The Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention dragged long into the night yesterday, and there were stretches where voting and the agenda moved very slowly. So what to do? How about start speculating about 2018?
Obviously this year’s presidential election and maintaining control of the Iowa Senate are paramount at the moment, but the race for Governor in 2018 will shape the longterm future of Iowa more than anything else. Retaking Terrace Hill would finally allow a host of progressive policies to move forward and vastly help rebuild and strengthen the state party in a way that nothing else can. Terry Branstad is likely to finally retire, so 2018 promises to be a highly-competitive battle.
But who to run? There’s been very little discussion on the Democratic side, while Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Bob Vander Platts are all often discussed on the Republican side.
As Starting Line asked delegates at the convention who they thought should run, the most common answer was, “Oh, I haven’t thought about that.” Of those with ideas, the choices varied widely. There’s no clear consensus options, or even really a sense of who would be interested.
“I don’t see that there’s anybody that’s really going yet – we need to be pushing that forward,” said Roxanne Rogers of Des Moines. “The problem with Iowa is you have to have really good name recognition. Like just the name Branstad will get you elected – they don’t know anything good about you, but they know your name. I just feel like we don’t have anybody at this point.”
Rob Hogg’s name came up the most, by far. The state senator from Cedar Rapids came within 8% of Patty Judge in the U.S. Senate primary, impressing many activists along the way and making them wonder if he should run statewide again.
“I would love to see Rob Hogg run for Governor,” said Melinda Jones from Ottumwa. “I think he’s young and energetic, and he’s got a lot of knowledge on environmental issues. His Senate race helped him get his name out there – he did very well in Polk and Linn County.”
Many of the delegates in the Bernie Sanders breakout room brought up Hogg (even though Hogg was over on the Clinton side), commenting that they saw him as a strong progressive voice that could win.
“I like his progressive stance, I like the fact that he’s younger,” said Pete Larson of West Union. “I like his energy and I like that he got that much support against someone with the name recognition of Patty Judge.”
“I think that he’s progressive,” thought Marci, a Sanders delegate from Black Hawk County. “I think he should have won over Patty Judge.”
“I think he embodies what we think of when we think of Iowa and our values of the environment, agriculture and education,” said Carter Smith of Sioux City.
But others who liked Hogg weren’t sure if an executive role is what he’d be interested in.
“I love Rob Hogg, I love what he’s doing. But I don’t think he’s into Governor. I think he wants to be a Senate member,” said a Sanders delegate from Pella.
The one Democrat most likely to run for Governor in 2018 is current IDP chair Andy McGuire. Many believe she’s gearing up for a run (indeed, Starting Line has heard for some time she’s been working with several political consultants to plan it) and won’t seek reelection to her party position. Her name didn’t come up often from the delegates, but some who have worked with her think it’s a good idea.
“Our chair, Andy McGuire, would make a great Governor,” said Karen Pratt from Allamakee County. “I’ve been so impressed with how she’s run the State Central Committee. Her organizational abilities, her outreach, her support. She’s been in all the counties. She’s very down to earth. I think she’d work for all Iowans. I’m on the central committee, I was a little bit uncertain at first, and yet she has surpassed any expectations that I had. She’s just been marvelous.”
Tyler Olson is another person the Iowa political crowd would like to see make another attempt. He ran in the primary for several months in 2013, but dropped out for personal reasons. His sights might be set on the Cedar Rapids mayor position, however.
“Tyler is bright, he’s smart, he understands the ins and outs of policy,” said Mary Burke of Lisbon. “He’s pro-labor, he’s an employer who’s pro-labor, which says something … I think he’s a genuinely good guy who has investments in Iowa.”
“I really liked Tyler Olson’s energy,” said Laura Twing of Cedar County. “Seems like a smart guy, personable guy.”
Former elected officials and candidates were brought up often. Two people suggested Tom Vilsack – who has indicated he’s moving back to Iowa after President Obama’s term ends – should try to take back his old job. Several believed those who have been successful before should give it another shot.
“I think Tom Harkin should come back and run for Governor,” suggested Marcia Fulton of Union County. “Lawton Chiles did that in Florida. He made a fantastic Governor after being so frustrated in D.C.”
“Christie Vilsack is great for family, great for women,” said Chanon Opstvedt of Dallas County. “She has the same concerns I do as a mom – gun safety, gun control … Andy McGuire would be great. Andy doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. She’d be on par with Christie. She has a big family that could door-knock too.”
State senator Liz Mathis of Marion, a former TV anchor, was regularly thought of as a potential statewide candidate after she was first elected in 2011. Surprisingly, her name wasn’t brought up too often.
“Liz has name recognition because of her work with Medicaid right now, which would certainly help her,” said Cindy Garlock of Linn County. “We all love Liz.”
“Liz would be nice – I’d be confident she’d pick a good team to help her out,” added Twing.
A lot of state senators’ names were tossed out. Bob Dvorksy, Joe Bolkcom, Jeff Danielson and Amanda Ragan were all mentioned, though usually by delegates who live in their district. Pam Jochum was brought up several times from activists around the state. Some worried about the closeness of the Iowa Senate, however.
“The problem with Senators running is if the (Iowa Senate) margin is still real close,” said EJ Gallagher of Waterloo, who thought Danielson’s background as a firefighter, veteran and experienced lawmaker would make him a good candidate.
“I think Mike Gronstal has the best interests of Iowa at heart,” said Teresa Wolff of Sioux City, who thought the majority leader would be a good candidate. “He’s worked very hard to get both sides, the Democrats and Republicans, to work together in the House and Senate to make sure issues like education and healthcare are pushed to the forefront.”
“I think Pam Jochum would be an excellent, excellent candidate for Governor,” said Linda Boardsen of Clinton, who knocked doors in Wisconsin with Jochum during Scott Walker’s recall election and also saw her run a party convention a few years ago. “She had command of the situation. I know from the way she presented herself, she would be an excellent Governor.”
Very few members of the Iowa House were mentioned.
“I like Ako Abdul-Samad,” said Dennis Cole of Page County. “Such a dynamic speaker – if you get him in front of people, he can capture an audience and hold their attention and speak to the issues at the same time.”
Of all the potential candidates mentioned, very few of them were actually at the convention on Saturday. That might make some wonder just how ambitious any of these people really are – if you’re thinking of running for Governor in 2018, you need to start laying the groundwork now.
However, one elected official from Eastern Iowa was on hand, and has been notably present at a lot of party functions recently: State Senator Rita Hart from Clinton County. She recently won election to be a national convention delegate for Hillary Clinton from the 2nd District. Hart stayed through much of the day’s proceedings and chatted with delegates from around the state.
“Rita cares about kids being a retired teacher,” said Lou Behrend from DeWitt. “She’s a farmer – her and her husband have been farming for decades in Wheatland. On healthcare, she was really upset on that privatization. She fought and fought to get the accountability committee. I think she would be just an excellent candidate – she’s got the qualifications. Now we’ve got to convince her.”
When asked to deny a rumor – started by Starting Line one minute earlier – that Democrats would like her to run for Governor, Hart did not immediately do so.
by Pat Rynard