Democrats have another contender for the 2018 gubernatorial nomination: Cathy Glasson. She kicked off an exploratory committee today with a video outlining what she calls a “bold, progressive” agenda for Iowa. An ICU nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals for over 20 years, she’s the president of Iowa’s SEIU 199 (the union that covers healthcare workers) and lives in Coralville.
In her well-produced introductory video, she questioned the premise that Iowa’s economy is strong, pointing out that 2/3 of Iowans work for less than $20/hour, and that many people are working two or three jobs to get by.
“Working people in Iowa have been getting beat up for too long,” Glasson says. “This year the Governor and Legislature stripped union rights from 184,000 Iowans, but they didn’t stop there. They actually lowered the minimum wage in Iowa’s largest counties. Their policies are wiping out the middle class. But it wasn’t always like this.”
She referenced her upbringing in the meatpacking town of Spencer, Iowa, where her parents had decent-paying jobs. To fix Iowa’s struggles, she proposes to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, expand unions, create universal healthcare, prioritize public schools and hold corporate polluters accountable for water quality.
Glasson is pitching herself as an outsider in the race, noting that she hasn’t held elected office before. She makes a nod to her organizing background in the video, ending it with her holding a clipboard and knocking on a door after asking activists to join her campaign.
There should be some early activist support for Glasson as she’s been a familiar face at many protests and rallies around the state in recent years. She was particularly involved in advocacy for the Affordable Care Act, as well as the $15/hour push.
While Glasson has been involved in union organizing for a long time, she’s risen in prominence in the years after Chet Culver’s defeat in 2010. SEIU in Iowa was badly damaged by the failure of Fair Share legislation and Culver’s loss to Terry Branstad. The international healthcare union had invested heavily in the state for both causes, but pulled much of their support out of Iowa afterwards. Andy Stern was no longer the national president of SEIU, and Sarah Swisher’s role decreased in Iowa. Glasson, who has been the 199 president since 1999, has been rebuilding the union after that. Glasson is particularly close to Mary Kay Henry, the new SEIU International president.
Those connections will likely ensure a decently well-funded campaign, or at least enough seed money from the international to get herself established. She already has put together a strong team behind the scenes, and her kick-off video looks as professional as the ones rolled out by the other serious contenders in the race.
She’s better known among the activist crowd than the Des Moines political and donor class, and will have plenty of work to do in building up her name recognition across the state, as well as creating a small and medium-sized donor base. While she has a long history of labor organizing, it will be difficult to pull away many unions from Nate Boulton’s coalition. Glasson’s candidacy will offer Democratic activists who really want to see a female nominee, but don’t like Andy McGuire, a new option to consider. Her background in healthcare will help in the debate over Iowa’s broken healthcare system, and her positioning as a clear progressive with a record of advocacy could bring along part of the party’s left.
Although many people outside of certain activist and Iowa City circles may not have heard much about Glasson before, there seems to be the foundations of a serious campaign with her.
Her campaign website is here: http://www.cathyglasson.com
by Pat Rynard