IA-Gov: Tyler Olson evokes "fresh leadership" for "the next thirty years"

State Representative Tyler Olson kicked off his campaign for governor in Cedar Rapids this morning. His central theme is no surprise: Iowa needs “fresh leadership” and specifically a leader who appreciates diversity and “understands the speed at which the world is changing.” Olson is 37 years old, while Governor Terry Branstad and the two other Democrats running for governor are all in their 60s.

Olson is on the web here, as well as on Facebook and twitter. After the jump I’ve posted his campaign announcement and some clips from today’s news coverage.

UPDATE: State Senator Rob Hogg spoke at today’s event in Cedar Rapids and confirmed via e-mail that he has endorsed Olson for governor. When Hogg was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2006, Olson won the Iowa House district Hogg had previously represented. Sue Dvorsky, Olson’s predecessor as Iowa Democratic Party chair, confirmed that she is also “enthusiastically” supporting his gubernatorial campaign.

SECOND UPDATE: State Senator Janet Petersen of Des Moines also endorsed Olson today.

THIRD UPDATE: State Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City confirmed that she is also endorsing Olson for governor. I’ve added more news clips below.

From the “about” page of Tyler Olson for governor:


Tyler is a sixth generation Iowan born and raised in Cedar Rapids. He and his wife, Sarah, have two young kids Leo and Willa. Leo wants to be a police officer when he grows up and you don’t want to get into a jelly bean eating contest with Willa.


Tyler is Vice President at Paulson Electric where he is the fourth generation of the business started in 1928 by his great-grandfather. Paulson Electric has offices in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo and prides itself on being active in the communities it serves.


Tyler is serving his fourth term in the Iowa House where he led fights for early childhood education and access to affordable healthcare. He has worked hard to bring a new perspective to job creation focusing more on growing Iowa’s small businesses and startups.


Tyler is also active in his community having served on the boards of nonprofits that brought housing and public wi-fi to downtown Cedar Rapids and affordable housing to core neighborhoods. He also was one of the grassroots leaders of Cedar Rapids’ change to a more efficient form of city government.

From the blog post announcing the campaign:

Hello, and welcome. My name is Tyler Olson. I’m a sixth generation Iowan, businessman, husband, father, Representative for Iowa House District 65 and as of this morning, a candidate to become your next Governor.

In leading up to today’s announcement, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I stand for, what our communities stand for, and what we as a state stand for overall:

An economy built from the middle out

Access to quality and affordable health care

Equal opportunity and the importance of education

And the idea that our communities are stronger because of the connections we share and the answers to the challenges and opportunities we face are in the future, not the past.

Politics is a mix of many things. Candidates, issues, websites, campaign ads. Every so often particular campaigns become about more than the sum of those things. I believe this is one of those campaigns. It’s about more than the personalities, more than positions. This is a discussion about the direction Iowa is headed. This is about the future of this great state.

Is Iowa, a state known for leading on human rights, education and agriculture going to move forward, or stall out while rehashing debates of the last three decades? You don’t need me to tell you the world has changed in the last thirty years. You also don’t need me to tell you the pace of that change is picking up.

With fresh leadership our state can be known as a place where someone can dream it, build it, grow it, and keep it, right here in Iowa. I love Iowa. I love the people. I love our communities. But above all else I love Iowa’s spirit.  There’s a certain steadiness, a pioneering spirit and openness about this place. And at a basic level the belief that what we all do matters and has an impact on our communities.

I love our growing diversity. Our mix of cities, towns and farms and our spirit of innovation built on the base of agriculture and industry. Iowa is stronger because of that diversity, and we desperately need leadership that understands its value in the world today. We need a leader that understands these dynamics. We need a leader who understands the speed at which the world is changing and strives to keep up with it.

Let’s get started working on these next thirty years. The next thirty years of innovation, creation and expansion. A thirty years with great opportunity. And a thirty years where our state can be known as the place where no matter where you came from, no matter your circumstances, no matter who you love, or anything else, that if you’re willing to be a part of moving our great state forward, than anyone who can dream it, who can build it, who can grow it, can do so right here in Iowa.

That’s why I’m running for Governor, and I’d be honored to earn your support.

From O.Kay Henderson’s report for Radio Iowa:

Olson – in a reference to Branstad’s first term as governor that started in January of 1983 – said: “Iowans are ready to begin the next 30 years instead of living at the end of the last 30.”

From James Q. Lynch’s report for the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

He enters the race not only as a legislator, but as vice president of fourth generation electrical contracting company started by his great-grandfather that now has more than 150 employees and offices in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo.

It’s a rapidly changing industry, “So I understand the need for flexibility and the need to move forward,” he said.

He’s convinced Branstad, a five-term Republican, does not and that, in a nutshell, is what the campaign will be about.

For example, Olson called for a new approach to economic development that “takes some of the single-minded focus off landing the big fish and puts it on entrepreneurs, small business, Main Street business.”

“Economic development is becoming more about the competition for talent,” he said.

His vision for education is to see students not as “units moving down an assembly line,” but one that “understands that we need to get the most out of every child and that means flexibility and local decision-making and individualized education.” […]

If elected, Olson would be the second Iowa governor from Cedar Rapids. Republican attorney Bourne Hickenlooper was the 29th governor, serving from 1943-45 after serving as lieutenant governor and before being elected to the U.S. Senate.

I had forgotten that Olson floor-managed the public smoking ban (Iowa Smokefree Air Act) in 2008. That bill was a tougher sell in the Iowa House than in the Iowa Senate, though both chambers were under Democratic control at the time. From Jennifer Jacobs’ report for the Des Moines Register today:

It was Olson’s personality that led the Iowa House Commerce Committee’s chairwoman, Janet Petersen, to pick him to shepherd a controversial bill to ban smoking in restaurants and bars in 2008.

“He’s extremely likeable and reliable, able to get along with people in both parties,” said Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat who’s now a state senator. “There’s something about Tyler that he can be calm when things get chaotic. He’s just very steady. And he’s very funny.”

Petersen said she knew Olson would dedicate almost all of his attention for the entire session to the Iowa Smokefree Air Act.

“We were asking to move a mountain basically with that bill, because nobody thought it could be done,” she said. “Tyler was optimistic all the way through.”

Opponents fought fiercely, lobbing amendments meant to gut the bill, said [Cedar Rapids attorney Gary] Streit, a past board chairman of the American Cancer Society.

“(Olson) was just getting the living daylights thrown at him and he kept coming back to, ‘This is what’s good for the health of the people in this state,’” Streit said. “He was principled and respectful but he also had a backbone of steel.”

The smoking ban passed 54-45 in the Iowa House and later in 2008 became law.

UPDATE: From John Skipper’s report for the Mason City Globe Gazette:

After Olson spoke in Des Moines Tuesday morning, the governor’s office released a statement saying, “Whether it was the failed $1.7 billion I-JOBs debt plan or billion dollar state budget deficits, Tyler was there as Culver’s debt cheerleader, rooting for more debt, larger government and reckless spending.”

Asked about the governor’s remarks during his stop in Mason City, Olson smiled and said, “Iowa was in the midst of its greatest natural disaster and its people needed help. I am proud of my votes on behalf of the people of Iowa.”

In his prepared remarks in front of about 40 people at the Mason City Public Library, Olson said Branstad’s economic development policies are outdated.

“We are consumed with landing the big fish,” he said, “when what we need is programs to sustain mainstream businesses.

“We need to help people who want to dream it, build it, grow it and keep it,” he said.

I agree with Todd Dorman on Olson’s most important task going forward:

Freshness on the surface has a limited shelf life. If Olson really is going to win the nomination and give Branstad a run for all his campaign money, there’s going to have to be a real meaty change agenda underneath all those generational appeals. […]

It’s one thing to say we need a new vision. It’s another to actually convince Iowans that new is truly necessary.

  • re

    I think he’s intriguing but might have been better off waiting for four years. Branstad is going to be tough to take down for anyone.

    • that was my thought as well

      Plus, if Democrats retake the Iowa House, Olson would be in line to chair the Appropriations Committee.

    • counter-point

      Some Democratic heavyweights decided in the summer of 1991 not to run for president because Poppy Bush was so popular. By the time the political atmosphere had changed, only Bill Clinton was in the right place at the right time.

      • no guts, no glory

        see also: Anesa Kajtazovic

        • not necessarily

          when you’re very young you have time to wait until conditions are more favorable. Tyler Olson could run in 2018 or 2022 or 2026, having built up a longer record of achievements in the legislature.  

  • It's a prep run

    Tyler will be positioning himself as a statewide figure by doing this.  Maybe he thinks he can leapfrog a number of people in the future if a U.S. Senate seat opens up, the prospect of taking out a GOPer in the off chance that they win IA-1 in the future.  A lot of possibilities are there.

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