Observations of John Norris' campaign kickoff

First-person accounts of political events are welcome at Bleeding Heartland. The Norris campaign is online here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last weekend I was able to attend John Norris’ gubernatorial campaign kickoff at Living History Farms in Urbandale. As someone who is relatively new to Iowa politics, I was pleasantly surprised to see about 200 people out for this campaign potluck event.

As a lifelong Democrat, Norris certainly impressed me with his campaign speech, and spoke about many issues that I, and many other Democrats, are passionate about.

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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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Branstad "saved" ISU's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in name only

Governor Terry Branstad used his item veto power today to “preserve the existence” of Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, but he allowed provisions redirecting almost all of its funding to take effect. In his veto message on Senate File 510, the agriculture and natural resources budget, Branstad wrote,

I am unable to approve the items designated as Section 34, and Subsection 2 of Section 35, in their entirety. The veto of these particularly specified items will preserve the existence of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture while also maintaining the sections transferring funding to Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to continue valuable research into environmental and water quality issues.

Those sections of the bill repeal language establishing the Leopold Center from Iowa Code.

Under Section 30, which Branstad didn’t veto, the center will lose almost its entire operating budget, since revenue from a fertilizer tax (about $1.5 million annually) will be redirected to ISU’s Nutrient Research Center. The Leopold Center’s work was more broadly focused than that of the Nutrient Research Center, and less influenced by agribusiness groups. The separate Republican education budget zeroed out what had been a $400,000 appropriation to the Leopold Center from the Board of Regents.

Although the Leopold Center receives some income from an endowment managed by the ISU Foundation, Director Mark Rasmussen has said those funds are “wholly inadequate to keep the center functioning at any level of reasonableness.” Branstad told reporters last week he was concerned bequests to the Leopold Center “could be put in jeopardy if it were eliminated.”

The donors Branstad had in mind might as well revise their wills now. There’s no point leaving money to an entity that will be unable to support sustainable agricultural research in the future.

It’s a disappointing choice by the man who helped create the Leopold Center when he signed the landmark Groundwater Protection Act in 1986. Just as Republican lawmakers ignored the many Iowans who attested to the value of the center’s work at a public hearing or through written comments, Branstad was unmoved by the many calls and messages his office received in support of keeping the center running.

I am seeking comment from the governor and will update this post as needed.

UPDATE: Added below absurd spin from ISU.

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One last chance to save the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate approved the death warrant for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University only a week after news of the planned ambush became public. Three weeks later, Governor Terry Branstad still has not signed the agriculture budget bill, which eliminates both major funding sources for the world-renowned center.

Under Iowa law, the governor can item-veto provisions in appropriations bills. Branstad told reporters on May 5, “We have heard from a lot of people that are concerned about the Leopold Center […] And that is one of the items that we’ll be giving close scrutiny to.”

Those who want to save the center can send a message through the governor’s website or call Branstad’s office at (515) 281-5211–the sooner the better. After the jump I’ve posted a few talking points that may be helpful.

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John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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