Chet Culver

Chet Culver
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 57)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mariclare Thinnes
(m. 1993)
RelationsJohn Culver (father)
EducationVirginia Tech (BA)
Drake University (MA)

Chester John Culver (born January 25, 1966) is an American politician who served one term as the 41st governor of Iowa, from 2007 to 2011. A member of the Democratic Party, he had previously served as the 29th secretary of state of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. He was elected governor in the 2006 Iowa gubernatorial election and ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 2010, losing to former Governor Terry Branstad.

He was also elected as the federal Liaison for the Democratic Governors Association, serving from 2008 to 2009. He founded the Chet Culver Group, an energy sector consulting firm, in 2011 after he left public office. As of 2023, he is the most recent Governor of Iowa from the Democratic Party. He was appointed to be a member of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation's board of directors in 2012 by President Barack Obama, serving until 2019, and was re-appointed by President Joe Biden on May 23, 2022.

Early life and education

Culver was born in Washington, D.C. He is the son of Ann (née Cooper) and John Culver, a former U.S. senator (D-IA). Culver attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland. He studied at Virginia Tech on a football scholarship, where 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.


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 had 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.

Secretary of state of Iowa

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.

Governor of Iowa

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

In 2005, Culver announced his candidacy for Governor of Iowa. He defeated three opponents in the 2006 primary when he received 39% of the vote to 34% for Mike Blouin, 25% for Ed Fallon, and 1% for Sal Mohamed.[1] Culver then ran and won against Jim Nussle in the general election with 54% of the vote to Nussle's 44%.[2]

Culver ran unsuccessfully for reelection with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. He was challenged by Republican Terry Branstad, a four-term former governor who was running with State Senator Kim Reynolds. Culver received 43% of the vote while Branstad received 53%.[3]

Post-gubernatorial career

He founded the Chet Culver Group, an energy sector consulting firm, in 2011 after he left public office.

In 2012, Culver joined the Board of Directors of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation after being nominated by former President Barack Obama, where he served until 2019.[4] In July 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Culver to be a member of the board of directors of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 18, 2022. He joined the board on May 23, 2022.

Political positions

Stem cell research

Culver signed 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. Culver said lifting the ban will "give hope to those suffering from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's." In addition, Culver proposed spending $12.5 million to establish a stem cell research center at the University of Iowa. NPR called it a "Key Moment in the Stem Cell Debate."

2008 floods

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

In 2010, Culver proposed a $40 million "disaster relief fund" in the state and declared March 2010 "Flood Awareness Month."

Minimum wage

Culver signed legislation instituting Iowa's first minimum wage increase in a decade in 2007, raising the hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.25.

Alternative energy

Culver touted Iowa as the leading alternative "energy capital of the world". 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."

Electoral history

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

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. Mariclare is also a lawyer with the Office of the Attorney General. She left the office in 2023 after Democrat Tom Miller lost his re-election bid and the incoming Republican asked for her resignation and that of 18 other staffers. His wife gave her personal endorsement to John Edwards in the 2008 Iowa Caucus, then a week after Edwards dropped out he endorsed Barack Obama on February 7, 2008 in Omaha, Nebraska, as the Democratic nominee in the 2008 presidential election.

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