Hatch selects CR's Vernon for ticket


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CEDAR RAPIDS — Don’t count Monica Vernon out quite yet.

Despite failing to snag northeast Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat in the June 3 primary, Vernon, a Cedar Rapids city councilor and small-business owner, joined Jack Hatch’s Democratic campaign in the race for the Iowa governor’s seat.

Hatch, who had previously been tight-lipped about his running-mate choice, called Vernon “one of the most capable women” on Iowa’s political stage during a Tuesday morning news conference on Cedar Rapids’ South West Side.

Vernon will officially be punched on the ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor after being nominated at the 2014 Democratic state convention on Saturday in downtown Des Moines.

“I saw for two years how this city was led out of the darkness of the flood,” Hatch, a 64-year-old state senator from Des Moines, told a crowd of approximately 50 supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 405 union hall. “And one of the people who led that change was Monica Vernon.”

Under a Hatch-Vernon political umbrella, Hatch said, the state could become a “mecca for women and minorities.”

But the announcement was spoiled by Gov. Terry Branstad’s campaign. Officials from the campaign purchased a website domain and created a Twitter handle named www.hatchvernon.com and @HatchVernon.

Vernon joined the Cedar Rapids City Council six months before the 500-year flood of 2008 inundated several square miles of Iowa’s second largest city.

The two met when Hatch, a longtime real-estate developer, was one of the few people proposing affordable housing projects to replenish the city’s flooded housing stock.

“I think the people of Iowa want competence at the top,” Vernon, 56, told the crowd. “They deserve a change.”

In an exclusive interview with the DI following the address, Hatch said he went through a casual process of mulling over potential running mates over the past four to five weeks.

She was the “stellar” choice, he said, focusing largely on Iowa’s future generations and the “epiphany” in her selection.

“She has that entrepreneurial spirit which I think is really paramount,” he said, noting her ability to relate to everyday Iowans and in her work at the Vernon Research Group.

Iowa Democratic Party head Scott Brennan welcomed Vernon to what he called a “strong Democratic ticket” Tuesday morning.

“At a time when political cronyism and acting above the law has become the norm for the Branstad administration, Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon will focus on the issues that Iowans care most about, such as education, health care, and economic development,” he said in a Tuesday statement.

“Together, this ticket will be a champion for the middle class, and together they will be the advocates all Iowans desperately need in Terrace Hill. The choices in this race could not be clearer.”

One glaring difference stands out: Vernon was a member of the Republican Party until 2009.

Shortly after Tuesday morning’s announcement, the Branstad-Reynolds campaign also released a statement of regarding Hatch’s pick of Vernon.

“We look forward to the clear contrast between the Branstad-Reynolds ticket that understands working Iowans’ concerns versus the Hatch-Vernon ticket that is a fresh restart to the failed Culver policies leading to high unemployment, massive deficits, and reckless budget cuts,” said Branstad-Reynolds campaign manager Jake Ketzner.

Sporting a red, white, and blue Linn County Democrats T-shirt, Harvey Ross, 67, of Cedar Rapids said he was thrilled but not surprised by Hatch’s selection of Vernon.

“They’re all for a tremendous contrast for our current governor,” he said.  “These two have actually done something in the free-enterprise world.”

That Vernon ran in the recent Iowa primary and was able to get her name out to prospective voters should bode well for the Hatch campaign, he said.

Hatch continues to trail Branstad in financial backing.

Cedar Rapids City Councilor Ann Poe said Vernon was one city leader who spearheaded flood-recovery programs that are now being implemented across the country, including for Hurricane Sandy relief.

“She has the ability to look at something look at something and say, ‘I can make this work, we can make this work,’ ” Poe said.

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