Coralville nurse, union leader eyeing Iowa governor's race

Democrat Cathy Glasson launches exploratory campaign

Cathy Glasson
Cathy Glasson

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sick and tired of the beating she sees Iowa working families taking, Coralville nurse and union president Cathy Glasson has launched an exploratory campaign for the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor.

“Working people in Iowa have been getting beat up for too long,” Glasson said in her video announcement Wednesday, referring to the GOP-controlled Legislature reducing the collective bargaining rights of about 184,000 public employees, making changes to workers’ compensation and pre-empting local government attempts to raise the minimum wage. “Their policies are wiping out the middle class.”

Although she’s never run for public office, Glasson, 58, called kicking off her exploratory campaign an “exciting day” and said she’s undaunted by the crowded Democratic field or the current political climate.

“I’m not a politician. I’m a union leader elected by fellow workers, I’m an ICU nurse, so I’m willing to take on tough challenges,” said Glasson, president of Service Employees International Union Local 199, which represents about 5,000 Iowa workers.

Perhaps more importantly, Glasson thinks Iowans are ready for her “bold, progressive” agenda.

She’s not the only gubernatorial hopeful using those words to describe their campaigns, but Glasson said she has intentionally taken a sharper tone in addressing the issues facing Iowa’s working families.

“I want to make sure it’s very clear to voters and Iowans that I believe strongly in this and I will fight,” she said.


Although Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans point to the state’s low unemployment rate and demand for workers “to make people believe that Iowa is doing well,” about a third of Iowans struggle to meet basic monthly expenses, Glasson said.

“That’s who I’m going to be talking to. That’s who has been left out,” she added.

Her “fairly simple” agenda calls for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“That’s crucial — and a pretty low bar” considering that two third of the jobs in Iowa pay less than $20 an hour, Glasson said.

She also called for expanding opportunities for workers to join unions and employee associations.

“I helped organize my hospital,” said Glasson, a nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for more than 20 years. “That’s the way we raise wages for working people,” she said.

In addition, Glasson wants to increase public school funding and hold corporate polluters accountable for water quality.

“Too many politicians don’t have the guts to fix the systems they broke,” Glasson said. “They don’t listen to us. They’re not accountable to us.”

So, she plans to travel across Iowa over the next few months to meet with “the folks who have been left out, ignored for too long.” She’ll start Saturday by joining other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls at Picnic for the People from noon to 3 p.m. at McHose Park in Boone.

She’ll make a decision on formally entering the campaign “when Iowans make a decision to rise up and do this.”


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Glasson joins a handful of Democrats who have declared or are considering running in the June 2018 Democratic primary. They include Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines, Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold, Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City, former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, former Des Moines school board member Jon Neiderbach, Davenport Alderman Mike Matson and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell.

The winner of the June 2018 primary will likely face either Reynolds or Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, who is weighing a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Glasson and her husband, Matt, live in Coralville. They have one daughter.

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