Reynolds names Gregg ‘acting’ lieutenant

DES MOINES (AP) — Seeking to avoid a legal fight over her power, Gov. Kim Reynolds named Republican attorney Adam Gregg as her administration’s No. 2 leader Thursday but stopped just short of making him the official lieutenant governor.
Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller advised Reynolds this month that the Iowa Constitution would not give her the authority to name her replacement as lieutenant governor after she succeeded Gov. Terry Branstad, who resigned Wednesday to become U.S. ambassador to China. Miller’s opinion angered Reynolds, who said she believed she had that power and might appoint a new lieutenant even if it risked a legal challenge.
Reynolds aimed to bypass that dispute by naming Gregg as her lieutenant governor “in an acting capacity.” She said while she still believes Miller’s opinion was wrong, the setup resolves any legal issues.
“Battling over who is gonna be second in line in succession is a distraction and it is a waste of taxpayer dollars at this point,” she said.
Gregg, 34, is expected to play a major role in running the executive branch and setting policy, as well as be Reynolds’ likely running mate next year. He will earn the lieutenant governor’s salary of $103,000 but, unlike the normal officeholder, will not be in the line of gubernatorial succession. Under the Iowa Constitution, Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, would become governor if Reynolds dies or leaves office before January 2019.
Miller said after the announcement that Reynolds’ move clears up legality concerns because of Gregg’s exclusion from succession.
“I hasten to emphasize that the key fundamental question here is who succeeds to be governor, and she’s complied fully with our opinion,” he said.
Des Moines attorney Gary Dickey, who had considered challenging a lieutenant governor appointment, also said he believed Gregg’s arrangement “removes any basis for a legal challenge.”
“As a matter of law, he’s just another staff member of the office,” Dickey said. “It’s a positive sign that she recognizes there are constitutional limitations to the office. I’m not sure that’s always been the case for the last six years.”
Gregg, of Johnston, has served as state public defender since Branstad appointed him in December 2014, one month after he was the Republican nominee for attorney general. Gregg impressed party leaders, though he lost that race by 12 percentage points as Miller secured his ninth term.
Gregg served the prior two years as Branstad’s policy adviser and legislative liaison, helping pass a property tax cut for businesses that was widely praised but has since helped create a shortfall in state revenues.
“There is nobody better equipped with the skills, knowledge, experience and relationships than Adam to serve Iowans in this important role,” Reynolds said.
Gregg called the appointment “the honor of a lifetime” and added the public can call him whatever they want.
“It’s not gonna change the way I serve,” he said.
As public defender, Gregg has overseen Iowa’s $55 million annual program that provides legal defense to low-income defendants. He helped start a wrongful conviction unit, which investigates cases in which inmates might be innocent. A native of Hawarden, Gregg graduated from Central College and attended Drake Law School. A married father of two, he’s been active in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.
Reynolds and other Republicans have insisted she has the power to appoint a new lieutenant governor under a 2009 law that allows it if there’s a vacancy in that office. But Miller’s opinion concluded there is no vacancy, saying Reynolds is filling both offices. Miller pointed out that under the Iowa Constitution, the governor’s powers “devolve” onto the lieutenant governor if the governor leaves. In the four previous times that’s happened dating to the 1870s, the new Iowa governor hasn’t appointed a lieutenant.
Reynolds said Whitver plans to sponsor legislation next year aimed at amending the state constitution to clarify the issue.
Reynolds, who became Iowa’s first female governor Wednesday, is expected to seek her own four-year term next year.