2014 gubernatorial nomination race to heat up for Iowa Democrats

Republican Gov. Terry Brantad has not yet indicated bid for re-election

DES MOINES – Iowa’s Democratic race for the 2014 gubernatorial nomination is expected to pick up now that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has taken himself out of the running.

Vilsack spokesman Matt Paul confirmed Wednesday that the former governor will not be a candidate for public office in Iowa in 2014. Meanwhile, long-time State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald said he is “seriously considering” running for governor next year.

Vilsack, a former Mount Pleasant mayor and state senator who served as Iowa’s governor from 1999 to 2007, had been included on the list of Democrats possibly eyeing a gubernatorial bid next year, but Matt Paul said “he’s not going to be a candidate in 2014.”

“He’s proud of his record as governor, but is very happy serving in the president’s cabinet,” Paul said of Vilsack, who has been President Obama’s agriculture secretary since 2009.

“He’ll always be an Iowan,” Paul added in an interview, noting that Vilsack and his wife, Christie, recently bought a house outside of Des Moines. “So he’s very much committed to the state, but loves what he’s doing and looks forward to a new generation of Iowans stepping forward to lead.”

Vilsack has indicated his intention is to serve as U.S. agriculture secretary “as long as the president will have him,” Paul added.

Among the Democrats expressing interest in a gubernatorial bid in 2014 are Fitzgerald, Iowa’s state treasurer since 1982, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, state Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines, and Rep. Tyler Olson, a Cedar Rapids legislator who currently is the state chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Republican Gov. Terry Brantad, who is serving his fifth term as Iowa governor, has not formally indicated whether he will seek re-election next year to an unprecedented sixth, four-year term, but he has been raising money and many of his close associates expect him to run against in 2014.

“Gov. Branstad is in a strong position should he seek re-election,” said his spokesman Tim Albrecht. “That said, nobody will outwork Gov. Branstad and we take every potential opponent seriously, whether it is Tom Vilsack or Jack Hatch. This governor will put his record of achievement up against any opponent, and will share his vision with Iowans in all of Iowa's 99 counties.”

Albrecht said Branstad will decide on running for re-election and make an announcement early in 2014, ahead of the March filing deadline.

Fitzgerald said has “great respect” for Branstad and noted the GOP incumbent has never lost an election. “But I have a different view point on state government than he has and that’s what the campaign would be about,” the state treasurer added.

Fitzgerald said the uncertainty over Vilsack’s possible entry had frozen the 2014 governor’s race on the Democratic side in Iowa “He’s a very large figure in Democratic politics. If he was going to be in the race, that certainly meant no others,” Fitzgerald said. “Now everybody needs to consider for themselves.”

The state treasurer, who has been on the statewide general election ballot in Iowa eight times, said he has had “a number of folks ask me to look into it, so I’m taking some time to talk to family and friends and people who have supported me in the past.”

“I’ve been in front of Iowans for eight elections now and they’ve trusted me with their money. They know I’ve taken care of it,” the state treasurer said. “But I’ll readily admit that running for treasurer is a lot different than running for governor. But I’ve been all around the state for 30 years and Democrats and Iowans in general, they know me,” he added.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@sourcemedia.net

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