Corbett, Olson face decisions

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Tyler Olson has some decisions to make.

The former state lawmaker from Cedar Rapids whose gubernatorial ambitions ended abruptly in December 2013 says he is thinking about running for mayor in 2017. But that decision likely will depend on whether the current mayor, Ron Corbett, declines to run for a third term and pursues his own run for governor in 2018.

Or maybe Olson and Corbett both run for governor.

“I’ve had a number of people approach me about running for governor again in 2018. To me, the decision is how best I can have an impact,” said Olson, a Democrat. “Whether it’s running for governor, running for mayor, being an active community member and running a small business. That’s a decision I have to make.”

Corbett says he’ll make a decision on seeking another mayoral term later this year or early next year.

“If I decided not to, that gives plenty of time for various people to think about whether they want to run for mayor or not,” said Corbett, who has been traveling around the state to tout the work of his Engage Iowa think tank and test the waters for a Republican gubernatorial run.

Olson jumped into the 2014 race for governor in July 2013, with his backers convinced a thirty-something lawmaker with a young family would provide a stark contrast to Gov. Terry Branstad, who was preparing to seek his sixth term. Olson initially received the backing of several lawmakers and organized labor.

But in early December 2013, Olson announced that his marriage was ending. A couple of weeks later, he pulled the plug on his campaign. He declined to seek another term in the House.

Since then, he’s been focused on his duties as CEO of Paulson Electric, a company started by his great-grandfather, and as president of SiteGen Solar, Paulson’s solar energy wing.

“I’m passionate about the city of Cedar Rapids, always have been. It was the focus of my time in the Legislature,” Olson said. “Increasingly, a lot of the action on moving the needle on issues that are important to me is happening at a local level.”

Olson says he’d like to see more emphasis on developing a skilled workforce. Flood protection, crime and the possibility of partnering with the Cedar Rapids School Board on education challenges are among the issues he’s focused on as he decides whether to run.

Meanwhile, Corbett is taking stock of the city’s accomplishments over his six-plus years in office as he decides what the future holds. The city’s recovery from the 2008 flood is largely complete. He contends efforts he championed to declare the city “open for business” have stemmed the tide of Cedar Rapids firms moving to neighboring cities.

“If I feel like I’ve achieved 80, 90 percent of that, I would consider that successful,” Corbett said. “I really wanted to build the confidence back up in the community and I think people are very optimistic about Cedar Rapids now.”

If Corbett moves on, we could see a crowded mayoral field. If Branstad moves on, both parties’ cast of gubernatorial hopefuls could be large. Decisions, decisions.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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