0.2 n/a
Majority 98,900 9.4
Turnout 1,052,005
Democratic hold Swing

Personal life[edit]

Culver and his wife vote with children in 2007

Culver is a Presbyterian and has served as an elder. His wife Mariclare is a Roman Catholic.[17] In contrast to his wife who supported John Edwards, on February 7, 2008 in Omaha, Nebraska, he endorsed Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee in the 2008 presidential election.[18]


  1. ^ Chet Culver Group (2011). Home page. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  2. ^ Dorman, Todd (October 29, 2009). "CULVER: competitive spirit translates to political life". Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Governor Chester J. 'Chet' Culver (IA). Project Vote Smart.
  4. ^ Harder, Amy. "Access Denied". Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Office of Governor Chet Culver. Archived June 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Culver enters race for Governor". Radio Iowa. November 3, 2005. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  7. ^ Boshart, Rod (November 3, 2010). "Terry Branstad 'ready to lead the charge' as Iowa's governor". The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Key Moments in the Stem-Cell Debate". NPR. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "Culver Calls For Bill Lifting Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban - Omaha News Story - KETV Omaha". January 25, 2007. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  10. ^ "Iowa Poll: Do flood prevention work now, 63% say |". The Des Moines Register. September 21, 2008. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  11. ^ "Chet Culver (D) - Washington Post". July 9, 2010. Archived from the original on April 5, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  12. ^ Petroski, William. "anger floods". Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  13. ^ "Iowa floods 2010". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  14. ^ "Flood Awareness Month ~ Rebuild Iowa Office". Archived from the original on March 25, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  15. ^ Dorman, Todd (January 13, 2007). "Culver makes big energy push". Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  16. ^ Glover, Mike (May 24, 2009). "TH - Iowa-Illinois-Wisconsin Article". Archived from the original on April 10, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  17. ^ Dorman, Todd. "CULVER: Competitive spirit translates to political life". The Quad-City Times. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  18. ^ "Iowa Gov. Culver Says he Will Endorse Obama". Time Magazine. February 7, 2008. Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2008.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Pate
Secretary of State of Iowa
Succeeded by
Michael Mauro
Preceded by
Tom Vilsack
Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Terry Branstad
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tom Vilsack
Democratic nominee for Governor of Iowa
2006, 2010
Succeeded by
Jack Hatch