Iowans are a good, decent and honorable people. They work hard and will sacrifice for their friends, their neighbors or when leadership asks them to give more.
Unfortunately, the political classes from both parties have exploited Iowans’ goodness.
Iowans are more vulnerable now than ever before. The guardians of state, our legislators and the governor, have not protected our working families, our taxpayers, our children. Instead government, at the state and local levels, has become a trough from which special and vested interests feed — while the rest of us pay for it.
Our families, our taxpayers, and our children need a champion in government.
I understand working Iowans’ pains and passions. As a child of working class America, as a former co-chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, as a former Chair of a State Commission, and as a former Des Moines School Board Director, I have fought for working class Iowans. And, I want to continue to protect our families and our children.
The 2014 gubernatorial debate cannot be reduced to speeding troopers driving the governor and tired party clichés like “let’s raise taxes.” It must be about real solutions to Iowa’s challenges based on the hard data and the hard truths facing our state.
On January 3, 1993, Iowans woke up to Terry Branstad as Governor, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin as our U.S. Senators and Jim Leach, Jim Nussle, Dave Nagle, Neal Smith, Jim Ross Lightfoot, and Fred Grandy as Iowa’s U.S. House Representatives delegation.
On January 3, 2013, Iowans, exactly 20 years to the date, went to bed with Terry Branstad as Governor, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin as our U.S. Senators and Bruce Braley, David Loebsack, Tom Latham and Steve King as Iowa’s U.S House Representatives delegation.
Beyond all the magazine articles, media reports, chamber and political propaganda, this 1.5 million population stagnation, resulting in the loss of two Congressional seats and two electoral votes, speaks to the need for not just meaningful conversations, but timely, relevant and impactful action.
Iowa is in trouble and those most able to speak to the challenges we face, from both parties, have failed.
So, I am forming an exploratory committee for a possible candidacy in the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, which occurs on June 3, 2014.
Branstad 2.0 Fail
Four years ago Terry Branstad returned to Iowa politics making four promises to the voters of this state:
He’d create 200,000 jobs
He’d raise personal family income by 20%
He’d cut government by 15%
He’d make Iowa’s public education system world class, once again
He has not kept those promises. More important, the day he uttered them we knew he would not, we knew he could not keep his promises.
Poverty, especially in our urban and rural areas is higher than ever before. State government spending, based on his administration’s data, is greater than during the Culver years. And education in Iowa, evidenced again by his administration’s data, is in worse condition than any point in recent history.
Governor Branstad had an opportunity to set things right following the debacle of the Culver years.
And he has done a better job than Gov. Culver.
Unfortunately candidate Branstad over promised and Gov. Branstad has under delivered.
Governor Branstad had an opportunity to restore integrity to governance. Instead too many of his key department, board and commission appointments went to his contributors and supporters rather than those best qualified to serve Iowans.
Governor Branstad has ignored much of the waste, inefficiency and cronyism within state government. And, he has ignored much of the waste, inefficiency and cronyism within Iowa’s county, municipal and school district bureaucracies.
Governor Branstad has ignored his administration's hard data regarding staggering urban and rural poverty. More than 70% of the families with children in the Des Moines School District cannot feed them. And these numbers are not too far behind in several rural communities like Washington, Iowa, where approximately 70% of the families with children in those schools cannot feed them either. According to the Branstad Administration’s data, approximately one million or 30% of Iowans are now clients of DHS. Those are non-duplicated numbers.
Governor Branstad has ignored the hard data regarding the disparity of justice between those “afflicted with affluenza” and those lacking the means to access equity in the courts.
Justice in Iowa should not be based on the size of your wallet. Yet, an objective analysis shows that Iowa’s judicial system, like that in Texas, determines both the crime and punishment based on personal means and social status.
Governor Branstad has ignored the hard data regarding the explosion of urban violence in Des Moines, Waterloo, Davenport, etc…and the contributing factors that suggest the problem will get worse before it gets better.
Governor Branstad has ignored his own administration’s data and warnings regarding the devastating consequences of not opting out of No Child Left Behind and as a result Iowa’s public education system is in serious trouble.
His own former Chief of Education, Jason Glass, issued an ominous warning November 1, 2011, regarding the dire condition of education in Iowa. Gov. Branstad failed to act upon the warnings, Jason Glass is gone, and the precipitous decline in achievement in Iowa, based on his administration’s data, has accelerated.
Yet, Governor Branstad’s administration does not stand alone as the culprit.
Democrats have controlled the Iowa Senate during his administration as they did during a portion of the disastrous Culver Administration.
They have co-signed his major policies, co-signed his appointments and co-signed his practices as they did the major policies, appointments and practices of the failed Culver Administration.
While styles and rhetoric have been different, Democrats in the Senate own a full and vested share of Branstad 2.0 Fail just as they owned a full and vested share of Gov. Culver’s failed administration.
Instead of fighting to protect Iowans from an administration weighted to the affluent and blind to working class Iowans, Senate Democrats personally prospered, some becoming very wealthy, while they collaborated in the unrelenting assault on working class Iowans and the most vulnerable first during the Culver years and now during the Branstad years.
I am a Democrat
Most of my life I’ve been a Democrat. I can’t say in recent years I’ve been a proud member of the Iowa Democratic Party.
A wealthy, powerful and out-of-touch cabal transformed the party I was elected an officer of as a 20 year from a champion of the people, justice, fairness and opportunity into a lobbying firm for vested, powerful and special interests and their agendas.
My party has forsaken its principles and allowed justice to fall by the way side; allowed an assault on our once great public education system; and joined in the breaking of basic promises to those we ought to have protected instead.
I am a child of working class America. I understand the impact labor had on my life. It meant my father could put food on the table, pay his bills, and yet earn enough that my mother was a part of my life growing up.
He was able to earn a living working 40 hours per week, coach little league and serve as the President of the Callanan Junior High School PTA because of labor.
And his involvement in education inspired my concerns about it.
As a Democrat I understand that those individuals who taught our children, who ran into burning buildings without hesitation, who patrolled our streets and made them safe need us to protect them in the twilight of their lives.
Public pensions in Iowa are now in peril and IPERS is in grave danger due to the mismanagement of indifferent politicians and bureaucrats, from both parties, who grew their personal and political fortunes, while neglecting the promises we made to the men and women who served our state and our citizens honorably.
I do not know all the answers to this complex problem but I know that day one, as governor, I would pull together those best able to fix this problem and fix it.
And fix it responsibly!
Leaders from both parties have advocated raising taxes, especially the gas tax.
Such a tax increase would be devastating to Iowans struggling to make it to work, struggling to get their children to childcare and after school activities, struggling to put food on the table without the assistance of government, struggling to survive paycheck to paycheck.
Instead of discounting taxes for working Iowans in these harsh economic times, which is what we should be doing, leaders from both parties want to further strip working Iowans of the means to care for themselves and their families.
Recently I had a conversation with an elected Democratic official who said: “I want to take care of people.”
I responded: “I don’t, I want to empower Iowans to take care of themselves and their families.”
Long overdue in our state is action to move Iowans from dependency to self-sufficiency. Long overdue is the call for the restoration of personal responsibility and dignity.
Pets, children, the gravely ill, lacking the ability to provide for themselves are cared for - not able bodied adults. We absolutely need to show compassion for those in a hard way yet that compassion should not look like it does now. Poverty exploitation in Iowa has grown into a more lucrative industry than pornography in America, and it has fostered a perpetual dependency.
So-called compassion resulting in bad public policy neither helps the poor or protects taxpayers.
For example, politicians from both parties have defended the decision not to require identification in order to use Food Stamp cards even while those same politicians require a receipt to return an empty five gallon jug of water.
They have argued such a law would hurt the poor.
The truth is by not requiring identification to use a Food Stamp card we not only allow massive fraud and corruption to thrive but we make taxpayers and the government a major funder of the purchase of alcohol, tobacco, gambling and illegal drugs by those we claim we are helping.
These acquisitions not only contribute to poorer health for the poor, resulting in increased costs for line items such as Medicaid, but in the case of illegal drugs taxpayers and the government are financing the single most powerful agent leading to the destruction of poor families in Iowa, out of control urban violence and the escalation of costs related to incarceration.
But that’s what happens when out of touch politicians make easy and ill-informed public policy decisions.
Leaders from both parties own a full share in this taxpayer financed havoc and devastation.
Iowans do not want or need a hand out – they need a hand up.
The time has come for fiscally responsible and sound decisions to be made in reducing the excess, waste and inefficiencies of state and local government. By all accounts government at the state and local level is bloated, wasteful, inefficient and often ineffective.
By restoring integrity to governance in this state we not only end the need for painful regressive tax hikes but we are then able to return money to Iowans they and their families will then use to grow our state’s economy versus giving it to bureaucrats, developers, contractors, contributors and cronies who have squandered the public treasure.
Four years ago I made the decision to not primary Gov. Chet Culver, a man I endorsed and worked to elect governor in 2006 and Secretary of State in 2002 and 1998.
Instead I ran as an independent. I was well intentioned, but naïve.
I should have stayed and fought to rescue my party. I both regret that decision and have learned from it.
Nevertheless, I gained a mastery of what ails Iowa, and still possess the solutions to cure her acquired during my first gubernatorial bid.
I believe in and have fought for the best of what being a Democrat has always meant – justice, integrity, accountability, opportunity, dignity and protection of our most vulnerable – our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our taxpayers.
My record speaks for itself even if my party’s leadership has, at times, abandoned these foundational tenets.
I want to take back our party from those that have not fought for justice, that have not sought to end poverty, that have turned a blind eye to Iowa’s urban crisis including the explosion of violence and addiction, that have not protected Iowans from the avarice of the political class, that have not fought to end the travesty of a No Child Left Behind that has brutalized our schools, our teachers and our children.
I want to make terms like accountability, integrity and dignity mean something again when an elected leader in the Iowa Democratic party speaks them.
Blue collar Democrats, who I have always done very well with, deserved better from the men and women they elected to protect the public trust, to protect their families and to protect their children.
Iowans deserved better from Democrats in the Senate who sat in the majority but co-signed the devastating policies and practices of first the Culver Administration and now the Branstad Administration.
I have come to know Iowans in all 99 counties. I received support from Iowans in all 99 counties and nearly every precinct in this state.
Iowans are an amazing people.
I believes in us. I understand how much we are able to accomplish and how strong we are when we are united under caring, committed and accountable leadership.
I have proven I can bring Republicans, even from the far right, and Democrats, even from the far left, to the very same table and unite them in action for a common cause just as I brought Jack Hatch, a State Representative and liberal Democrat together with Chuck Larson, Jr., a conservative Republican legislator and Chair of the Republican Party of Iowa together to fight for education reforms I sponsored; just as I brought two very liberal legislators – Deb Berry of Waterloo and Ako Abdul Samad of Des Moines – together with two very conservative legislators – Brad Zaun of Urbandale and Kevin Koester of Ankeny – to advance economic empowerment reforms I sponsored.
Again, and again, and again I’ve brought sincere Iowans coming from differing ideologies together to focus on solutions. If I run and if I win, I will do it again.
I will especially base my key appointments of both Democrats and Republicans on merit and not cronyism.
I get results!
On September 10, 2007, The day before I was elected to the Des Moines School Board – Iowa’s most powerful, entrenched and protected division of local government – a local radio show host made a list of what I said I would get done if I were elected. On July 3, 2009, I went back on that host’s show, he produced the list from 2007 and every item on it was checked off.
As the nominee of the Democratic party I will restore the dignity and integrity of my party. I will return us to the core tenets that inspired me to be a Democrat. I will energize the base by focusing on our strengths and our virtues. And, I will defeat Terry Branstad in the arena of ideas and solutions for our state.
The ultimate decision to run for governor will be based on three key factors – FUNDRAISING, early grass roots support, and the ability to WIN the primary.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL I RUN AS AN INDEPENDENT IN 2014!
I will analyze these three factors over the holiday season, including fundraising, although I will not start raising money until after the holiday season ends.
I will then announce my final decision mid-January.
Whether I run or not, however, I will be releasing next month a solution oriented vision of governance in Iowa titled: “Guardian of State.”