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.

June 7 Facebook post on the Leopold for Iowa page

Dear Supporters of the Leopold For Iowa Campaign,

As of June 7, the Leopold For Iowa campaign is suspending operations in our bid for the Democratic nomination for the Iowa Governor’s race in 2018.

This is sad day for my family, which includes all of you who supported me. I accepted your support with humility and resolve, and have given this campaign my all. Many of you shared stories with me of your struggles with state government such as economic insecurity, physical and mental health challenges, concerns for our water quality, etc.

I fought harder, worked harder, than I have for anything in my life. I gave it my all, and yet I feel discouraged. I have heard from so many people across Iowa that if a person like me, an outsider, could get elected, it would restore their faith in state government. Truth is, the reality of an outsider mounting a winning campaign in Iowa is slim.

Our themes were resounding well: Iowans taking care of other Iowans, rebuilding rural communities, and protecting Iowa from domineering and top-down political systems. We all know, across the political spectrum, that Iowans deserve better management of government than they have been getting these past few years. We all know Iowa needs to return to transparent, fair, compassionate, and predictable leadership. We all need to pull together to demand these traits from our elected officials.

Sadly, I now know first-hand that electoral politics in Iowa is largely controlled by a small group people. This isn’t just sour grapes – I acknowledge that I had difficulties in fundraising and talking about myself (two things my parents taught me were not polite). But I believe that until we the people demand a more equal and open system of government, we will get the same as we have always gotten.

I am not done working for this state that I love. I will continue to work 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!
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your financial, volunteer, and moral support.
Rich Leopold
(former) Candidate for Governor of Iowa

Statement released by Mike Carberry on May 17:

Mike Carberry withdraws from consideration of Iowa Democratic Party Gubernatorial Primary

For the past two months I have spoken with voters across Iowa about the issues they want a new Governor to address and the problems that Iowans need to mutually solve. Even with the disastrous policies enacted by Branstad-Reynolds-GOP in this year’s legislative session, these conversations have deepened my faith that there is a reservoir of strength and hope that Iowa can return to a mission that builds a sense of a community that cares for all citizens under progressive leadership.

This conversation began when leaders of the 2016 Bernie Sanders caucus campaign asked me to consider becoming a candidate for Governor of Iowa. The confidence they showed in me was humbling, as I gained a deeper sense of what the 50% of Iowa Democrats who caucused for Sanders are looking for in a candidate who will bring Senator Sanders’ policies to the people and government of Iowa. I heard their concerns about moving Iowa toward a $15 an hour minimum wage, healthcare as a right for all, clean water, a better income tax and property tax system, expansion of renewable energy incentives, and restoring excellence to our education system. This is a conversation ALL Iowa Democrats need to have and ignore at their peril.

While having this conversation, it has become clear to me that this is not the right time for me to pursue higher office. Statewide issues affect Johnson County, but at this time I want to continue to address these issues on the county level. My work in Johnson County is unfinished and I want to put my energy toward continuing the progress we have made in several areas. The momentum started in raising the minimum wage can be sustained in other projects to address income inequality. I want to continue projects to encourage renewable energy, promote local food production, reduce hunger and to address affordable housing in a meaningful way. I want to keep doing the job the people of Johnson County hired me to do.

One last factor in my decision is that our present campaign finance system is dehumanizing to both the candidate and the contributor. I did not look forward to having to raise over $2 million just to be competitive in a gubernatorial primary and another 2 to 3 million dollars in a general election. That is an obscene amount of money and may indicate that the Governor’s race may go to the highest bidder. Elections should be won based on leadership qualities and policy differences and not on the depth of the candidates and donors pockets. Personally, my goal is to seek public financing of Iowa campaigns and national campaigns. It is clear to me that the big issues Democrats want to address will not be solved until we get the stain of big money out of politics.

While I will no longer be a candidate for Governor, my interest in returning Iowa to its people will not end. I am not endorsing another candidate for Governor at this time. However, the Sanders supporters in Iowa are looking for a candidate for Governor who will address the issues that Sanders raised in his campaign and bring them home to Iowa. I will be involved in helping to find that candidate.

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  • Thank you, Rich Leopold

    It was cheering just to know Rich was in the race. I do understand his reasons for leaving it. I’ll watch with interest to see if any other candidates show real knowledge and concern for the environment.

    By coincidence, I just walked into the house from examining herbicide damage on my box elders, wild grapes, and prairie plants. They have obvious damage even though I don’t use herbicides. In Iowa, farm herbicides blow with the wind, fall with the rain, and are inescapable. It would restore a little of my faith in state government if a candidate ever even talked about that.