116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Democrats are beginning to float trial balloons ahead of next year’s race for governor. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is likely to seek reelection and Iowa Democrats are highly motivated to unseat the newly minted Fox News celebrity.
But it’s a difficult proposition, uphill and into stiff winds. Iowa has turned decidedly red and terminally Trumpy. In 2022 it will have been 16 years since Iowa elected its last Democratic governor. Reynolds will have a mountain of money and the backing of well-financed outside groups, and she has shown every indication she’ll run a nationalized reelection campaign bent on depicting any Democratic nominee as a radical socialist who wants to turn Iowa into a wintry Venezuela.
So who will run? A growing number of Democrats are expressing interest, either directly or cryptically. But no matter who runs, these are the attributes we need in a governor:
1. Competence: We need a governor who manages state government and makes critical decisions based on what’s best for Iowans, not what’s best for winning the next election. Don’t botch the release of critical data, provide misleading information and leave local leaders out of the loop on important policy changes affecting their constituents. Don’t mishandle or misspend relief dollars, choose campaigning over governing at a critical moment and don’t shape policies around conspiracy theories.
2. Honesty: We need a governor who will tell us uncomfortable truths instead of unbelievable lies. For instance, don’t go on national cable news to claim you ensured the safety of meatpacking workers when, in fact, your administration hid information on plant outbreaks and took no steps to protect workers.
3. Transparent: We need a governor who will commit to regularly scheduled news conferences, sit down for interviews with Iowa reporters, meet with editorial boards, fulfill requests for public information in a timely manner and take stands on issues being debated in the state and Statehouse.
4. Democracy: Wouldn’t it be great to have a governor who doesn’t want to make it harder to vote and doesn’t express regret about not joining a lawsuit to overturn a legitimate presidential election?
5. Iowa solutions: Once upon a time Iowans prided themselves on crafting homegrown policy prescriptions on issues ranging from collective bargaining and education funding to redistricting. Now, our leaders cook up legislation from red state recipe books written by bill mills and think tanks. Iowa has suffered mightily.
6. A rural message: It’s going to take more than hay bales and tractor photo-ops to convince a few more rural Iowans to give Democrats a chance. A new governor needs to restore a sense of fairness and balance to environmental policies, which under Republicans have allowed large corporate agricultural interests a free rein to pursue farming methods and land uses that foul our natural resources and make flooding more likely and damaging. Those same interests oppose expanding outdoor recreational opportunities that could make living in rural communities more attractive and provide economic development. We need a governor who wants to help rural Iowa, not exploit it.
7. Recommit Iowa to civil rights: It has been 12 years since we celebrated marriage equality in Iowa, a moment that highlighted several other times Iowa has been ahead of the curve in extending civil rights protections. It was just a year ago lawmakers unanimously approved police reform legislation spurred by Black Lives Matter protests. But this year, lawmakers considered a series of hateful bills aimed at transgender kids, approved a crackdown on protests and shielded police from legal liability. We need a governor who will turn back these efforts and recommit us to addressing the civil rights challenges of our time, even if it means taking political risks.
8. Recommit to public education: It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of improving and transforming public schools to better prepare Iowa students for success in a global information economy was a bipartisan goal. We’ve lost sight of that goal amid partisan fights over inadequate funding and concocted culture war narratives about public education indoctrination. Universities were economic engines, not the enemy. We need a governor who will put the focus back on making public schools, where the vast majority of Iowa kids will be educated, better.
9. Reestablish more local control: There’s no good reason why a city council can’t look at its local economy and decide to raise the minimum wage, a school district can’t craft its own pandemic response or a county board of supervisors can’t have meaningful input into where large livestock confinements are built. We need a governor who understands that local officials should be freer to tackle local problems without facing politically charged punishment from the Golden Dome of Wisdom.
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