IA-Gov: John Norris releases first batch of high-profile endorsers

Gubernatorial candidate John Norris announced a statewide steering committee yesterday with more than 90 “current and former state legislators, public officials, party activists and officers, farmers, educators, students, labor leaders and business owners.”

State Representatives Marti Anderson and Jo Oldson became the first two Iowa House Democrats to back Norris, joined by former State Representatives Brian Quirk, Andrew Wenthe, Mark Kuhn, Deo Koenigs, and Roger Thomas, and former State Senators Daryl Beall, Bill Hutchins, and Lowell Junkins (who was the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor).

Other notable endorsers include Brad Anderson, who managed Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in Iowa and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, and Marcia Nichols, the longtime political director for the public employee union AFSCME. Candidates won’t release their fundraising reports until January, but I doubt these three would publicly back Norris unless they were confident that he would have the resources to compete on a statewide level before the primary. Anderson, Sterzenbach, and Nichols were part of State Representative Todd Prichard’s leadership team earlier this year. Prichard left the governor’s race in August and endorsed Fred Hubbell yesterday.

I’ve posted below the full Norris steering committee list, along with a November 20 e-mail blast from Brad Anderson and a Facebook post by Marti Anderson.

Bleeding Heartland readers may recognize the names of other Norris endorsers, such as Jess Vilsack (the former governor’s son), former Vilsack aide Dusky Terry, 2016 Iowa House candidate Heather Matson, and Kevin Techau, who was U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Northern District from 2014 until this March. Dave Swenson and Matt Russell have been occasional guest authors at this site. Emilene Leone is one of the newly-engaged Scott County activists profiled in this post. Bill Sueppel represented Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson during her impeachment hearings and later in her civil lawsuit, resolved last month in her favor.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Bleeding Heartland previously posted audio and transcripts of stump speeches by all seven contenders and a comprehensive list of current or former state lawmakers who have endorsed a gubernatorial candidate.

November 21 press release from John Norris’ campaign:

Democratic Candidate for Governor John Norris Announces Statewide Steering Committee

Key community leaders from across Iowa including current and former state legislators, party activists and officers, will serve to support and advise the campaign

Des Moines, IA – Today Democratic candidate for Governor John Norris announced a list of influential Iowans and key community leaders who will serve on the Norris for the People Statewide Steering Committee. This group includes current and former state legislators, public officials, party activists and officers, farmers, educators, students, labor leaders and business owners.

The following is a statement from John Norris, Democratic candidate for governor of Iowa:

I am honored to introduce an extraordinary group of Democrats who have volunteered to serve on my Statewide “Norris for the People” Steering Committee. Our Steering Committee members are there with you, in rural Iowa and our cities, to start the conversation now about what our state needs most from our next governor.

Norris For the People Statewide Steering Committee Members:

Aiddy Phomvisay
Alba Perez
Alicia Claypool
Andrew Wenthe, Mayor and Fmr. State Representative
Ann Klees
Ben Rogers, Supervisor, Linn County
Bill Hutchins, Fmr. Senate Majority Leader, Audubon
Bill Menner
Bill Sueppel
Bob McConnell
Bob Whittenburg, County Chair, Clay County
Brad Anderson
Brent Wynja
Brian Gentry
Brian Quirk, Fmr. State Representative, New Hampton
Cal Halliburton
Carissa Froyum
Connie Samsel
Curt Vaudt
Daryl Beall, Fmr. State Senator, Fort Dodge
Dave Leshtz
Dave Swenson
Dennis Harbaugh
Deo Koenigs, Fmr. State Representative, St. Ansgar
Dianne Pickle
Don Ruby, Iowa Democratic Party Secretary
Donna Bauerly
Donna Clothier
Donna Winburn
Doug Bailey, Supervisor, Hamilton County
Dusky Terry
Emilene Leone
Frank LaMere, DNC Member
Greg Lewis
Heather Matson
Jackie Cordon
Jan Norris
Jane Abell
Jane Halliburton
Janine Grady
Jenny Jordan
Jess Vilsack
Jesse Harris
Jim Davis
Jim Jordan
Jim Kuhlman
Jo Oldson, State Representative, Des Moines
Joanne Walton
Joe Gorton, President, United Faculty UNI
John Lundell, Mayor, Coralville
John Murphy, County Recorder, Dubuque
John Rowen
Karl Rhomberg
Kathryn Dickel
Kevin Techau
John Lof
Kim Motl
Kirstin Sullivan
Linda Smoley
Linda Steensland
Marcia Nichols
Marcia Rogers
Lowell Junkins, Fmr. State Senator, Fort Madison
Mark Kuhn, Supervisor, Floyd County
Mark Powell
Marti Anderson, State Representative, Des Moines
Matt Russell
Matt Tapscott, County Chair, Winneshiek County
Mickey Carlson
Nancy Roed
Norm Sterzenbach, Fmr. Executive Director, Iowa Democratic Party
Pat Murray, Supervisor, Howard County
Pat Steinfort
Pat Sueppel
Pat Sullivan
Phil Specht
Ray Walton
Rick Mullin
Roger Thomas, Fmr. State Representative, Elkader
Sandra Smith
Sandy Glenn
Scott Slechta, 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year
Sherry Williams
Stephanie Techau
Susie Olesen
Terry Kocher
Terry O’Brien
Tim Ennis
Tom Grau
Tom Hockensmith, Supervisor, Polk County
Willard Olesen

November 20 e-mail blast from Brad Anderson:

Dear [name],

With less than seven months left until the Primary, Iowa Democrats are starting to narrow their choices in an impressive gubernatorial field. What are we looking for in a candidate? Do we want a progressive? A populist? Someone who can govern on day one? Someone who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans in rural Iowa? Someone who can inspire from the podium and match Governor Reynolds’ personal warmth and charm (yes, it’s OK to admit that) in a small room and one-on-one interactions?

I want it all, which is why I’m proudly supporting John Norris. I’ve known John for more than a decade and he has impressed me every step of his career. His masterful leadership of our state party in 1998, and John Kerry’s 2004 presidential caucus campaign, proves he has the political instincts to win – something we can’t afford to take for granted. When it comes to politics and governing, whether you want to admit it or not, winning is everything.

John’s tenure as Governor Tom Vilsack’s Chief of Staff, and his leadership at the Iowa Utility Board and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proves he can manage a team, tackle incredibly complex issues and get Iowa out of the budget mess we will inherit from the current administration.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve watched John fire up Democrats from podiums, stages, and union halls across the state. Never shying from his progressive populist roots, John always reminds us why we fight, and who we are fighting for. We need this. The Democratic energy right now is palpable. County party events are seeing record turnout, and Republicans are most afraid of us electing a gubernatorial nominee who can keep this fire burning until next November. John can do it, which is why he needs to be our nominee.

“This is the most important gubernatorial election in your lifetime,” is cliche, but not untrue. With flat wages, a budget mess and a state health care crisis, we need someone who can make a positive case for dramatic change and simultaneously get our blood pumping. My head and heart tells me John is the right candidate at the right time, and I hope you help me get him across the finish line. Join me on team Norris here.

Thank you,

Brad Anderson

November 20 Facebook post by State Representative Marti Anderson:

John Norris is my choice for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Iowa. I’ve known John for over two decades. He has the right resume and passion to be Governor of Iowa. John is fifth generation Iowan, educated at Red Oak Community Schools, Simpson College and The University of Iowa College of Law. John was State Director of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition and he owned and operated the Old Hotel restaurant in Greenfield. He worked for Tom Harkin and was chief-of-staff to both Congressman Leonard Boswell and Governor Tom Vilsack. Gov. Vilsack appointed him Chair the Iowa Utilities Board and then his Chief of Staff at the US Department of Agriculture in Washington DC. President Obama appointed John to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to represent the US at the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program in Rome, Italy. Consider John Norris and his life of service when deciding who to support in the Democratic Governor race.

Top image: John Norris, speaking at the Poweshiek Democrats picnic on August 26. He was holding an apple to symbolize the recently-announced huge state and local incentives package for the Apple corporation to build a data center in Waukee.

UPDATE: The Norris campaign launched this 30-second web video, “Fighting our fight,” on November 26. I assume it will be a paid television commercial sometime before the primary.

My transcript:

Female voice-over: When others went off to make money, John Norris went to make a difference. [footage of Norris, campaign signs that read NORRIS DEMOCRAT FOR GOVERNOR]

He ran campaigns for Democratic giants: Jackson. Harkin. Kerry. Vilsack. [photos of Norris with 1988 presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, Senator Tom Harkin, 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, Governor Tom Vilsack]

Then represented our country at the United Nations. [photo of Norris from when he served as U.S. Minister-Counselor for Agriculture to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Program]

Now this proud product of rural Iowa wants to take our Democratic values to the governor’s office. [footage of Norris speaking at an event, image of state Capitol building with words OUR VALUES on screen]

Caring for our children, seniors, and disabled first. [photo of extended Norris family, Norris speaking with senior citizens, campaign logo near lower left corner of screen]

And supporting sustainable farming and renewable energy. [footage of farm field, wind turbines]

John has been fighting our fight his entire life. [photo of Norris against backdrop of Iowa flag, words FIGHTING OUR FIGHT on screen]

John Norris for the people: us. [photo of Norris in front of state Capitol, campaign logo on screen along with words JOHN NORRIS FOR THE PEOPLE]

About the Author(s)


  • farm aspects

    There are some names here consistent with his resume of working with the Family Farm Movement in past decades, but no clear sign that he would still support major farm justice issues. As with all Harkin political appointees, a key question is whether they’re like the younger Harkin of the Harkin-Gephardt Farm Bill, or like the later Harkin who rejected Harkin-Gephardt in favor of a “greened up” version of the worst farm bill in history, (the 2002 Farm Bill, a version of the 1996 Farm Bill, which farmers called “Freedom to Fail, and the 1996 bill immediately and massively failed). Some prominent names are from those who followed Harkin after he changed, (the “Harkin Compromise of 2001,) or who were political appointees (or wives of political appointees) recommended by Harkin. Farmers need a leader who will challenge the failure of Republicans to support farmers. But to do that you also have to disagree with the Republicans in fundamental ways. People think Norris will be better for farmers than Jack Hatch or Patty Judge, but that’s not saying much. I think I saw the word “realistic” in some of Hatch’s campaign rhetoric or materials. That sounds like a place where critics would insert the word “compromised.” Norris could easy clear this up if he wanted to. So these are issues that are important to the two basic sides of the controversies within the Democratic Party. Beyond that, has any candidate implemented a strong strategy for helping farmers economically, (against how Republicans continue to hurt farmers and rural communities economically)? Is there any Democratic candidate who has seen this proactive opportunity for taking back the rural vote from the Trump/Branstad/Grassley Republicans, to then tout that in the primary as making them better able to defeat the Republicans? These days reactivity has been handed out on a silver plate to all Democratic candidates, but that’s not enough of the leadership that we need.