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Democratic candidates present governor nominee reasons

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | OCTOBER 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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In what speakers referred to as “the people’s Republic of Johnson County,” candidates vying to replace Gov. Terry Branstad made their pitch for their party’s nomination in front of local Democrats on Sunday.

“You really are the backbone of the party, and it will be you that ensures our victories next year,” said Scott Brennan, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “[Gov. Terry Branstad] has been a roadblock to everything we want to do to make Iowa progress … he’s vulnerable, and Terry Branstad can be beaten.”

Johnson County Democrats packed in Building C in the Johnson County Fairgrounds as four gubernatorial candidates set off numerous attacks against Branstad, but only rarely against each other. 

Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, a former chairman of the state party, believes Branstad — who is in the midst of his fifth term as governor — is out of touch with Iowans.

“Are we going to continue to live with a governor, who for the last 30 years has not adapted one single bit, or are we going to the future with a economic development and education policy that works for all Iowans,” he said. “I think Iowans are ready for the future.”

Branstad has not officially announced his candidacy for re-election.

Olson emphasized his support of expanding early childhood education along with a greater focus on apprenticeships, community colleges, and higher education.

One county Republican official said, contrary to Olson’s view, Branstad’s work has not harmed K-12 education but has worked to make it more accountable.

“The governor is working hard to establish rigorous and high standards [in education],” said Deborah Thornton, the chairwoman of the Johnson County Republicans. “Continuing to do the same thing and throwing more money at it is not going to get different results.”

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who has served 21 years in the state House and Senate, believes his experience offers him the best opportunity of any of the candidates to challenge Branstad.

“I have the experience to take it to Terry Branstad and not allow him to get away with anything,” Hatch said before his speech. “I want to define Gov. Branstad before he defines us.”

Hatch pushed his proposals of a “middle-class tax break” coupled with an increase for the “very wealthy.” He declined to cite specifics on his proposal, saying the policy is still being worked out.

“We’re going to reduce the number of brackets from nine to four to make it simpler, and we’re going to tax the rich a little more and tax the middle class a lot less,” he said.

Hatch also said he would like to form a separate state bank to finance student loans modeled after North Dakota’s, which he argued will make college more affordable and assist in accelerating bachelor degrees to three years.

Bob Krause, a former state legislator, pushed for an increase to the minimum wage, which he feels is one of the key problems for college students.

“We load them up with debt, we keep the tuitions high, we keep our minimum wage and entry salaries low, and we wonder why everyone leaves the state,” he said.

Paul Dahl from Webster City, the latest candidate to announce his intentions, feels his stance as a “moderate Democrat” would allow him to “assail and attack from the left and right.”

Dahl has some muffled responses from Democrats when he attacked both Hatch and Olson during his speech.

“I’m concerned people will say [Hatch] can’t question Gov. Branstad ethically because of the skeletons in his closet,” he said. “I think Tyler is too young at age 37 to be governor; I think you need to be above the age of 40 to be governor.”


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