IA-Gov: Eight Democratic candidates are in but Rich Leopold is out

The first Democrat to launch a campaign for governor became the first to leave the race today. Rich Leopold cited “difficulties in fundraising and talking about myself” and coming to learn “first-hand that electoral politics in Iowa is largely controlled by a small group [of] people.” Ultimately, he concluded “the reality of an outsider mounting a winning campaign in Iowa is slim.” I enclose the full text of his Facebook post below.

Leopold’s departure was not unexpected. Until this morning, his campaign’s Facebook page hadn’t been updated since April. He had missed some recent Democratic events, including the Boone County Democrats’ “Picnic for the People” on June 3, at which most of the other candidates spoke. He pledged today to keep working for “cleaner water, equal and fair treatment of all people, resilience to climate change, strong and sustainable rural economies, compassion in our mental and physical health systems, and CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!”

In alphabetical order, the remaining declared Democratic candidates for governor are:

Nate Boulton (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Andy McGuire (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Jon Neiderbach (website, Twitter, Facebook)
John Norris (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Todd Prichard (website, Twitter, Facebook)

Three others are exploring gubernatorial campaigns and likely to announce in the coming months:

Cathy Glasson (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Fred Hubbell (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Mike Matson (Twitter, Facebook)

Mike Carberry, who had considered this race, confirmed a few weeks ago that he will run for re-election as Johnson County supervisor next year instead. Scroll to the end of this post to read his statement.

Film-maker Brent Roske had floated the idea of running for governor as an independent while contesting both major-party primaries. The Secretary of State’s Office says he will have to choose one path and can’t pursue them all simultaneously.

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IA-Gov: John Norris calls on Democrats to limit campaign donations, spending

Iowa is one of only twelve states with no limits on individual contributions to state-level races. John Norris is challenging Democrats who run for governor in 2018 to “lead by example,” adopting federal campaign contribution limits (capped at $2,700 per person) for the primary election.

Speaking to Democratic activists in Panora (Guthrie County) on April 27, Norris also urged gubernatorial candidates to agree to keep their primary election spending below $1.5 million, saying, “We should campaign on the power of our ideas and spend our time talking to Iowans and not chasing money from wealthy special interests.” I enclose below a longer excerpt from his speech.

Norris will decide soon whether to run for governor. Democrats Rich Leopold, Jon Neiderbach, and Dr. Andy McGuire are already running, likely to be joined by State Representative Todd Prichard, State Senator Nate Boulton, Fred Hubbell, Mike Matson, and/or Mike Carberry (though many Democrats expect Carberry to seek re-election as Johnson County supervisor instead).

Among those candidates, McGuire, Boulton, and Hubbell are the only ones well-positioned to collect many campaign donations larger than $2,700. McGuire recently completed a two-year stint as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during which she solicited many four-figure and five-figure gifts. Roxanne Conlin is among McGuire’s most prominent endorsers. Boulton raised a considerable amount for his first campaign in 2016 and is expected to have strong support from labor unions and attorneys if he joins the field. Hubbell is independently wealthy, having donated $30,000 to the state party during the 2016 cycle, as well as four-figure sums to some other Democratic campaigns. He is rumored to have the support of other central Iowa major donors including Bill Knapp, who gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $60,000 during the last two years alone. (You can search any individual’s Iowa political donation history here.)

Neiderbach has made campaign finance reform a major theme of his early stump speeches and has promised not to accept any contribution exceeding $500. Leopold speaks often of the need to break the grip “expensive consultants, corporate lobbyists and powerful special interests” have on Iowa’s “insider elite political class.” Bleeding Heartland will soon publish an in-depth interview with Leopold that touches on similar themes.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who has been advising Prichard in recent months, noted in response to this post that both Norris and Prichard have networks outside traditional Iowa donors. Point taken, and I did not mean to imply that other gubernatorial candidates would be unable to raise contributions larger than $2,700. Prichard’s leadership team includes some political heavyweights. Norris has years of experience fundraising for Iowa Democrats and connections to many potential out-of-state donors, due to his past work in President Barack Obama’s administration and with nationally-known Democratic operatives like David Plouffe.

Reacting to this post on Facebook, Neiderbach commented, “Do we want a Governor beholden to the voters – especially those who have historically been marginalized or ignored – or beholden to the rich, to big business, and to other special interests? Couldn’t the money spent on endless TV ads and campaign consultants better be spent donated to food banks and homeless shelters and our underfunded schools? Spending $1.5 million on a primary is obscene. Voters are tired of it. I urge all candidates to follow my lead and limit all donors to $500, telling those who would donate more to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and educate our students.”

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Why Mike Carberry may run for Iowa governor

Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry has confirmed rumors that he is thinking about running for governor in 2018. A longtime environmental activist and current member of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, Carberry was the most prominent elected official in our state to endorse Bernie Sanders for president. He spoke to Bleeding Heartland this week about why he is considering a bid for higher office, even though running for governor was never part of his life plan.

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Todd Prichard officially exploring run for governor (updated)

Saying Iowa needs “new vision,” “fresh leadership,” and “better than what we have seen during this legislative session,” State Representative Todd Prichard announced today that he is “considering” a gubernatorial campaign. The rollout leaves little doubt that Prichard will eventually join the Democratic field. His campaign website now features a Todd Prichard for Governor campaign logo. His “leadership team” includes heavyweights like Marcia Nichols, former political director of AFSCME Council 61; Brad Anderson, who ran Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa; former Iowa Democratic Party state chair Sue Dvorsky; and State Senator Bob Dvorsky.

I enclose below Prichard’s news release and background on the candidate from his website. Last month Prichard discussed his life experiences and values at a Democratic gathering in Des Moines; you can read or listen to that speech here. Prichard talked more about his work and thoughts about a 2018 Democratic campaign message with Iowa Starting Line. Prichard has a political page on Facebook and is on Twitter @RepPrichard.

Two other Democrats launched gubernatorial campaigns earlier this year: Rich Leopold and Jon Neiderbach. (Neiderbach spoke to the Northwest Des Moines Democrats group on March 21, and Bleeding Heartland will soon post excerpts from his stump speech.) Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire is widely expected to announce a gubernatorial campaign in the coming months.

UPDATE: Prichard spoke at the Our Future–Iowa Starting Line event in Des Moines on March 23. Here’s the full audio, for those who want to listen.



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3,000 University of Iowa students will pay the price for Republican budget policies

See important update below: Jon Muller questions whether the University of Iowa “committed an act of scholarship fraud.”

Three weeks after Governor Terry Branstad signed into law large mid-year budget cuts for Iowa’s state universities, some 3,015 incoming or current students at the University of Iowa learned that they will be picking up part of the tab.

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If Todd Prichard runs for governor, his stump speech will sound like this

State Representative Todd Prichard spoke to a packed room at last night’s Northwest Des Moines Democrats meeting. Now in his third term representing Floyd and Chickasaw counties in the Iowa House, Prichard is ranking member on the Agriculture Committee and also serves on Natural Resources, Veterans, and Ways and Means, as well as on an Appropriations subcommittee. Pat Rynard recently profiled the army veteran and former prosecutor who may run for governor in 2018.

I’ve transcribed most of Prichard’s remarks from the Des Moines gathering below and uploaded the audio file, for those who want to listen. He speaks directly and fluidly without coming across as rehearsed or too polished, a common problem for politicians.

At one point, Prichard commented that Republicans didn’t spend a million dollars trying to defeat him last year, as the GOP and conservative groups did against several Iowa Senate Democratic incumbents. Republicans tested some negative messages against him with a telephone poll in August, but apparently didn’t sense fertile ground. Prichard’s opponent Stacie Stokes received little help from her party, compared to some other GOP candidates for Iowa House seats, including a challenger in a nearby district.

Based on the speech I heard on Tuesday, I would guess that if Prichard runs for governor, Republicans may regret not spending a million dollars against him in 2016.

One more point before I get to the transcript: Prichard is living proof that retiring lawmakers should not be allowed to hand-pick their own successors. When State Representative Brian Quirk resigned to take another job soon after winning re-election in 2012, he wanted his former high school football coach Tom Sauser to take his place. As a Bleeding Heartland reader who’s active in Floyd County described here, Prichard decided to run for the House seat shortly before the special nominating convention and barely won the nomination.

Prichard had a chance to start his political career because several days elapsed between his learning about Quirk’s preferred successor and the House district 52 nominating convention. Too often, Iowa Democratic legislators announce plans to retire only a day or two before candidates must submit papers to the Secretary of State’s Office. If Quirk had retired right before the March 2012 filing deadline, as three House Democrats did last year, his friend with the inside track would have been the only Democrat able to replace him. Nothing against retired teachers, but Sauser was not a potential future leader of the party, as Prichard is becoming.

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