DES MOINES — Democrat Chet Culver scored a solid win over Republican rival Jim Nussle to become Iowa’s next governor, moving up after two terms as secretary of state.

With 99 percent of the state’s 1,875 precincts reporting, Culver had 54 percent. Nussle had 45 percent.

The breadth of Culver’s win was impressive, coming in virtually every corner of the state.

He’ll begin a two month transition today.

“It was a lot of hard work and a very positive message focusing on the unlimited opportunities we have in this state,” Culver said Tuesday night. “We are very honored to have gotten support from Iowans across the state.”

Nussle telephoned Culver after the outcome was clear, and he was gracious as he spoke to disappointed backers.

“People wanted change, that’s what was needed tonight,” said Nussle. “The verdict is in and I have given him our congratulations.”

He urged backers to unite behind Gov.-elect Culver.

“I have wished him God speed because Iowa needs leadership,” said Nussle. “He has a lot of work to do and we need to help him.”

The two waged a hard-hitting campaign, in which Nussle argued that Culver simply wasn’t up to the job. Culver worked overtime to link Nussle to a Republican-led Congress viewed with disfavor by voters. Nussle said that tactic probably worked.

“Its easy to run against Washington,” Nussle said.

Culver gave his acceptance speech at a noisy victory rally. His win means that after 30 years of Republican governors, there will be at least 12 years of Democratic governors. Vilsack opted not to seek a third term, and he is instead exploring a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Vilsack saw Culver’s win as a vindication of the policies he’s put in place as governor.

“Now this state is going to move forward,” Vilsack told cheering backers at a downtown hotel.

“Are we having fun yet?” Culver joked when he stepped before the crowd.

Culver also looked to put the bruising campaign behind him.

“Congressman Nussle, you ran a hard-fought campaign,” said Culver. “I have said throughout this campaign that Iowa is at a crossroads. Tonight Iowans have spoken very plainly that they want to continue with the progress. This is not a time to slow down.”

Culver’s win had some coattails, with both chambers of the Legislature going to Democrats.

Culver said he’ll move quickly to push key campaign promises such as raising the minimum wage, expanding stem cell research and offering help with prescription drug prices.

“I believe we can get 250,000 hard working Iowans a raise they deserve,” said Culver. “We’re going to increase the minimum wage.”

Culver called for Iowans from throughout the state to work toward a common cause.

“Iowa’s future and our dreams belong to all of us,” said Culver. “We are all in this together. It doesn’t matter whether you live in rural Iowa or urban Iowa.”

Culver, 40, served two terms as the state’s top election official. He was born in Washington, D.C., the son of former U.S. Sen. John Culver, and taught at two Des Moines high schools before winning office. Nussle, 46, is a former Delaware County prosecutor. He first was elected to Congress when former Rep. Tom Tauke challenged U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, then went on to serve eight terms and rise to be head of the House Budget Committee.

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