- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Armed with a sizable war chest, strong approval ratings and substantial policy achievements, Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to announce Wednesday that he will seek re-election.

Branstad’s campaign said late Tuesday that the Republican governor would hold a “major announcement” Wednesday night in West Des Moines, followed by a statewide tour.

Branstad, 67, has been laying the groundwork to run for a sixth non-consecutive term, including establishing a serious campaign operation over the summer and touting property tax cuts, education investments and a decline in unemployment as his key accomplishments.

His campaign announced last week there was just over $4 million in his campaign account at the end of December.

The main Democrat seeking to unseat Branstad is state Sen. Jack Hatch, of Des Moines. Hatch, 63, is positioning himself as a progressive option, focusing on such issues as college affordability and increasing the minimum wage.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University in December showed that 58 percent of registered voters approved of the job Branstad is doing; 32 percent disapproved. Asked if Branstad deserved another term, 50 percent said yes and 41 percent said no. That poll of 1,617 voters had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

Branstad sounded like a candidate during his annual “Condition of the State” speech before lawmakers Tuesday. Throughout the speech, Branstad repeatedly used the phrase: “Iowa is working.”

First elected governor in 1982, Branstad is already Iowa’s longest-serving chief executive. He served four terms in office before leaving in early 1999. Branstad then worked in the private sector and served as president of Des Moines University before announcing plans to run again in 2009. He handily won his comeback race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and returned to his Capitol office in 2011.

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