IA-Gov: Hatch rolls out campaign, Olson rolls out endorsements (updated)

State Senator Jack Hatch made his candidacy for governor official in Des Moines this morning, en route to campaign stops in five other Iowa cities. A few days ago, State Representative Tyler Olson sought to build momentum by revealing a long list of state lawmakers who support his gubernatorial campaign.

After the jump I’ve posted Hatch’s announcement, the full list of Iowa House and Senate Democrats backing Olson, and a few thoughts on the big question each candidate will have to answer before next June’s primary.

Bleeding Heartland posted background on Hatch when the veteran Democratic legislator formed his exploratory committee in May. Hatch’s campaign is on the web here, and his Facebook page details his recent travels around Iowa.

Hatch’s first campaign event today was at a former Superfund site that was once a source of water pollution in Des Moines. (UPDATE: Click here for audio from that event.) This press release touts Hatch’s work on that issue and other good causes throughout his political career:


State Senator and builder highlights his “record of fighting and winning for hardworking middle-class Iowans”

DES MOINES – At a Des Moines news conference Monday, State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) announced he will be a candidate for Governor of Iowa.  With the announcement, Hatch brought an “exploratory” phase of his campaign to an end and formally entered the race for the June 2014 Democratic nomination to face Gov. Terry Branstad in next fall’s general election.

The news conference took place at an abandoned factory near downtown Des Moines that’s the site of one of Iowa’s worst environmental disasters.  In the early 1980s, the DICO Corporation site was one of the original EPA Superfund sites.  Des Moines’ drinking water was being poisoned by an industrial solvent called TCE before Hatch, a first-term legislator, and others stepped in to hold the company accountable for polluting the city’s drinking water.

From Sen. Hatch’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“I stood up to those in power, including Governor Terry Branstad.  I took on the large corporation that denied responsibility.  I kept up the fight, and Iowans won.  The company, against its will, was held accountable, and had to pay for the cleanup.  The EPA then took the appropriate steps to protect the drinking water.”

In Iowa, we take care of our neighbors; we don’t wreck the resources we depend upon.  In Iowa, the arrogance of the powerful is something we don’t accept.  In Iowa, no one is above the law.  This fight is why I decided to dedicate my life to public service.”  

In remarks to gathered supporters, Hatch said he’s motivated to run by a long-held belief in accountability for those in power.  From the prepared remarks:  

“Everyday hardworking Iowans need a voice . a straight talker who knows no one is above the law.  I’ve spent entire public career being that voice, and that’s why today I am announcing that I am a candidate for Governor of Iowa.”

Hatch also highlighted long fights and victories for Iowans on issues ranging from health care to education to small business tax rates.  He said “the most important quality any candidate should bring to the race for Governor against Terry Branstad is a record of fighting and winning for hardworking middle-class Iowans.”

Hatch was joined at the event by his spouse, Sonja Roberts, and former Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels.  Daniels highlighted Hatch’s determination to stand up for Iowans against the powerful as a basis for his endorsement.

The Monday announcement tour includes stops in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Mason City, Sioux City and Council Bluffs.  Hatch, 63, is a Des Moines builder and community developer who has served more than 22 years in the Iowa legislature.  The company he founded has built nearly $100 million in affordable housing in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.  

Although I don’t agree with every vote Hatch has taken in the legislature, on the whole he has a solid record on issues important to progressive Democrats. His approach to economic development would also be a big improvement on the current administration.

Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, sought to position himself as a populist defender of Iowa’s working poor and middle classes, promising to reinvigorate neighborhood and small town economies and raise the minimum wage. […]

Hatch declined to say exactly how much he believed the minimum wage should be raised in Iowa, but said he envisioned a steady progression in increases over a period of years until the lowest income earners received a “living wage.”

He described an approach to economic development that would encourage business growth in small towns and city neighborhoods as opposed to large-scale tax breaks for large corporations that created relatively few jobs – which he described as Branstad’s approach.

He suggested a property tax break for seniors who [live] in their own homes and enhanced environmental efforts to maintain topsoil and reduce chemical runoff into drinking water supplies.

The policy agenda won’t be controversial in a Democratic primary. For me, and I suspect for many other Democrats, the biggest question mark is, can a liberal senator from Des Moines win a statewide election? Antipathy toward the capital city is a real phenomenon around Iowa. This morning the Branstad re-election campaign released a joking “Jack Hatch’s Guide to Iowa” graphic, depicting the senator as unaware of life outside Des Moines. If Hatch becomes the Democratic nominee, how will he persuade Iowans that his plans address the needs of their own communities?

Later I’ll update this post with clips from Hatch’s events in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Mason City, Sioux City and Council Bluffs.

Like Hatch, Tyler Olson has been traveling to Democratic and various public events around the state in recent weeks. He has continued to brand himself as the youth candidate, with gimmicks such as the “Students for Tyler Olson” Cy-Hawk Challenge (using the Iowa/Iowa State football game as a list-building tactic).

A few days before Hatch’s expected rollout, Olson emphasized the statewide reach of his support. Here’s the full list of seven Iowa Senate Democrats and 22 Iowa House Democrats who are backing Olson for governor, as of September 12. I’ve added the county where each person lives.

State Senators, in alphabetical order:

Jeff Danielson (Black Hawk)

Bob Dvorsky (Johnson)

Rob Hogg (Linn)

Wally Horn (Linn)

Liz Mathis (Linn)

Janet Petersen (Polk)

Brian Schoenjahn (Fayette)

State representatives, in alphabetical order:

Bruce Bearinger (Fayette)

Dennis Cohoon (Des Moines)

Dave Dawson (Woodbury)

Nancy Dunkel (Delaware/Dubuque)

Chris Hall (Woodbury)

Dave Jacoby (Johnson)

Jerry Kearns (Lee)

Helen Miller (Webster)

Dan Muhlbauer (Crawford)

Jo Oldson (Polk)

Rick Olson (Polk)

Scott Ourth (Warren)

Todd Prichard (Floyd)

Joe Riding (Polk)

Patti Ruff (Clayton)

Kirsten Running-Marquardt (Linn)

Art Staed (Linn)

Sharon Steckman (Cerro Gordo)

Sally Stutsman (Johnson)

Todd Taylor (Linn)

Roger Thomas (Clayton)

Mary Wolfe (Clinton)

I’m impressed that a four-term Iowa House member has the support of so many statehouse colleagues. Although Hatch has served in the legislature much longer than Olson, State Senator Matt McCoy is the only lawmaker to endorse Hatch for governor so far, to my knowledge. (UPDATE: Senator Joe Bolkcom and Senator Tom Courtney plan to appear at events with Hatch in Iowa City and Burlington, respectively, on September 17. State Representatives Ako Abdul-Samad, Marti Anderson, and Bruce Hunter attended the campaign launch in Des Moines.) The disparity makes me wonder whether Olson is easier to work with than Hatch. That’s a factor I would consider as I decide how to vote in the primary. Governor Chet Culver enacted a lot of good policies, but he could have accomplished more if he had built better relationships with state lawmakers.

Alternatively, I wonder whether fear of a statewide Democratic nominee from Des Moines is driving some legislators to endorse Olson. Or, perhaps these lawmakers feel it would be better for someone from a younger generation to take on Branstad.

I think it’s safe to say that these endorsers don’t have specific policy-based reasons for preferring Olson to Hatch, because we haven’t seen a lot from Olson on the policy side yet. I can think of many bills Hatch has championed over the years, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. But other than floor-managing the public smoking ban in 2008, I struggle to think of any cause that has been a signature issue for Olson. No doubt he has worked behind the scenes to pass various bills, and I hope to hear more about that side of his record in the coming months.

For now, the Olson campaign looks to me like an Obama-esque jumble of image-making, branding, and bandwagoning. I’m not going to vote for someone just because he’s young, other people endorsed him, and he uses clever hooks to get people on his mailing list.

Today Olson released a statement saying he looks forward “to a spirited debate [during the Democratic primary] about my vision to put Iowa on a path to the next thirty years of innovation and expansion.” Democrats deserve to know what’s behind this “fresh vision to job creation and economic development.” As Todd Dorman wrote when Olson launched his campaign in July, “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.”

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Democrat Bob Krause formed an exploratory committee in March and is likely to announce his campaign later this fall. He’s on Facebook here.

UPDATE: Iowa House Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Marti Anderson, and Bruce Hunter attended Hatch’s kickoff event in Des Moines. Anderson provided this comment on why she is endorsing Hatch for governor.

I’ve known and worked with Jack since the 1970s.  Jack has a solid record on improving our environment, and working for social justice, public safety, and civil rights.  He is a conscientious and successful businessman.  He has made this state a better place for women, children, working Iowans and families.  And he has a vision to move our state forward economically.

State Senators Joe Bolkcom and Tom Courtney formally endorsed Hatch at events in Iowa City and Burlington on September 17. John Deeth attended the Iowa City launch.

“No one has worked harder for working people than Jack Hatch,” fellow Senator Joe Bolkcom said in introduction. Bolkcom cited health care, payday lending, choice, and fighting nuclear power as reasons for his endorsement.

The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich highlighted the “laughably humble affair” in Des Moines at a vacant lot littered with (deer droppings).

Both the Iowa .Gif-t Shop and The Iowa Republican’s Kevin Hall mocked the sparse turnout at Hatch’s events around the state. At this stage of the campaign, I don’t think crowd-building skills are as important as being able to talk about your plans, if elected. Hatch should hammer home this message everywhere he goes:

Hatch was critical of the governor’s economic policies, saying the jobs being created are low wage. He was asked how he would create more jobs, and referenced Governor Branstad’s last campaign pledge for creating jobs. “Well, you noticed I didn’t promise 200,000 new jobs. Iowa’s going to create the economy and we’re going to grow our jobs because we are going to grow it in the small towns and communities. That’s where the economy grows. We’re going to leverage state money and private investment with areas throughout the state that have opportunities,” according to Hatch.

He says the state economic development director and governor shouldn’t be paying company’s outside the state to create jobs. “Now when Terry Branstad gives 110-million dollars in tax credits to an out-of-state firm, I can go to any community in the state and say ‘would you like some of that?’,” Hatch says. “We wouldn’t be creating 165 jobs. We would be creating 11,000 jobs if we partnered with investors and city resources to really leverage our resources.”

At several campaign stops this week, people have asked Hatch about Tyler Olson, his main competition for the Democratic nomination. He’s handled the question differently. Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson reported that in Des Moines,

Hatch refused to answer when asked how he stacks up against Olson. “We are going to win the primary because we are focusing on Terry Branstad. Terry Branstad is the governor of this state and that’s who we are running against,” Hatch replied to the Olson question.

Obradovich reported,

Hatch, in an interview, shrugged off any significance to Olson’s legislative endorsements. “What people should take is that we have two candidates running for governor that are both articulate and are both trying to be the next governor,” he said.

Deeth reported from Iowa City,

“I’m 63, my primary opponent is 37,” said Hatch, asked directly whether it was time to step aside for a newer generation (Branstad is also in his 60s.)

“The only way to beat Terry Branstad is a person with experience.  One good thing about age is wisdom over the years. We have to be one state and we have to learn that experience means something. I can bring experience to this job through my years in the legislature and through my accomplishments.”

“The new generation will not only be welcomed,” added Hatch, “it will be recruited.” […]

One critique of Hatch is the loaded question of whether a Des Moines Democrat can appeal to small town Iowa (though in fairness Olson is from the state’s second biggest city).

“Every neighborhood in Des Moines is a small town,” he responded.

I hope Olson’s campaign isn’t planning to go after Hatch as too old for the job. Experience is not inherently a bad thing in politics, and we shouldn’t choose our nominee based on optics.

SECOND UPDATE: Commenting on his endorsement by telephone on September 18, Iowa House Democrat Bruce Hunter cited the “passion” and “hard work” he’s observed as he’s worked with Hatch over the years. Hunter added that either Hatch or Olson would do a better job than the current administration.

Branstad’s campaign staff have responded to Hatch’s announcement tour this week by taking credit for various economic development projects in central Iowa and falling unemployment rates in Des Moines, Dubuque, and elsewhere. Consistent with the branding we’ve seen in recent months, they invariably refer to the “Branstad-Reynolds” team.

About the Author(s)


  • Remember when

    “Governor Chet Culver enacted a lot of good policies, but he could have accomplished more if he had built better relationships with state lawmakers.”

    Remember when almost the entire Democratic legislative caucus endorsed Mike Blouin? Chet did.

    • yes, he did

      and it was one of his biggest mistakes. The person who wins a tough primary should be the gracious one and not hold grudges or lord it over the people who bet on the other horse.

      I’m certainly not Barack Obama’s biggest fan, but one of the smartest things he did was bringing Hillary Clinton into his cabinet, along with several people who had endorsed her during the primaries.

    • for what it's worth

      not convinced Blouin would have been a better governor, despite getting along better with the lawmakers. Instead of I-JOBS we’d probably have poured more money into Branstad-style giveaways to corporations. We’d also probably have two additional coal-fired power plants in this state, which would be giving Iowans cancer, heart attacks and strokes for decades.

  • Age

    I lean towards Olson at this point, but if the majority of the discussion continues to be about age and not the core of the issues facing the state I may vote for Krause.  

    • I also want to see

      a primary driven by discussion of the issues, not whose image would provide the best contrast to Branstad.